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2015 New England Conference

June 17-20, 2015 at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester, New Hampshire

The 2015 gathering of the New England Conference occurred June 17-20 at the Radisson Hotel Downtown in Manchester, New Hampshire, with Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar officiating and offering the Episcopal Address. Ohio West Area Bishop Gregory Palmer led Bible study and at the Service of Commissioning and Ordination. The Rev. Thom White Wolf Fassett, of the Upper New York Conference, preached at the Act of Repentance Service. Bishop James Hazelwood of the New England Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America also spoke.

Memorable quotes:

Bishop Devadhar from his Episcopal Address:

“Friends, I have news for you and for the Barna Group. The good news far outweighs the bad. We offer hope by offering Jesus in new and compelling ways. We offer hope by showing God’s grace. We offer hope by trusting God and allowing the Spirit to empower our way forward. When we come together as brothers and sisters in the faith, we become the circle of hope that God is counting on to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

Bishop Gregory Palmer from his Bible Study:

 “A witness for Jesus Christ, an authentic Christian witness, points beyond him or herself to another truth or reality that has saving power … but if we are pointing to ourselves and not to something beyond ourselves, our witness will be weak and go unheard.”

Rev. Thom White Wolf Fassett at Laity Session Bible study:

“Don’t say it’s already been done for you. Repentance is fresh and at hand. We are living stones. … We are the stones of the temple; we connect to each other. … Thank you for the living stones that build new tomorrows and new structures of sacred worth, of hope and joy. We give thanks to Jesus Christ, the one who taught us to be sacred people.”

Resolutions adopted by the conference:

RS-15-207 Ziegler Award process change
In order to be consistent with Bill Ziegler’s legacy, the resolution calls on the Conference Board of Church and Society to take the  full responsibility for the selection of recipients of the Wilbur C. Ziegler Preaching Award each year.
 
RS-15-302 - Nonproliferation 
The resolution calls on President Obama to live up to the Nonproliferation Treaty binding commitment to engage in international  negotiations for the elimination of all nuclear weapons … that each Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church condemns the new Nuclear Complex program, calls upon Congress to stop it and to devote the resulting $1 trillion in savings over 30 years to pressing human needs, including the environment, affordable housing, public transit, healthcare and  education; and that each Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church urges President Obama to take the U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert, and to adopt an unconditional “No-First-Use” policy …”
 
RS-15-301 on divestment 
Resolution calls on the General Boards and Agencies of The United Methodist Church and all 38 United Methodist investment managers to remove from their portfolios companies producing goods or services in illegal settlements on occupied land.
 
RS-15-203 War on Drugs, which states “That the New England Annual Conference supports seeking means other than prohibition to address the problem of substance abuse; and is further resolved to support the mission of the international educational organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) to reduce the multitude of unintended harmful consequences resulting from fighting the war on drugs and to lessen the incidence of death, disease, crime, and addiction by ending drug prohibition.”
See the Pre-Conference Booklet for the full text of the resolutions
 
Criminalization of Communities of Color, which calls on churches to offer safe spaces for town meetings for discussion of and mutual planning to address issue of community-police relations and the broader context of the criminalization of communities of color and disenfranchisement from the justice system.
See the full text in the Late-Breaking Documents

The meeting included election of delegates and alternate to General Conference and Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference next year.

General Conference delegates

Laity
Bonnie Marden – head of delegation
Ralph R.R. Oduor
Rene Wilbur 
Clergy
We Chang
William (Scott) Campbell
LaTrelle Easterling

NEJ delegates

Laity
Steve Dry
Oscar W. Harrell
Rebecca Hewett 
Clergy
Leigh Goodrich
Rene Perez
David Abbott 

NEJ alternates

Laity
Christy Wright
Roberta Bragan
Sean Delmore
Clergy
Becca Girrell
David Nicol
Jung Sun Oh

The meeting saw 11 people commissioned and two ordained, with an average age of 37.5.

Current membership:  86,393

Last year's membership:  89,459

Current worship attendance: 29,445

Last year's worship attendance: 30,328

Current church school attendance: 6,937

Last year's church school attendance: 5,937

The conference saw 1,368 new members by profession of faith in 2014, and had 9,508 engaged in mission over the year. About $2.7 million was given for mission work.

Other actions:

The Cabinet spoke of its commitment to going beyond the words of the Act of Repentance to actions that the conference will take to build relationships with Native peoples.

Cabinet members committed as individuals to:

  • Learn all we can about the history of Native and indigenous peoples in our area and beyond.
  • Share what we learn with others. Spread the word, talk with family, friends and co-workers about history; help educate town leaders, civic organizations and community members; host educational awareness events.          
  • Continue to explore our own privilege, prejudices and assumptions about Native peoples.
  • Look for ways to become an ally to Native and indigenous peoples.
  • Learn about who we are and from where we have come, and honor our own heritage.
  • Speak up.

And on behalf of the Conference, they agreed to:

  • Build relationships with Native peoples based on equality within the conference and beyond by listening and learning rather than teaching and leading.
  • Build trust by respecting Native expressions of Spirituality by involving Native Americans in planning and/or leading activities such as Native American Sunday for our local church worship services, Native American Camp experiences at our camp and retreat ministries, and educational opportunities.
  • Help keep Native culture alive by providing opportunities for children and youth to experience and explore the indigenous culture.

As a Conference, we:

  • Affirm our commitment to empowering the presence of Native and indigenous people in the life of the New England Annual Conference.
  • Strengthen awareness and support of Native American Ministries Sunday in the New England Conference.
  • Strengthen and be supportive of the New England Committee on Native American Ministries (CONAM).
  • Support General Advances and church-wide funding for 22 Native ministries
  • Commit ourselves to resourcing and development of new Native and indigenous ministries
  • Commit to developing relationships of mutuality with Native peoples in local contexts.  
  • Continue to provide education for non-Native people about why the Act of Repentance is important.

In partnership with Native ministry leaders and resource people throughout the Connection, the New England Conference will support:

  • Developing new Native and indigenous leaders across the Connection including an increased number of people nurtured for service in congregational, annual conference, jurisdictional and central conference, and general church ministries, including the episcopacy.
  • Support General Church initiatives related to land and treaty rights, support for tribal sovereignty and cultural preservation; better health care and education for Native people and the safety of Native and indigenous women.

Beth DiCocco, communications director,  New England Conference