2018 Eastern Pennsylvania Conference
The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference met June 14-16, 2018, at the Philadelphia Expo Center, Oaks, Pennsylvania. Bishop Peggy Johnson presided.
Guest speakers and memorable points:
1. The Rev. Justin Hancock, (Opening Worship) a deacon from the North Texas Conference who has cerebral palsy, inspired many with his uncompromising but affable candor in advocating for the church to welcome the leadership and witness of all members of the Body of Christ: “We must be a church that accepts as many people as we can hold. We can’t afford to be picky, folks. My friends with disabilities aren’t waiting on us. They’re going to other places … to anyone who will accept them. They should be able to find a place in our church. If we are the body of Christ, we’re going to need all sorts of body parts.” (Read related story: Annual conference urged to embrace change, unity.)
2. The Rev. Eric Law (Teaching Session) explained to conference members how Money, Time and Place, Gracious Leadership, Relationship, Truth and Wellness are Holy Currencies or essential, transactional values to be used for creating “sustainability in mission and stewardship.” Law, an Episcopal priest and prolific author, is the founder and CEO of the Los Angeles-based Kaleidoscope Institute. The six holy currencies must circulate or flow among people to form a “cycle of blessings,” he said. (Read related story: Sustaining mission through ‘Holy Currencies’.)
3. Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, (Ordination Service) of the Pittsburgh Episcopal Area, said, “I see a little crazy in the church. There are times in the church when our thoughts or actions lack reason. There are times in the church when we say one thing and then do another. … We sing, ‘What a wonderful change has come over me.’ But try to change something in the church, and see how wonderful it is. …. God created this universe to be in a constant state of change. God created individuals to grow, change, and evolve. God created organizations to grow, change, and evolve. God created The United Methodist Church to grow, change, and evolve.… Change is a blessing from God.”
Main actions enacted by the conference (use back of sheet if more space needed):
While two UMC Way Forward-related resolutions were debated, none were passed. However, conference members heard prepared arguments for the One Church and Traditionalist plans and then engaged in a brief period of dialogue around their tables. See “Annual Conference 2018: ‘A time for every purpose’”.
Other key resolutions adopted by the conference (See “Annual Conference approves justice-related resolutions”):
Voted to cancel (or forgive) all churches’ unpaid “prior-years’ balances” of apportionments and certain other billings, as of the end of 2017. But voted to cancel even more prior-years’ balances--including unpaid property and liability insurance—of 29 predominantly black churches “as an act of justice.” While many of the churches have large outstanding balances that would be daunting, if not impossible, to pay off, some attribute part of those balances to the costs that came with being convinced to occupy large, deteriorating inner-city church buildings left by declining white congregations decades ago. The measure was “one attempt at acknowledgement and atonement” for a racist history of segregation of the all-black and mostly white area Methodist conferences that ended with merger in 1965.
An emergency resolution, presented in English and Spanish and unanimously approved, called on the Trump administration to stop separating Latin American parents and children apprehended after crossing into the U.S. after fleeing extreme violence in their home countries.
Two other approved resolutions call on the conference to advocate against the offensive use of Native American team names and mascots in sports and for protection of sacred Indian sites and reversal of recent White House decisions to reduce the size of national monuments on public lands.
Two more approved resolutions address rampant violence in U.S. society. One affirms the action of the 2016 General Conference calling for a reduction of guns, including assault weapons, and gun violence in America. Another creates a new conference Committee on Domestic Violence from the current task force to help churches address that concern with more substantive programming and resources.
And members approved unanimously special offering to aid the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico in its long, painstaking recovery from 2017’s devastating Hurricane Maria. Churches are asked to receive a special love offering on Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, the first Sunday of the annual National Hispanic/Latino Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15). Offerings will be sent to the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico to support its churches’ recovery efforts that will likely last for many years.
Number of people ordained, commissioned or received into associate membership: 15
Number of people retired: 11 clergy retirements and 6 “re-retirements.”
Membership stands at 96,120, down 4,028 from the previous year.
Worship attendance stands at 34,325 down 1,264 from the previous year.
Church school attendance stands at 9,920, up 40 from the previous year.
Professions or reaffirmations of faith: 1,506, down 93 from 2016.
Adults and young adults in small groups: 3,725, down 1,086 from 2016.
Worshippers engaged in mission: 80,463, up 4,892 from 2016.
Submitted by John Coleman, conference communications director