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2015 Virginia Conference

The 2015 Virginia Conference was held June 19-21 at the Berglund Center in Roanoke, Va., centered on the theme “From Members to Disciples.” Bishop Young Jin Cho presided.

During the opening session, Bishop Cho asked retired Bishop Charlene Kammerer, who led the Virginia Conference 2004-2012, to pray for victims of the June 17 shooting of nine members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, S.C.

In her prayer, she lifted up the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, pastor of the historic AME church and a South Carolina state senator, who was killed in the shooting. She also prayed for Bishop Richard Franklin Norris, AME bishop of South Carolina, and “our brothers and sisters in our Wesleyan family.”

Rev. Young Bong Kim, pastor of Korean United Methodist Church of Greater Washington, preached for “A Service of Remembrance and Holy Communion.” Bishop Kammerer preached for the mission service and for ordination. The Rev. Tim Bias, general secretary of Discipleship Ministries, led Bible study.

In his annual episcopal address, Bishop Cho shared the progress in four areas that have been the focus of his ministry as bishop:

  • Leading all things new-equipping vital congregations,
  • Strengthening the spiritual foundation of our mission and ministries,
  • Developing new faith communities
  • Nurturing a culture of cooperation and coordination.

Bishop Cho said an important accomplishment during this conference year was the conference-wide conversation on human sexuality held Nov. 22, 2014.

"We sat down together and shared with one another our differences on this issue and sought a way that we can be one in our mission. It was not an easy process to plan and prepare for this conversation, but the task force team and common table did a great job in organizing and leading us in this conversation," he said. "Of course, not everyone was happy about this conversation, but we took the first step toward a holy conversation on this divisive issue. I hope we are more open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and humbly seek for God’s will to be done on this issue in our churches."

Bishop Cho said the upcoming year will have many challenges, and 2016 General Conference will be crucial for the future of our denomination. He expressed hope that in the midst of these discussions and conferencing, The United Methodist Church would not forget the most important thing: our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

The bishop said he will keep focusing on the necessity of prayer by spreading this culture to Virginia churches and challenging clergy and laity to devote at least one hour daily to spiritual disciplines. The bishop plans within this new year to visit each district to encourage this act of prayer.

During this conference year, four new faith communities were started: Restoration Church in Reston, satellite campus of Floris UMC in the Arlington District; Ignite UMC on the Old Dominion campus and surrounding community in the Elizabeth River District; People United in Christ UMC in the Staunton District; and The Inferno in the James River District. The Vine was chartered this year, and Spirit and Life faith community will start a satellite campus. Three new faith communities are planned with four renewal projects during the coming year.

Five churches were discontinued: Arlington UMC, Arlington District; Mount Hope UMC, Richmond District; Mount Zion UMC, Danville District; Ottobine UMC, Harrisonburg District; and Wesley Chapel UMC, Staunton District.

Denman evangelism award for clergy was presented to the Rev. Paul Beighley, co-pastor of the Brodnax Charge in Brunswick County in the James River District, for his work in prison ministries. Denman laity award went to Patricia Hobbs, outreach ministry team leader at Franconia UMC in the Alexandria District. Denman youth award went to Anna Lopynski, member of Floris UMC, Herndon, Arlington District.

Tracy Fitzsimmons, president of Shenandoah University, received the 2015 Francis Asbury award for fostering United Methodist ministries in higher education. The Rev. Margie Turbyfill won the 2015 John Wesley award for making notable contributions to higher education and campus ministries within the Virginia Conference and advocating for young adults.

Using electronic voting machines for the first time, members of the Virginia Conference elected 22 delegates to the 2016 General Conference (11 clergy and 11 laity) and an additional 11 clergy and 11 laity to join General Conference delegates for the 2016 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference.

Laity delegates to General Conference are: Martha Stokes, Warren Harper, Shirley Cauffman, Nathaniel L. Bishop, Darlene Amon, Virginia Greer, Joyce Winston, Gene Mims, Beth Christian, Alison Malloy and Marshall Bailey.

