2019 North Carolina Annual Conference

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June 12-15, in Greenville, North Carolina

Just over 1,600 lay and clergy members of the North Carolina Annual Conference gathered in Greenville, North Carolina, from June 12 to 15 for the annual conference session. Bishop Hope Morgan Ward presided, and special guests included Bishop Leonard E. Fairley of the Kentucky/Red Bird Conference, the Rev. Anthony Davis, an ordained elder in the AME Zion Church, retired Bishop William Willimon, and Harriett Jane Olson, top executive of United Methodist Women.

The opening worship and Holy Communion service focused on Psalm 8, with a mass choir of clergy and laity singing the beloved anthem “The Majesty and Glory of Your Name” (Johnson/Fettke). Bishop Morgan proclaimed the wondrous intent of God for humanity to be “a little less than God,” possible through the work of grace in our lives. She dreamed that Methodists might aspire to such gracious love of others and have people ask, “What is it at work in those Methodists that causes them to love, welcome and bless all people and all the world? How might I experience that graciousness of life?”

North Carolina Conference missions and outreach

The North Carolina Conference celebrated the strength of mission and outreach with the number of worshippers engaged in mission up 3,118 for a total of 51,488 in 2018. And, in part due to extensive need after regional hurricane damage, North Carolina Conference churches were very generous in 2018 and gave a total of $18.6 million to local and United Methodist benevolences, an increase of $888,000.

Al Miller, conference director of disaster ministries, celebrated that 18,258 volunteers have contributed 599,800 hours toward home rebuilding and repairs following Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Florence. The North Carolina United Methodist Disaster Response Ministry has expanded to include eight disaster response centers and five satellite housing centers. A total of 847 homes needing repairs have been completed since Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. Miller reported that 2,017 homes are in progress, and there are still 659 homes waiting for repairs. He expressed gratitude for work teams from 35 states and for the partnerships developed with other relief groups, particularly with the United Methodist Committee on Relief and state organizations. UMCOR has contributed $7.8 million to North Carolina Conference disaster recovery ministry, the largest grant given across the connection.

The Rev. Edith Gleaves, Harbor district superintendent, reported the continued success of the Congregations for Children program launched in 2014 to support local public schools. “Over 83% of North Carolina United Methodist churches, both large and small have embraced C4C and are reflecting the love of Christ by partnering with schools for three purposes: to improve K-3 literacy rates, provide basic needs, and to increase parent involvement,” Gleaves said.

Generosity through the special offerings

Four special offerings were received during the four-day conference. On Wednesday, members contributed almost $32,854 to the Youth Storm Fund. Every dollar donated to the Youth Storm Fund will be matched up to the goal of $500,000. Friday’s offerings included $13,430.37 for the Mission of Hope: Rotifunk Hospital in Sierra Leone and $6,228.89 for Laity Ministries. An offering of $2,399.11 for the Central Conference Theological Education Endowment Fund was received Saturday during the ordering of ministry service.

Bishop Fairley: Living with a spirit of availability

“Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all.” — James 1:17

In his Bible study on Friday morning, Bishop Leonard E. Fairley called the conference to imagine the God of the Universe who spoke into the nothingness and created something. Fairley said God showed generosity and used holy imagination to create life. “Since God is generous,” he asked, “how could we be any different?” He challenged the conference to live into the mandate that “generosity is not an option for those of us who are water-washed and Spirit-born.” Baptism is an act of God’s generosity: God’s gift without price. During Holy Communion, Christ invites ALL who love him, noted Fairley.

Fairley recalled reading a devotional written by Sue Monk Kidd in which she wrote: “I decided to take up availability as a discipline, as a form of spiritual practice, like meditation, prayer or Scripture reading.” He asked, “What if we practiced receiving each person with our whole heart? Mindful availability means making ourselves available to God.” He held up Samuel, Isaiah and Mary as examples of those who said, “‘Here I am Lord, your servant.’ We are part of a kingdom with a God who has a generous heart and a holy imagination just ready to pour out blessings upon us,” Fairley said. “Open your hands to receive and give. Practice availability by just doing it!”

More new faith communities started than any other conference

The North Carolina Conference, over the past two years, has chartered and begun more new faith communities than any other conference in the United States. The conference celebrated that six new faith communities are launching this year in Chapel Hill, Durham (2), Hillsborough, Raleigh and Mebane. A new program is beginning where “anchor churches” partner with new faith communities, both to help the existing churches be strengthened, and to help the new faith community thrive. Churches that are seeking to cultivate the gifts of evangelism and hospitality today will receive training and grow in that work together.

