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Annual Conference 2014
Jan Emblidge
Stone UMC Lay Delegate

     Bishop Tom Bickerton struck a sobering note in his State of the Church address which opened this annual conference.  In listing a series of challenges faced over the past year, he pointed to a rise in patterns of racist, sexist and discriminatory behavior in some congregations.  Those members who are exhibiting these behaviors are voicing their own opinions, “but that voice is not the voice of Jesus,” the Bishop said.  “Everyone is welcome in the fellowship of our church,” he added, “but those voices of racism and sexism are not welcome and must be confessed and transformed if we are to find our true voice of witness and ministry in this Annual Conference.

     “Can we all find a way to lay down our human agendas and opinions, no matter how convinced we are that they are right, and genuinely open ourselves to what God would have us do and be?” he asked.  “It is time for us to demonstrate to the world that different people who think differently can find ways to love one another in spite of our differences.”   In an attempt to do this, during a lunchtime session, the Bishop focused on Same Gender Ceremonies and Church Law, explaining differences in various sections of the Book of Discipline and the circumstances surrounding resolution of complaints filed against some clergy for officiating at same-sex unions.  He said the session would be the first in a series of discussions around Western PA, aimed at determining how can we “preserve the unity of the church and be fully inclusive in the midst of our diversity?”

Bible Study  at this annual conference was led by Dr. Joy Moore who emphasized the need to learn and tell the stories of the Bible, rather than use Google to find words that match our own ideas of what we “think the Bible says”.  She said, “It is easy to pass through the Bible and weave together a scriptural witness to our preconceived notions.”  By not telling the sacred stories, we undermine the truth, she added.

Guest Preacher for this annual conference was Bishop James King, Jr. of the N. Georgia Conference.  He focused on the book of Acts, where God flows through Christ’s followers.

Ordination, Retirement and Memorial services of this annual conference saw 8 new elders ordained and 2 associate members received into full membership.  10 provisional elders were commissioned.  The ministries of 22 retiring clergy members, represented 669 years of service which were celebrated.  At a memorial service the Conference honored the memories of 1 active clergy member, 13 retired clergy, 26 clergy spouses, and 8 lay members.

Mission and Outreach activities included the annual conference members packaged 44,670 meals for Stop Hunger Now, and filled a truck with an estimated 30,500 pairs of old shoes to aid the Erie Alliance’s homeless ministries and All God’s Children/Ramps of Hope ministries to those with disabilities.  Members also brought 2277 kits for UMCOR to the Mission Barn drop-off truck.

Legislation was mostly without debate on the general floor as most legislation passed (or not) during legislative sessions and came to us on a “consent calendar”.  2 items that would be of interest were 1.) to provide a Change of Appointment Leave for clergy being moved to a new church or charge.  It would begin 2 weeks before the start of the new appointment.  2.) Setting the basic cash compensation for clergy serving full time at $39,160 for elders,  $37,960 for associate members, $35,699 for provisional members, and $35,169 for local pastors.

A total of 1501 individuals, including members, vendors and visitors attended the annual conference session.

To see photos, video and the Daily Journal, go to AC2014/news, which was the source of some of this article.

It is an honor and privilege to serve as the Lay Member from Stone UMC.  Thank you for electing me to be your delegate to Annual Conference.


Content Copyright 2014 Stone United Methodist Church