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2016 Upper New York Conference

Officiating bishop:

Mark J. Webb

Guest speaker:

The Rev. Adam Hamilton, senior pastor of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, Kansas.

Memorable quotes:

The Rev. Adam Hamilton on one of his five keys of effective leadership, Discernment by nausea – being willing to do what unsuccessful churches are unwilling to do:

“What that says is that if you have two possible paths in front of you and one of them is easy and safe and doesn’t challenge you at all and the other one makes you feel a little sick to your stomach when you’re thinking about it, which of those two paths do you think God is most often calling you to?...The one that makes you a little sick to your stomach.

“Jesus talked about two gates, two ways, one is broad and wide and leads to destruction and one is narrow and hard and leads to light. What I have found in local churches is that we make decisions every year that are mission-critical to churches and what we place before our church councils (as to whether to take) this path or that path, almost always, we choose the easier path. And choosing the easier path is a guaranteed way of never really achieving all that God is calling your congregation or you personally to achieve.” 

The Rev. Nola Anderson’s Memorial Service sermon, entitled “A Reason to Hope,” offered inspiration drawn from Lamentations 3:18-24:

“There is a very honest grief in ‘Lamentations,’” she said. “The author does not propose any easy answers. No ‘things will be okay.’ No ‘this too shall pass.’ Just raw grief and lament. The first 16 verses of Chapter Three get pretty intense. The image of God is not pretty, and the believer is not afraid to utter it. Fortunately, by verse 17, the mood turns, and one last summary leads into verse 21, in which God’s lasting and eternal quality of hesed (loving kindness) is recalled.”

Anderson acknowledged that despair is an automatic response to grief. She likened despair to a computer’s default settings.

“Each of us has a ‘despair’ default,” Anderson said. “If we don’t reconfigure our minds, we slide down the slippery slope of discouragement and complaint. In order to break out of the pattern and cycle of despair, Jeremiah needed to be vigilant about what he allowed himself to think about. He needed to bring other things to mind.”

Anderson encouraged grievers not to despair, that to despair is to “mourn without hope.”

“We who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior know that death is not final,” she said. “It is merely a door through which we pass to Eternal Life with Jesus Christ. So no matter how great our sorrow, no matter how deep our pain, we know that the power of God is greater, to give us faith that makes us more than conquerors, a faith that helps us look up and have hope.”

Bishop Mark J. Webb after the budget passed:

“I am vacating the presiding chair for just a moment so that I can speak to you as your pastor. On my worst days when I look at our financial reality, my spirit is filled with great anxiety…on my worst days. On my best days, when I look at our financial realities, my spirit reminds me that God is enough.”

Bishop Webb then explained how we have the exact gifts we need to live out the mission in the budget. He concluded, “God believes in us. God has called us. I believe we can fund the budget we just approved at 100 percent. I believe that; that’s what God is calling us to do. Let’s pray that God will show us how we live into that calling…that when we gather together next year, we celebrate that every category of the spending (the fixed, the variable, and the contingent) were released for ministry because we believe that God is enough.”

Main actions enacted by the conference:

Regarding the budget, a motion was made by Rev. Abigail Browka for CF&A to lead the production of a narrative budget that includes one paragraph describing the ministry and priorities of each line item in our 2018 ministry share budget for the 2017 Annual Conference to be posted on the UNYAC website at least two weeks prior to the 2017 resolutions and petitions deadline of February 1, 2017. Rev. Natalie Hanson of Jamestown UMC brought forth an amendment for this motion that through March and April of 2017, there be regional listening and interpretation gatherings for the entire conference. This would include any other significant actions like sale of properties. Both the motion and amendment were supported.

A motion and amendment was also made regarding the resolution to close and sell Camp Findley. The motion was made by the Rev. David Cooke to refer the Camp Findley Resolution to the Board of Trustees and Camp & Retreat Ministries to have them explore more options through conversation with the Family Bible Camp Board, the Findley Lake UMC, and Fit 4 Life Ministry, and a recommendation be brought back to the 2017 UNY Annual Conference session. This motion was supported.

Because of the passion around Camp Findley, Adirondack District Superintendent, the Rev. Bill Mudge, brought forth a motion to require every UNY congregation to appoint a Camp and Retreat agent with their leadership selection in 2016 to begin serving in 2017. This motion was also supported. 

Resolutions adopted:

Here are the results of each resolution. To read more on each resolution, read the full story, at http://tinyurl.com/AC16resolutions

UNYAC2016.1 – Local Church Right to Choose Insurance Provider, withdrawn

UNYAC2016.2 – Change District Names, not supported 

UNYAC2016.3 – Restoration of Funding for Campus Ministries, supported with an amendment to include local churches in the process being developed to apply for funds.

UNYAC2016.4 – Ensuring Support for All Ministries, supported

UNYAC2016.5 – Restoration of Funding of the New York State Council of Churches, not supported

UNYAC2016.6 – A Call for Budget Transparency, supported

UNYAC2016.7 – The Many Shades of God’s Hands, withdrawn

UNAYC2016.8 – A Resolution to Study and Consider Carbon Pricing, supported

UNYAC2016.9: UNYUMC Responds to Gun Violence, supported

The Four Areas of Focus achievements and commitments:

The primary focus was on leadership development and the various ways in which local churches can establish effective leaders and offer growth for current leaders.

Number of people ordained, commissioned or received into associate membership, and average age:

Number of people ordained: 7

Number of people commissioned: 4

Number of people retired: 35

Membership stands at 156,370, down 4,999 (3% decline) from the previous year.

Worship attendance stands at 41,884, down 4,270 (9% decline).

Church school attendance stands at 10,306, down 406 (3% decline).