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2016 New England Annual Conference

Officiating bishop: Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar

Guest speakers: Bishop Violet Fisher, preached at the Memorial Service, Ashley Renee Johnson, seminary student, gave the Laity Address; Rev. Tom Getchell-Lacey was this year's Ziegler Preacher, an award for prophetic preaching. Rev. Anne Robertson led Bible study. Bishop Jin-Hung Kim and Bishop Yang-Hee Chung of the Korean Methodist Church joined us as guests along with others from the Sanman Annual Conference; the bishops participated in the Service of Commissioning and Ordination as did United Methodist bishops Bishop Susan Hassinger and Bishop S. Clifton Ives. Bishop A. Robert Hirschfeld Bishop of the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire was our ecumenical guest.

Memorable points or quotes by speakers:

Rather than deliver his planned episcopal address, Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar gave a personal witness around the issues of human sexuality facing the church and the June 12 shooting at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando, Florida.

“But for now, I am putting it aside. Tonight, I don’t want to give an address; I want to talk with you. These are not ordinary times, and I think we need to deviate from our typical routine …

“We are deeply divided by how we look at human sexuality. These are hard days, but I need to be the bishop for all people, and I want us to be the church and to be defined as a powerful Christian witness in our conference and beyond. Friends, at this point, will you allow me to share my story? I would be most grateful to you. …”

“How can any child of God be called ‘incompatible with Christian teaching’? We are all made in God's image.”- Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, episcopal witness

“We came here today to give God the praise and to thank God for the saints who gave their all, who lived the life of being a disciple, who gave what they didn’t have to give, who put their hands in the church, who testified, ‘I love the Lord.’ We celebrate them today.” – Bishop Violet Fisher, preaching at the Memorial Service

“If we are really committed to planting seeds of trust that have the potential to positively change the landscape and diet of our society, we’re going to have to get dirty, and we will need all hands on deck.” – Ashley Renee Johnson, giving the 2016 Laity Address

“As you return to your mission stations, you may wonder what it is that we need to pack to equip ourselves for a journey that leads us to the new Promised Land of our time, as we strive for the reign of God in our midst, filled with the compassion and love of Christ, and moved and guided by the Holy Spirit every step of the journey. I cannot give it to you … you need to discern it with deep prayer, love for Christ, and dependence on the Holy Spirit, always glorifying our Creator God!” – Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar, preaching at the Service of Ordination and Commissioning

"It’s time not only to accept our LGBTQI brothers and sisters, but to embrace them, fully, and completely, for the wonder and the miracle that they are. It is time to move from merely saying, 'you can belong to our church if you want,' to saying 'we want you to belong, we need you to belong, we are incomplete without you, we are not fully the body of Christ without you.'" – Rev. Tom Getchell-Lacey, Ziegler Preacher

Main actions/resolutions enacted by the conference

The Rev. We Hyun Chang, pastor at Belmont/Watertown United Methodist Church, and the Rev. Dr. LaTrelle Miller Easterling, Metro Boston Hope District Superintendent, were endorsed by the conference as episcopal candidates.

The New England Conference Board of Ordained Ministry made public on June 16 its policy not to consider sexual orientation or gender identity when recommending people to ordained ministry. Board co-chairs, Yoo-Yun Cho-Chang and Peter Hey, made the announcement “our policy is to be guided by the Holy Spirit as we seek to judge the readiness of those called to lay ministry, the ministry of local pastors, associate membership or ordained ministry.”

16-217 A Resolution to Support the Council of Bishops’ Proposal: A Way Forward. Brought by the NEAC Chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action.

16-218 – Ending Harm to LGBTQI Communities. Brought by Sean Delmore, equalization member.

16-219 – New England Annual Conference Membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Brought by Rev. Rebecca Girrell, pastor at Lebanon UMC in New Hampshire and chair of the Conference Board of Church and Society. 

16-220 – Action of Non-Conformity with the General Conference of The United Methodist Church . See the story

The New England Conference is proud to have exceeded its goal for the Imagine No Malaria campaign. The conference raised $1,009,392, with 85 percent of that funding coming from local churches.

The Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Worcester, Massachusetts, recently made the decision to turn its building and assets over to a new growing Brazilian/multi-cultural ministry Jesus Life Center. Aldersgate members wanted to reach their increasingly diverse community in the best way possible.

Our Hebrews 11 grants allow churches that are reaching the end of their lifecycle to use assets to fund new and revitalizing ministries.

The Conference Committee on Leadership/Nominations invited General Commission on Religion and Race General Secretary Erin Hawkins to offer a training in appreciative inquiry to help us continue to offer all voices a seat at the leadership table.

Local churches across the New England Conference are walking with our brothers and sisters who are living in poverty every day. A teenager who came to First United Methodist Church in Manchester, New Hampshire, a year ago seeking food and clothing, was baptized this year and he now regularly helps out with ministries at the church.

Number of people ordained, commissioned or received into associate membership, and average age: Seven were ordained, seven were commissioned. Average age: 38.

Number of people retired: 21

Membership stands at 84,190 down by 2.6 percent from 86,393 the previous year. Number of growing congregations increased from 25 percent in 2014 to 27 percent in 2015.

Worship attendance stands at 28,308 down by 3.9 percent from 29,445

Worshippers engaged in mission for 2015 10,528 up from 9,508 in 2014.

Beth Dicocco, director of communications, New England Conference of The United Methodist Church