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2016 Oklahoma Conference


United Methodists showered appreciation (and welcome rain) on their episcopal family during the 2016 Oklahoma Annual Conference, May 30-June 2 in Oklahoma City.

Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr. will retire Aug. 31 after 12 years leading the Oklahoma Area. Distinctive in the church is his ministry as the first African- American bishop assigned to both a Native American annual conference and a predominantly white one.

In the opening processional, the bishop paused at the altar in St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, savoring a moment in his final time to preside at an annual conference. He preached five times; he spontaneously joined photo opportunities; he autographed copies of a tribute booklet and volume two of his devotional articles.  

When the feet of Bishop Bob and Dee Hayes were washed in a poignant ritual, the husband grasped the wife’s hand as they supported one another during the Service of Celebration in their honor. Then the barefoot bishop declared he was standing on holy ground before 1,200 people at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.

During the conference, Oklahoma City University dedicated a classroom in its chapel building in honor of the bishop, and Saint Paul School of Theology at OCU announced the new post of bishop-in-residence. Bishop Hayes plans to take up that role in fall 2017, with The Hayes Room as a teaching base.

On the conference’s first day, a Service of Repentance featured Native American layman Ray Buckley of Alaska as speaker. “The ability to see that people are disposable still exists,” Buckley said.

Among firsts at this conference, Alan Nagel and Tiffany Nagel Monroe became the first father and daughter ordained together in the denomination, according to United Methodist Communications. Also unusual, Wendelyn Perceful was ordained, joining husband Ron and son Chad as clergy elders. Melanie Dewey of Tulsa-Centenary United Methodist Church was consecrated by the bishop as a new deaconess, a laity role. And Oklahoma’s deacons celebrated their 20th anniversary as clergy.

Also notable from the meeting:

• NEW FAITH COMMUNITIES MINISTRY TEAM — Claremore-First, Owasso-First, and Edmond-Acts 2 are launching multi-site church plans.

• NEW PEOPLE NEW PLACES — The initial round of conference grants for innovative ministries resulted in 72 first-time professions of faith.

• APPORTIONMENTS — The 2017 budget of $14,528,433 was approved after delegates voted to require Conference financial leaders to tap sources other than Apportionments to fund New Faith Communities at a higher amount, $1,075,000.

• CAMPS MINISTRY — A pilot mobile day camp is set for July 18-22 at Edmond-First. “Eagle Lake On Location Summer Day Camp” will serve ages 7-12.

• ASSETS held by the Oklahoma United Methodist Foundation totaled $260.2 million as of Dec. 31, 2015.

• GLOBAL MISSIONS — Karen Distefano reported, “On your watch over the last 12 years, Bishop, people have donated $11,095,743.02 in support of missionaries and ministries.” Christ’s light has been shared in 65 countries through 81 missionaries, helping people after 149 disasters and supporting 364 ongoing ministry programs. The Oklahoma Conference was recognized for the highest church participation in the denomination in donating to Advance and United Methodist Committee on Relief Specials — 85 percent of all the churches made contributions.

• ANNUAL CONFERENCE OFFERING had reached $60,814.59 as of mid-June. The goal is $130,000, to establish an endowment at Africa University in honor of Bishop and Mrs. Hayes.

• AWARDS — Pastor Lesly Broadbent of Willow View United Methodist Church in Enid received the Denman Award for Evangelism. The Young Adult of the Year Award went to Josh Pulver, and Brian Bakeman received the Board of Laity’s first “He Worked for Us” award.

• CLERGY LEADERSHIP — One deacon and nine elders were ordained, and six provisional elders were commissioned. The Rev. Connie Gibson is a new district superintendent, and the Rev. Greg Tener is dean of the cabinet. Chris Tiger was named conference director of New Faith Communities. There were 21 clergy retirees.

• STATISTICS — Worshippers engaged in mission totaled 29,783 people in 2015, which is 4,288 more than in 2014.

Membership totaled 231,776, down by 1,261 members.

Worship attendance was reported at 49,013, down by 1,666.

Professions or reaffirmations of faith were 1,820, a decrease of 253.

Small groups totaled 6,286, a decrease of 99 groups.

Three churches were closed.

Source: Holly McCray, editor of Contact, Communications Ministry, the Oklahoma Annual Conference