2022 New England Annual Conference

Location of conference gathering: Hybrid via Zoom and at the DoubleTree Manchester Downtown Hotel.

Theme: Envisioning the Beloved Community

Guiding Scripture: Philippians 3:12-14, The Message:

“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward — to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.”

Did the coronavirus affect how the conference met? New England held its first hybrid session to accommodate those who did not feel comfortable attending in person due to COVID-19. In-person participants were encouraged to remain masked unless speaking at the podium or microphone.

Officiating bishop: Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar

In his Episcopal Address, titled “The Upward Call,” the bishop said: “The upward call in Christ Jesus always inspires, challenges and stimulates us to constantly examine ourselves as baptized Christians regarding what is happening outside our church buildings.” 

“This is where we, as a Christian community, must always be on vigil to speak up with a prophetic voice followed by appropriate action, so we will not grieve later over the damage caused by our silence or inaction to the fabric of God’s creation and humanity.”

Guest speakers and memorable points or quotes by speakers: 

Bishop LaTrelle Miller Easterling was guest preacher and Bible study leader.

Preaching on the conference theme during Friday’s opening worship, Easterling quoted Proverbs 29:18, which says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” But vision is not enough, she said:

“For visions to have import, they must become our reality. It is good to envision the beloved community, it will be even more blessed when we become … when we are … the beloved community.”

Endorsement of episcopal candidates: 

The Rev. Thomas Blackstone

The Rev. Renè Perez

Main actions enacted by the conference:

RS–22–228 – DECLARING OUR COMMITMENT TO LOVE, LIBERATION, FREEDOM, AND FULL INCLUSION (“THE NEW ENGLAND DECLARATION”) 

The New England Annual Conference, at its June 2022 session, declares itself to be an annual conference in The United Methodist Church that is rooted and structured in God’s unconditional love that leads to liberation, freedom and full inclusion of all.

The 2022 session of the NEAC calls upon all entities, boards, councils and agencies of the New England Conference … to act intentionally in ways that advance liberation and intersectional justice. All conference entities are encouraged to examine equity in policies and actions, and to empower those who have been marginalized to advance the flourishing of all. 

RS-22-229 — RENEWING VISION AS THE NEW ENGLAND CONFERENCE

The conference adopted the following as its vision statement: “Local churches and individuals are valued, empowered and equipped to connect strengths and assets to build God’s beloved community.”

RS–22–223 – IDENTIFYING AND OPPOSING APARTHEID IN THE HOLY LAND

The NEAC recognizes that the Israeli government has established a system of apartheid, affirms that apartheid is antithetical to the Gospel message and opposes this injustice and oppression in whatever form it presents itself.

The conference calls on the U.S. government to condition U.S. funding to Israel upon Israel’s willingness to dismantle its apartheid system and implement all the rights due to Palestinians under international law.

The Conference urges all United Methodist clergy and laity: 

  1. to listen to the voices of Palestinians regarding their situation, by meeting with them in their homeland, by seeking opportunities to hear from them in person or at online events, and through the study of the Palestinian Christians’ landmark 2020 document entitled “Cry for Hope: A Call for Decisive Action;” 
  2. to join with and support all persons of good will who are seeking justice for all people in the Holy Land. 

RS–22–225 – REGARDING THE HISTORY OF REDLINING, RACE COVENANTS, AND SUNDOWN TOWNS IN NEW ENGLAND

New England towns and cities have a long, devastating history of racist and segregationist practices supported by government housing policies, including but not limited to redlining, restrictive covenants based on race or religious identity and sun-downing. 

In response, NEAC resolves to engage in personal and communal acts of repentance for knowingly or unknowingly participating in such practices and supporting such policies (inviting and engaging the larger community whenever possible) no later than Peace with Justice Sunday on June 4, 2023, and work to eradicate any remaining practices and existing racist and segregationist housing policies in our ministry area.

The Conference Commission on Religion and Race will be a resource, upon request, for local churches, etc., that need assistance with researching the congregation’s complicity in these sinful practices and policies and with conducting an act of repentance, and will act as a resource, upon request, for the NEAC to fashion a corporate act of repentance at a future session of Annual Conference. 

RS–22–224 – RESOLUTION TO PREPARE NEC FOR STRATEGIC SERVICES AND REINVESTMENT

Endorses the concept of a not-for-profit, mission-focused community development corporation to work with the NEAC, local churches and outside partners.

Many churches want to increase building use for innovative mission and to strengthen community engagement but don’t know how to proceed. Many churches also feel burdened by the maintenance needed for buildings. The CDC would come alongside churches with consulting services, property development expertise, sale and repurposing resources to enhance and expand mission.

Other actions:

RS-22-222 — STEWARDSHIP OF CREATION: RESPONDING TO GLOBAL CLIMATE CRISIS  

The New England Annual Conference shall create a Creation Care Task Force that will implement, resource, educate and monitor the implementation of climate justice measures and education.

And will hire a part-time climate coordinator responsible for offering resources and expertise to local congregations and other conference entities about how to respond to the climate crisis by adapting their properties and-or becoming effective advocates to combat climate change.

RS–22–231 – CONFRONTING HARM AND DISCRIMINATION ON THE BASIS OF SEX OR GENDER THROUGH TRAINING

The NEAC committed to creating a Sex-Gender-Based Crisis Response Team, for the support of lay and clergy persons who experience discrimination or harm on the basis of their sex or gender within the local and connectional church of the NEAC. 

That the New England Annual Conference will participate in quadrennial anti-sexism training as 

developed and facilitated by COSROW, for which members of the conference will be accountable according to a progressive schedule via the question, “What have you resolved to contribute to a culture of anti-sexism in the NEAC?” 

The New England Conference also marked the Bishop Devadhar’s pending retirement with an evening of memories and affirmations during a “Celebration of Episcopal Leadership” on June 10.

Along with NEAC members, greetings both in person and via video came from the bishop’s home conference, now Upper New York, and his first episcopal assignment, the Greater New Jersey Conference (2004-12), as well as from the Rev. Christopher Duraisingh, formerly a professor at United Theological College, Bangalore, India, and the bishop’s family.

Names of delegates for General Conference and designation of lay or clergy:

Delegation was elected in 2019:

Clergy
Jay Williams
Becca Girrell
Effie McAvoy
Laity
Bonnie Marden
Amanda Bonnette-Kim
Ralph Oduor 

Number of people ordained, commissioned, or received into associate membership: 

Ordained as elders
Sara Taylor Garrard
Jennifer Larson Mihok
Adam Paul Randazzo
Nami Yu
Welcomed from another denomination
The Rev. Kai Chur
Commissioned as a deacon
Sarah Brooks Laflamme
Commissioned as elders
Lisa Marie McColgan
Nikki Young

Number of clergy retired: 22

Notable statistic: Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2021: 456, up from 2020 total of 321.


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