10 Resolutions Passed

Friday’s last plenary was extended to accommodate the Resolutions Committee report. A total of 14 resolutions were submitted prior to annual conference including five submitted in response to the 2019 General Conference decisions.

Resolutions 7, 10, 11, and 12 were all related to full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ persons. Thanks to a spirit of holy conferencing by their respective authors, the four resolutions were combined into Resolution 15: Supporting Full Inclusion of LGBTQIA+ Persons and Rejecting the Traditional Plan. At the recommendation of the Resolutions Committee, conference members voted to suspend the standing rules of the annual conference. The suspension of the rules allowed Resolution 15 to be presented to the body although it was after the stated submission deadline. After some amendments and lively debate, Resolution 15 passed by a vote of 60.31% Yes to 39.69% No.

The conference youth legislative affairs person presented four resolutions from the 2018 Annual Conference Session for Youth. The youth who originally proposed each resolution were able to speak to the conference members. These resolutions addressed efficient church energy usage, called for diversity in youth events, advocated for churches to serve fair trade coffee, and encouraged churches to help address the pain caused by the opioid epidemic by hosting Narcotics Anonymous family support groups in every county.

The remainder of the extended afternoon session approved resolutions supporting continued dialogue for full communion with The Episcopal Church, condemning solitary confinement in prisons, embracing immigrants, and addressing the age definition of “youth” within The United Methodist Church. 

A full report on the resolutions and a link to each document is available.

New task force approved to study pastoral care for LGBTQIA+ community

Citing rising gay teen suicide rates, an increasing murder rate for transgender people, and many requests from clergy and church members for guidance on how to care for LGBTQIA+ people, the Rev. Laurie Hays Coffman, proposed creating a study committee on the best practices for pastoral care and support of LGBTQIA+ people. The motion passed. The task force will meet over the next year and report back to the 2020 annual conference.

Conference budget reduction celebrated

Anne Lloyd, chair of the Conference Council on Finance Administration, expressed appreciation for the 91.58% of the apportionments that were paid in 2018. She noted that the North Carolina Conference was one of 26 annual or missionary conferences that fully paid apportionments to the General Conference.
The proposed North Carolina Conference budget for 2021 represents a 23.13% decrease from the approved 2020 budget. Lloyd celebrated this reduction which was largely due to meeting funding goals for retiree pension and health care and removing the need to fund an Episcopal residence. Annual conference members approved the request for $16,205,448 for the 2021 annual conference budget.

Sale of episcopal residence approved

A proposal from both the committee on the episcopacy and the board of trustees was made to sell the episcopal residence. With an expected market value of over $900,000; the proceeds of a sale will fund an episcopal housing allowance for years to come while also avoiding additional expenses for maintenance and repairs. The report and the motion to sell the episcopal residence were overwhelmingly approved.

Ordering of Ministry

On Saturday morning, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward officiated at the Service for the Ordering of Ministry. During the service, 20 persons received their license for pastoral ministry, eight were commissioned, five were ordained as deacons, 10 were ordained as elders, one received recognition of orders, 14 were certified as lay missioners, six were certified as lay ministers, and one was commissioned as a missionary. The average age of those commissioned is 35. The average age of those ordained is 42.

• Licensed for pastoral ministry: The Revs. Kollin Brian Absher-Baer, Sheila Bradbury Ahler, Trevor Justin Blair, Steve Brotherton, Carey Carlburg, Gordon John Christen, Kristen Hanna, Robin Cummings Jones, Min Jae Kim, Avery James Lail, Hope Ledbetter-Bock, Rebecca Ellen MacDonald, Sarah Majors, Elizabeth Mefford Montgomery, Michael Rice, Gwendolyn Octavia Roberts-Payne, Donald Ken Sadler, John Taylor, Kim Yvonne Troy-Richardson, Joel Aaron Wise

• Commissioned: The Revs. Jack Colenda, Thomas Hallberg, Seyun Hwang, Patrick Olin Jones, Tyler Muller-Yoder, Lucas Breading Nelson, Garrett Rea, Cara Thompson

• Ordained as a deacon: The Revs. Toby James Bonar, Daniel Patrick Collins, Laura Tardie Isaac, Jenifer Anne Swindell, Sarah Nickens Williams

• Ordained as elder: The Revs. Mamie Rachel Alley, Gina Head Barrow, Kenneth Darrel Bowles, David Wallace Johnson, Sangwoo Kim, Young Han Kim, Gina Rhodes Miller, Bobby Lynn Rackley, Glenn Rees Stallsmith, Anne Elizabeth Dodge Tyson

