2020 Virginia Annual Conference

The 238th session of the Virginia Annual Conference was markedly different as the session was a one-day, virtual event, postponed from its original June 2020 date due to COVID-19. After a technical issue on September 19, that prevented the conference from voting, the Virginia Annual Conference session took place on October 31 at the conference center from 9:30 a.m. to 2:10 p.m.

The theme was “Seeing All the People.” The conference Scripture was Romans 15:7. In calling the conference to order, Bishop Sharma D. Lewis welcomed clergy and lay members to the virtual session. She gave thanks to the many people who helped make the session possible.

The pandemic and racial unrest has caused us all to see all the people, she said. “I know it is hard, I know we are tired of wearing masks and feel there are too many restrictions, but I want you all to be safe and informed,” she said.

Other aspects of a normal annual conference session were planned for different times. An ordination service took place at Woodlake United Methodist Church in Chesterfield on June 10. A commissioning service was held at Woodlake United Methodist Church on Sept. 11. The Retirement Service and Service of Remembrance were prerecorded and shared conference-wide for individual viewing. Nineteen local pastors will receive their licenses at district conferences this fall.

Conference Business

Bishop Lewis called the conference to three days of Praying and Fasting for the Healing of the Nation from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, 2020.

John Meeuwissenchair of the Board of Laity Nominations Committee, presented the 2020-2024 Conference Lay Leader nomination. The nomination of Martha Stokes was put forth to replace Warren Harper, outgoing conference lay leader.

Five churches were voted on and discontinued:  Charles Wesley United Methodist Church, Arlington District; Graham Road United Methodist Church, Arlington District; Travis Chapel United Methodist Church, Eastern Shore District; Crawford United Methodist Church, James River District; and Howard Chapel United Methodist Church, Winchester District.

Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church, Danville District, voted to amicably exit the denomination and at the conference they were also voted on and discontinued.

The cabinet is working on a video project to focus on Race and Race Relations. It will be available for local church use and shared on the conference website. The first installment will be released Nov. 20.

Two new faith communities have been launched this year: New Life International United Methodist Church @ St. Andrew’s and Impact United Methodist Church.

After sharing remarks, outgoing Conference Lay Leader Warren Harper introduced incoming Lay Leader Martha Stokes. Stokes shared that she worked with the four previous conference lay leaders with her former position in lay leadership at the conference office. She emphasized the partnership between laity and clergy. Laity are 99.2 percent of the church, “and our voices matter.”

“This is holy time, this is holy ground,” she said. She invited everyone to “take off your shoes” to stand on that holy ground. “Our words and actions matter now more than ever. Holy ground certainly doesn’t need to be within the walls of our churches.” 

Conference Treasurer David Dommisse presented the Treasurer’s report. There has been a shortfall in annual conference receipts which was partially offset by lower spending. Apportionment receipts are down. Conference leadership has reduced expenditures. He praised the churches for working so well through the coronavirus pandemic.

Betty Forbes, president of the Council on Finance and Administration, gave a video report. The conference budget is more than 11 % lower than last year’s so more dollars remain in the local church. CFA’s report was adopted by the conference.

At the guidance of the CFA, a workgroup was formed to begin looking closely at the configuration of districts. The workgroup was named the District Alignment Team, referred to as the DAT workgroup. The co-chairs of the DAT workgroup are Kathy Merry and David Dommisse. The work centered around the bishop’s vision. The DAT has conducted interviews around the conference to align structure to needs. A recommendation is expected at next year’s annual conference.

Glory Sightings video series

The “Glory Sightings” video series, which started in 2017, continued this year with two videos. These videos were shown to highlight mission and ministry throughout the Virginia Conference. A video about the Henry Fork Center, Danville District, and Una Familia, Eastern Shore District, were shared. Both are ministries involving children.

Service of Remembrance and Retirement Service

The Rev. Esther N. Agbosu, York River District, preached for the Service of Remembrance in which clergy and laity who died since the last Annual Conference were remembered. This prerecorded service was shared in October for individual viewing.

The Rev. Pamela Culler preached for the Retirement Service. This prerecorded service was shared in October for individual viewing.

A Service for the Ordering of Ministry

Eleven clergy were ordained during a service on June 10 at Woodlake United Methodist Church in Chesterfield. These clergy ordained in the service were Gil Lee, John Conway, Katherine Malloy, Sean Devolites, Ashley Isernhagen, John Obeng, Monica Reynolds, Marti Rigenbach, Mary Sullivan-Trent, Randy Timmerman, and Darlene Wilkins. Pictures from the event are on the conference Flickr page.

A Service for Commissioning

A Service of Commissioning of Provisional Members was held Friday, Sept. 11, at Woodlake United Methodist Church, Chesterfield. Those commissioned during the service were MiRhang Baek, Brian T. Boettcher, Eduardo A. Carrillo, Renee K. Delgado, Seong Jae Jo, Andrew C. LaBar-Dietz, Joshua A. McCauley, Leisa Nicole Moreno Howard, Julie D. Nitzsche, Patrick S. Pillow, Carlson M. Sawyer, Nancy M. Vaughan, and Daniel H. Burch (virtual from Kentucky).

The Harry Denman Evangelism Awards are named for Harry Denman, founder of The Foundation for Evangelism. The Board of Discipleship presents this award to individuals who impact their lives and ministries have on those around them.

The Rev. Kathy Gochenour presented these awards. The Rev. Brenda Laws received the clergy award. She is the Case Manager of Intellectual Disabilities Services, Eastern Shore Community Services Board, and pastor of the Greenbackville Charge. Arleen Field received the laity award. She is a member of Grace United Methodist Church in Manassas. Jackson Smith of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, Richmond, received the youth award.

A video was shared by Bill Chaffin, conference Scouting coordinator. The video and a story about the presentation of the Scouting Silver Torch award to Bishop Lewis are available on the conference website at https://vaumc.org/scoutingministries/.


Wrap-up stats

The Conference Statistician and Treasurer David Dommisse reported that membership stood at 314,000. There were 2,500 professions of faith. The conference received $192 million to support the ministries of the conference.

The conference offering was taken and the total will be shared at a later date. Some 50 percent of this year’s Annual Conference offering was designated to Virginia area food banks and 50 percent to Virginia Partnerships of Hope International Ministries – formerly called the Initiatives of Hope. The Partnerships of Hope ministries are Methodists in Brazil, Cambodia and Mozambique.

You can view all the proceedings of the AC2020 by visiting the archived livestream of the 238th session: https://livestream.com/vaumc.

Other services from AC2020 can be viewed at: https://vaumc.org/AC2020.

—Submitted by Madeline Pillow, conference director of communications.

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