Clergy delegates to General Conference are: Tom Berlin, Meredith McNabb, Denise Honeycutt, Clarence Brown, Tammy Estep, Ted Smith, Ileana Rosario, Peter Moon, Kendall Soulen, Mark Ogren and Rob Vaughn.

Laity delegates to jurisdictional conference are: Larry Burian, Neill Caldwell, Janet Ayers, Willard Douglas, Jacob Paysour, Olivia Hinton, Michael Monge, Vicki A. Boger, Virginia Turner, Raymond Nations and Brenda Brooks.

Clergy delegates to jurisdictional conference are: Seonyoung Kim, Keith Boyette, Bob Cooper, Alex Joyner, Beth Givens, Tommy Herndon, Marc Brown, Jason Stanley, Jeffrey Mickle, Greg West and David Ford.

Clergy alternates are: R. Bruce Johnson, Brenda Biler, Alan Combs, Thomas Barnard, Won Un, David McAlister-Wilson, Kathleen Overby Webster, Ed Walker, David Rash, John D. Copenhaver and Paulo DaSilva.

Laity alternates are: Aimee Hong, Rachel Wright, Zach Ferguson, Leon Newbanks, Lori Valentine de Segovia, Nancy Yarborough, Nina Winkler, Carlos Liceaga, Joel Joyner and Charles Pearre.

By a 989-868 vote, the conference approved a petition urging General Conference to eliminate the sentence: "The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching" from the United Methodist Book of Discipline. The vote was taken by written ballot.

Members also voted to encourage all United Methodist boards and agencies, conference boards and agencies and local churches to avoid investment in companies with revenues from the extraction and/or mining of thermal coal. The resolution also encourages investment in companies focusing on development and utilization of renewable energy sources and improved energy efficiency.

Thirty-one local pastors were licensed, 24 elders ordained, one deacon ordained, 21 commissioned as provisional members, one recognized as associate member, and four elders’ orders were recognized. Forty-five clergy took retired status.

Conference members brought 42,743 disaster relief kits for United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). Kits included 23,672 health kits; 11,835 school kits; 4,533 birthing kits; 1,965 layette kits; 180 cleaning kits; 111 bedding kits and 547 sewing kits. The total number of donated kits exceeded last year's offerings by more than 1,500.

Attendees of conference were also encouraged to bring at least four cans of food or boxes of dry food to be donated to the Rescue Mission in Roanoke that serves free lunch and dinner every day and just started a food giveaway on Saturday mornings for community residents. The goal was for 10,000 lbs. of canned and dry/staple foods.

A total of $128,890 was received in a special offering to support the conference’s partnership with the Methodist Mission in Cambodia, UMCOR global health ministries to aid the Ebola-ravaged countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia and children in poverty projects in the Danville and Eastern Shore districts.

At last year’s conference, a goal was set to save 100,000 lives for Imagine No Malaria. This year’s conference included a golf tournament to raise funds for Imagine No Malaria. In addition, artists from across the conference created pieces of original art that were used to enhance conference worship. The works of art were sold in an online auction, and 100 percent of the proceeds went to Imagine No Malaria. When the Imagine No Malaria report was given Saturday, June 20; 86,454 lives had been saved. The amount raised was so close to the goal that Bishop Cho urged the crowd to attain the goal by the end of the weekend. After he and his wife pledged to give an additional $2,000, an impromptu offering raised $28,560 in cash and $22,000 in pledges. New total was $916,064.16, saving more than 91,606 lives from the deadly disease. This is just $83,936 (or 8,394 lives) short of the conference goal of raising $1 million in order to save 100,000 lives. By Sunday, it had been announced that this effort to save 100,000 lives will continue into the month of September.

Members approved a 2016 budget of $32,315,000, down 1.24 percent from the 2015 budget.

As of the end of 2014, membership stood at 327,647 down .92 percent from 2013.

Worship attendance stood at 102,884, down from 104,231 at the end of 2013.

Reaffirmations of faith were at 4,250.

For 2014, there was a 2.5 percent decrease in apportionments towards mission and ministries from 2013.

--Madeline Pillow, editor of The Advocate, Virginia Conference.