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2017 Greater New Jersey Conference

 

The 2017 Greater New Jersey Annual Conference met May 21-23 at The Wildwoods Convention Center, Wildwood, New Jersey.

Officiating bishop: Bishop John Schol

Guest speakers and memorable points or quotes by speakers:

Guest speaker Erin M. Hawkins, top executive of the General Commission on Religion and Race, spoke to the 2017 annual conference on intercultural competency. She challenged United Methodists to be bridges and bridge-builders in our communities and commended the conference for its 10-year cultural competency commitment. “What greater time for the church to be the church than when there’s so much division?” she said. “This is the work Christ beckons us toward.”

The Rev. Varlyna Wright delivered a message on casting our cares and anxieties on God, relying and depending on our faith with an understanding of God’s strength and faithfulness. “It’s easy to rejoice when things are going well,” Wright said, “It’s a challenge to do so when feelings of grief, loss, and hopelessness surround you. But God cares about you, and that is the time to rejoice.”

Retired New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Gary Stein spoke about segregation within New Jersey school districts and an effort to integrate public schools through magnet schools, as well as other innovative strategies that are being used around the country.

Main actions enacted by the conference:

  • Approved a $900,000 budget cut and a new Shared Ministry formula that will save money for congregations for years to come. The Shared Ministry formula uses a fixed percentage that will require the conference to budget and spend Shared Ministry dollars based on the health and vitality of the congregations.
  • Approved a Next Generation Student Ministry plan that challenges conference leadership to:
    • Work with congregations to have 12 or more active youth engaged in faith formation and discipleship in the community
    • Develop 10 college campus faith communities with 75 or more students
    • Reinvigorate a 21st century camping experience
    • Grow the IGNITE Student Conference to 5,000 participants
    • Develop 1,000 leaders to lead student ministries
  • Approved a 10-year intercultural competency plan that will develop laity and clergy to be more culturally competent so that we strengthen and grow diversity, inclusion and collaboration
  • Approved work to begin on a 2019-2023 strategic ministry plan

The conference was the first Greater New Jersey annual conference to have more than 1,400 registered, to pack 30,000 meals in 90 minutes and to have a New Jersey have a NJ Supreme Court Justice speak. Other firsts for this conference included more than

1,000 participants in workshops, the first ordination of a Haitian woman and the first commissioning of a Chinese woman.

Resolutions adopted by the conference:
The body reaffirmed the direction of the conference to recruit and develop transformational spiritual leaders to make disciples and grow vital congregations to transformation the world with the Greater New Jersey Connectional Table resolved to lead conference in a process to develop a new strategic plan for 2019-2023. The 2018 budget and a new Shared Ministries formula was passed which will convert the formula to a flat rate of 16.3 percent. The flat rate will allow more resources to be used at the local church and will require the conference to seek outside funding sources through its vital mission partners to grow resources.

A new student ministry plan was passed rebranding the conference Camping and Retreats Board into Next Generation Student Ministries and expanding its oversight to include all youth and young adult ministries including IGNITE and Campus Ministries.  Additionally, a 10-year intercultural competence plan was passed so the conference can lead the way as bridge-builders living into a calling to be a church for all people and nations to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.

Twenty-two clergy were ordained and commissioned.

Number of people retired: 37

Membership stands at 87,692, down 1,542 from the previous year.

Worship attendance stands at 42,109, down 1,542.

Church school attendance stands at 10,751, down 696.

Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2016: 2,342, down 85 from 2015.

Adults and young adults in small groups for 2016: 28,067, down 324 from 2015.

Worshippers engaged in mission for 2016: 23,174, up 1,220 from 2015.

What did your annual conference do to reinforce the Four Areas of Focus, and what commitments has the conference made for the coming year: 

The body reaffirmed the direction of the conference to recruit and develop transformational spiritual leaders to make disciples and grow vital congregations to transformation the world with the conference Connectional Table resolved to lead GNJ in a process to develop a new strategic plan for 2019-2023, as well as the new student ministry plan and the 10-year intercultural competence plan.

—Josh Kinney, Greater New Jersey Conference editorial manager