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2017 New England Annual Conference


The New England Annual Conference held its session on June 15-17 at the Radisson Hotel, Manchester, New Hampshire, with Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar presiding. The theme was “Vital Conversations: Race,” and guiding Scripture was Psalm 137:4 (NIV): “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?”

Bishop Devadhar’s Episcopal Address was titled “Let’s Not Throw Away Our Shot,” inspired by lyrics from the musical “Hamilton.” Read the full address.

In his 2017 Episcopal Address on June 15, Bishop Devadhar said the challenging times the church is facing can also be an opportunity “for all of us to bear witness to our faith in Jesus Christ and break through barriers to reach people with the good news of God’s reign.”

He spoke of coming to the U.S. 39 years ago with just one suitcase, which he brought with him to the stage, and the warm welcome he received from this country and The United Methodist Church.
“Yet, today, there are many would-be immigrants who are afraid to come to this country,” he said. “They are not sure they would be welcomed. A fundamental piece of our history has always been the myriad ways that newcomers benefit this country through their drive and ingenuity — much as Alexander Hamilton did. They did not want to throw away their shot at success, a meaningful life, or contribution.”

During the Ordination and Commissioning service, Bishop Devadhar preached. “Our dear commissioners and ordinands, your ministry will not be remembered for the size of your salary package or whether you lived in an air-conditioned parsonage, but for the prophetic leadership you provided that empowered the laity of your churches to serve others,” he said. “You will be remembered because you were the pastor under whose leadership the people of God became agents of change in the communities you served.”

Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi of the Western Pennsylvania Conference was the guest preacher was the guest preacher on June 16. She spoke of a woman from her conference who asked to give her a hug then said: “You need to know that I am racist, but you are a lovely woman.”

“I greatly respect that saint,” Moore-Koikoi added. “I respect her because she had the integrity to be honest with me about her reality and the courage to start a vital conversation with her bishop about race.

“… We haven’t used what God has given us. We’ve been afraid to have the kind of conversations that we need to have. We’ve been afraid to hold people accountable. … The church isn’t using the power that we preach about and say that we have. Lord have mercy on us. …  God is still with us. God is still willing to forgive us if we but stand up and turn the other way.”

The Bible study leader was the Rev. Javier Viera, dean of United Methodist Drew Theological School.

“How do we as a church inspire and cultivate fortitude and courage and strength in our people so that we can actually have these conversations in a meaningful way?” he said. “And that if we are confronted with our own bias — with our own blindness — that we aren’t going to whither. … We aren’t going to somehow shatter, but that we can take it and we can be open to our brothers and sisters leading us to a new way of being and of seeing and of living in the world because we trust that people are in this with us, not against us. How do we create that kind of culture amongst ourselves so we can be strong?”

Main actions/resolutions:

  • Passed the 2018 budget
  • Opted to send the 2016 Delegation to the 2019 Special Session of General Conference
  • Supported celebration of Share Your Call Sunday, the 4th Sunday after Easter, in local churches
  • RS-17-212 Expanding and Supporting Sanctuary: Brought by the Board of Church and Society, this resolutions states, in part: “The New England Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church declares itself in solidarity with individuals and families regardless of their refugee or immigration status or documentation, and those who come to their aid.”
  • RS – 17 – 209 – Avoid Purchase of Hewlett Packard Products
  • RS – 17 – 210 – Consider Investing in Wespath’s Equity Social Values Plus Fund (ESVPF)
  • RS – 17 – 211 – Protecting the Right to Peacefully Address Injustice Through Boycotts, Divestment, And Sanctions
  • At the annual conference level committed to use only gluten-free, dairy-free elements for Communion. This is encouraged at the district level as well.

Two people were ordained and six commissioned. They included three provisional elders, three provisional deacons. The average age was 39.

Deaconess Roberta Bragan was also commissioned at annual conference. Her ministry is photojournalism; Bragan works to tell the stories of churches and people living out the mission of The United Methodist Church.

The number of people retired was 23.

In New England 27 percent of our churches are growing; that’s up from 25 percent in 2015, and we have more worshippers engaged in mission; 11,1621 for 2016, up from 10,528 in 2015.

Membership stands at 81,231 down 3.5 percent from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 27,163, down 4 percent.

Other statistics:

  • Church school attendance stands at 5,158, down from 5,550 in 2015
  • Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2016 was 997, down from 1,120 in 2015.
  • Adults and young adults in small groups for 2016 was 1,103, up from 1,093 in 2015.

— Beth DiCocco, director of communications for the New England Conference.