2016 Eastern Pennsylvania Conference
Officiating bishop: Peggy Johnson
Guest speakers: The Rev. Thom White Wolf Fassett, Bishop Linda Lee, Bishop Marcus Matthews
Memorable points or quotes by speakers:
Rev. Thom White Wolf Fassett:
1. “We’re not here to apologize but to seek ways to bring about healing relationships…and to reconstruct our institutions and principles so we can live together in justice.”
2. “How do we prepare and make decisions that will affect the next seven generations?"
3. “We are kin. Even if we leave here not having adopted one resolution, we live as kin under Jesus Christ, in whom we find oneness. I hope in the next 40 years, Native Americans can become equal partners in The United Methodist Church.”
Bishop Linda Lee:
1."One of the most important things we can do is find solutions for the ways we handle relationships....We all have to be a part of imagining, creating and participating in solutions."
2. "Our focus today is on race matters because when racial equity becomes a reality in the U.S. ...other forms of oppression will have been overcome."
Main actions enacted by the conference:
1. Act of Repentance and Healing toward Indigenous People, led by Thom Fassett and members of the conference’s CONAM.
2. A learning & table-talk session, "Creating a Church for All People," led by Bishop Linda Lee.
3. Celebrated new clergy retirees, newly ordained and commissioned clergy, and recently deceased clergy and clergy spouses.
Resolutions adopted by the conference:
1. A resolution on Radical Welcome that encourages churches to reach out to LGBTQ young people especially--many of whom suffer high rates of family rejection, homelessness and suicide--and to “practice radical welcome in specific and tangible ways.”
2. A resolution calling for aggressive support of the Pennsylvania Fairness Act, 2 popular but still languishing legislative bills (House Bill 1510 and Senate Bill 974) that would amend the state’s Human Relations Act “to ensure freedom from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodation based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.”
3. A new Policy on Sexual Misconduct Involving Adults that replaces one in use since 1998. It defines and interprets prohibited behaviors, including romantic relationships between unmarried ministerial staff and parishioners. And it sets expectations for reporting and investigating charges, including a non-retaliation policy to protect legitimate accusers.
4. A resolutions related to undocumented immigrants, urging conference support for the state assembly’s House Bill 1459 that would grant such immigrants legal driver’s licenses.
5. A resolution supporting the Public Citizens for Children and Youth’s Dream Care Campaign to provide health insurance for all children, including more than 24,000 undocumented, currently uninsured children.
6. Resolutions to close (“discontinue”) four churches.
(Some other resolutions were referred or postponed for more refinement or future consideration. Two resolutions seeking “full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the UMC” may be reconsidered after recommendations from the Council of Bishops on this matter are decided by the next General Conference.)
What did your annual conference do to reinforce the Four Areas of Focus, and what commitments has the conference made for the coming year:
1. Engaging in Ministry with the Poor: The Annual conference approved 12 local and conference-wide ministries as Advance Special Projects to receive local church donations in the next conference year. They include a number of collaborative anti-poverty programs.
2. Improving Global Health: The conference celebrated over $50,000 in giving to Imagine No Malaria in the past year and also helped the Order of Deacons collect and assemble items into health kits for UMCOR disaster relief ministries.
3. Creating New Places for New People: The conference Connectional Ministries report highlighted emerging Latino ministries, life-changing encounters at camp and retreat centers, a successful conference-wide youth rally, growing campus ministries, and two new Lifetree Cafe ministries, with more to come, which welcome non-church-goers to enjoy warm fellowship and open, non-threatening, wide-ranging topical dialogues in local restaurants and other non-church settings.
4. Developing Principled Leaders: Eleven new Certified Lay Ministers--the largest class yet--were celebrated, along with newly ordained and commissioned elders and deacons. Also, Congregational Development offers leaders demographic resources and team-based, relational ministry development training through Mission InSite and Spiritual Leadership, Inc. And the conference sponsors many intensive learning events, including annual Tools for Ministry training for lay leadership and an annual Faith-Sharing Seminar to enhance competency in evangelism, welcoming and mission outreach.
Number of people ordained, commissioned or received into associate membership, and average age:
Three people were ordained as deacons and three were ordained as elders. One person commissioned as a provisional deacon and four people commissioned as provisional Elders. Average age is unknown at this time; but at least 8 of these persons are young adults.
Number of people retired: 25
Membership stands at 102,828 in 2015, down from 105,030 the previous year (2014).
Worship attendance stands at 36,661 in 2015, down from 39,905 in 2014.
Church school attendance stands at 10,525 in 2015, down from 12,145 in 2014.
Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2015 were 1,588, down from 1,935 in 2014.
John W. Coleman Jr., director of communications, Eastern Pennsylvania Conference