• Recognition of orders: The Rev. Jose Luís Villaseñor

• Certified as lay missioners: Delmy Alvarez, Lissette Arredondo, Lendy A. Cerna Carias, Lourdes Cervantes, Evelin Susan Hearn, Emanuel Daniel Huamani-Salazar, Feler Martinez Vazquez, Romina Martinez Vazquez, Victor Mendez, Elena Monter Mendez, Karen Yamileth Rivera Castillo, Maria Alicia Romo, Anabel Rosa, Claudia Tsiaousopoulos

• Certified as lay ministers: Gail Bailey, Paul Baldwin, Dwayne Benfield, Allen Burden, Sandra Velez, Carol Worth

• Commissioned as a missionary: Bernadine Smith

2020 Delegate Elections

The North Carolina Annual Conference elected 21 lay and 21 clergy delegates and alternates for the 2020 General and jurisdictional conferences. They are listed below in order of election. More than 38% of the laity and clergy elected are under the age of 40, and the average age for the eight General Conference clergy delegates is 48.

• General Conference 2020 Lay Delegates: Christine Dodson, Ellen Beasley, LaNella Smith, Steve Taylor, Emily Lain, Susan Graebe, Caleb Parker, Mark Schneider

• General Conference 2020 Clergy Delegates: The Revs. Belton Joyner, Lisa Yebuah, Edgardo Colón-Emeric, Amie Stewart, Edie Gleaves, Sara Beth Pannell, Liz Roberts, Ben Williams

• Jurisdictional Conference 2020 Lay Delegates: Jin Lee, Danny Peck, Claire Cox-Woodlief, Catherine Stallsmith, Cathy Thompson, Lee Rodio, Louise Mitchell, Miles Hunt

• Jurisdictional Conference 2020 Clergy Delegates: The Revs. Kevin Baker, Ismael Ruiz-Millán, Laura Wacker Stern, Doug Lain, Chris Brady, Laura Wittman, Harriet “Tuck” Taylor, Tim Catlett

• Jurisdictional 2020 Lay Alternates: Denise Baker, Phillip Jefferson, Lydia Cauley, Martha Caves, Mack Parker

• Jurisdictional 2020 Clergy Alternates: Sangwoo Kim, Ben Roberts, Donna Banks, Nathan Arledge, David Beam

Statistician’s report

Conference statistician, George Speake, reported on membership, worship attendance, and benevolent spending. The total membership for the conference at the close of 2018 was 225,987, a loss of 1,184 members from 2017. There were 2,289 professions of faith reported. This includes those who returned to the church and had their membership restored. 

The reported average worship attendance was 71,276 worshiping in the pews, which represents a decline, but, there was a large increase worshiping online. There were 1200 fewer bodies in the pews but, 11,992 persons worshiped online for an actual increase in worship of 7200. 

Our churches were very generous in 2018 when it comes to benevolences. A total of $18.6M was given to local and United Methodist benevolences, an increase of $888,000.

The full statistician’s report can be found on the annual conference website.

Clergy Retirees

Thirty-eight retirees were recognized during the retiree luncheon on Thursday afternoon. Bishop Hope Morgan Ward pinned each retiree as they were called by name to receive their certificate. The Rev. Dennis Goodwin, chair of the board of pension, also honored them during the Thursday afternoon session saying, “Thank you all for your service to Christ. Your sacrifice of time and energy in ministry extends beyond just the North Carolina Conference. We are grateful for your service and commitment.”

Memorial Service

“For All the Saints” rang out as the annual memorial service began. Held annually to recall the ministry of those who have entered the Church Triumphant, the names of 18 clergy members and 23 spouses were spoken to the sound of a tolling bell. Fairway District superintendent, the Rev. Ray Broadwell, preached from Matthew 5:1-16, noting: “The ones we remember are the saints of God who have given themselves. How do we say thanks? By honoring their ministries. These saints of God understood that ministry is not about us; it is not about self. It’s best described by words like ‘service,’ ‘sacrifice’ and ‘servanthood’. …These saints embodied the love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Ministerial Appointments

Bishop Ward closed the 2019 North Carolina Annual Conference by fixing the 2019-2020 ministerial appointments, which are available online at nccumc.org.

2020 annual conference location

The Rev. Jerry Bryan, conference secretary , announced his recommendation that the annual conference continue meeting at the Greenville Convention Center, Greenville, North Carolina, in 2020 and also extend that commitment for the next quadrennium from 2021-2024. This provides significant cost savings due to the extended contract. The conference voted in favor of his motion. Dates for the 2020 annual conference will be announced.

— Julie Brown and LeeAnne Thornton, North Carolina Conference communicators

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