2017 Susquehanna Annual Conference
The Susquehanna Conference met May 4-6, 2017, at Hershey Lodge in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
The officiating bishop was Bishop Jeremiah Park.
Guest speakers and memorable points or quotes by speakers:
Bishop Jeremiah Park: “No one’s love for God’s church is greater than God’s love for the church. Our Conference theme, ‘Better Together,’ reflects the desire of God for the body of Christ to be one in unity.”
Leadership Report: After video clips of the building of a mosaic creation by Brookye Keeney, Altoona district superintendent, the Rev. Dr. Kathleen E. Kind, and Conference Lay Leader John Konieczny spoke of the graphic picture, “Hands” which pictures unity out of our diversity: “A mosaic cannot exist without its broken components, and the pieces, once they are glazed, mortared, and grouted, come together in an art form that is better than any one of the individual pieces.”
Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, Pittsburgh Area, in her message “Don’t Stop Singing.”: “The song of Miriam is actually the oldest recorded Israelite hymn. Every time it was sung, the Israelites remembered the time that they were delivered from Pharaoh’s horsemen. They knew in the singing that they were delivered. We, as believers in Jesus Christ, are going to be singing for a long time. So, sing the song now. The kingdom of God depends on it.”
The Rev. Jamie Clark-Soles, Friday morning Bible study: “What causes our division? Among other things, a theology of scarcity as evidenced in Mark 14 as the disciples criticize the woman for anointing Jesus, calling it “waste.” In a chaology of scarcity, if I give to one thing I take away from something else – a zero sum game. Psalm 23 disagrees, declaring “my cup runneth over.” Dualism is another cause, making every disagreement “either/or” instead of “both/and.” Jesus is constantly crossing borders in Scripture; his people are called to be border-crossers also, resisting an “us/them” mentality.
The Rev. Ken Loyer, Saturday morning Bible study: “In the Lord’s Supper, we join our voices with the church from across time and space in a continual prayer of thanksgiving. Viewing the lord’s Supper for what it is, namely, a prayer thanking the God of our salvation, brings into focus the profound spiritual meaning of what is said and done during this part of worship. It is not an act to rush through, but one to form us, deep within our hearts and lives.”
Results of the vote on the five constitutional amendments were certified by Conference Secretary, the Rev. Arlene Beechert, and communicated to the Council of Bishops.
Five resolutions were brought before the body for approval:
- Resolution One: An annual resolution on mental wellness, with dates adjusted for 2018. The resolution was approved without discussion
- Resolution Two: Titled “Juvenile Justice,” called on clergy and members of congregations to support legislation making recordings of juvenile interrogations mandatory, as well as improving police effectiveness and protecting juveniles. The resolution was approved after brief discussion.
- Resolution Three: A call for United Methodists in the Susquehanna Conference to support efforts to amend Pennsylvania’s constitution by creating a citizens’ commission for legislative redistricting, replacing the practice of having elected officials draw the lines. The resolution was approved.
- Resolution Four: The resolution generated extensive debate over the question of Israeli settlement actions, the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and the role of various companies in doing business that results from this conflict. This resolution urged clergy and the Annual Conference to consider WESPATH’s ESVPF for their investments. This fund has removed Motorola Solutions, Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar from their fund because of their business participation with the Israeli military. The resolution was approved.
- Resolution Five: The resolution called for a boycott of Hewlett-Packard products out of concern over HP’s dealings with the Israeli military. The issue of Israeli settlements and HP’s presence with a facility in an Israeli West Bank settlement were part of the concerns raised by the resolution. After three speeches for and against the resolution, the resolution was defeated.
The conference ordained six elders (three of whom are children of active clergy, two from the Susquehanna Conference, one from the Chile Annual Conference). The conference ordained one deacon and commissioned five provisional elders. Twenty-five clergy retired.
Membership stands at 142,732, down 4,591 from the previous year.
Worship attendance stands at 54,946, down 2,602 from the previous year.
Church school attendance stands at 17,819, down 1,125 from the previous year.
Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2016: 2,100, down 46 from 2015.
Adults and young adults in small groups for 2016: 50,965, down 2,076 from 2015.
Worshippers engaged in mission for 2016: 25,922, up 3,038 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:
Improving Global Health: Increased our commitment through Imagine No Malaria
Developing Principled Christian Leaders: Two Bible studies on Unity and eucharist were presented for continuing development of congregational leaders as well as clergy.
— Gerald (Jerry) Wolgemuth, director of communications, Susquehanna Conference