2017 Poland Annual Conference
The Poland Annual Conference gathered from June 22-25, 2017, in Katowice, in the south of the country. At this year’s gathering, some important historical decisions were taken: After longstanding, intense discussions, a vast majority approved a new Internal Law, and a woman was ordained deacon – with the understanding that this was a first step on the journey toward the service as an elder.
The beginning was marked by a certain tension: Both clergy and lay members wondered what decisions would be taken on the two big discussion items of the past years. The United Methodist Church in Poland is recognized by the State, and shortly after the political turnaround in the early ‘90s, an Internal Law was brought into force, which differed from the Book of Discipline in many regards. As of 2013, there were intense efforts aiming to achieve a practicable compromise. A first vote in March 2016 failed because the required super majority was not achieved. Since then, the draft of the Internal Law was once again revised, and people waited with anticipation what the result of the vote would be. It was a surprise and a great relief when the new Internal Law was approved by a vast majority, with no votes against and a few abstentions only. This was a strong signal that the United Methodist Church in Poland would like to remain an active part of the worldwide denomination and of the Central Conference of Central and Southern Europe.
According to the previous Internal Law, there is still a double ordination, first to deacon (after a two-year period of probation), then to elder (after a second two-year period of probation). The closed clergy session recommended one person to be ordained elder and two persons to be ordained deacons, among them Monika Zuber. When she originally had applied for the ordained ministry, there were numerous reservations whether a woman in the ordained ministry would be accepted and recognized by the Polish congregations and the society. However, the fruit of Zuber’s service was clearly visible, which is why a number of those who originally expressed their objections now supported her ordination to deacon. The last ordination of a woman in the United Methodist Church in Poland took place in 1972, when a trusted lay preacher was ordained right before her retirement. Two further applicants were recommended to start the first two-year period of probation. This is an encouraging sign, because the church needs people willing to accept the call to full-time ministry – this is particularly true against the background that General Superintendent Edward Puslecki will retire in October 2017 and that a number of pastors will follow him over the course of the next few years.
The next Annual Conference meeting will take place June 14-17, 2018. Both the churches in Kraplewo (Mazuria) and Kielce would love to invite the Annual Conference. The church council will evaluate which is the better option in terms of available on site infrastructure.
— submitted by Bishop Patrick Streiff, Zurich/Switzerland