With the certainty that “we celebrate what we want to see more of,” clergy and lay members from 416 United Methodist churches in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland came together in worship and holy conferencing on June 16-18.
Members of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference met online to celebrate and create a new ministry of creation care, ordain four people and commission three provisional clergy members; celebrate the lives of 19 clergy and clergy spouses who died during the past year, and adopted a budget of $4.9 million for mission and ministry.
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, the presiding bishop of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference, affirmed the resilience and faithfulness of the church leaders throughout the Peninsula-Delaware Conference, lifting up the conference theme of “Persevere: in Hope, Faith and Joy.”
In her ordination sermon on June 18, she used as a refrain the words of Hebrews 12:1-3: “Run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”
“Persevering has been the plight and posture of humanity since before we knew the name of Yahweh,” the bishop preached. She cautioned church members about how easy is it to become “woefully disconnected from one another and that disconnection leads to a dangerous disregard.”
Our faith calls us to reconnect with God, ourselves and one another, and we do this by looking to Christ, she said. “Jesus’ life between birth and death was a life of faithfulness, commitment, focus, endurance and unwavering faith. Jesus’ life is our model for perseverance.”
In persevering, the church continues what Walter Brueggemann calls its essential task. Quoting the theologian, Bishop Easterling said, “The work of ministry is crucial and pivotal and indispensable in our society precisely because there is no one except the church and the synagogue to name and evoke the ambivalence [of the world] and to manage a way through it.”
Leading up to their ordination, the bishop met with ordinands and asked them to share a little about their call to ministry and how they felt as they were about to be ordained.
“One of the attendees expressed how she hoped she would always have enough ‘Yes’ for the day,” Easterling said. “As a poet and writer that phrase immediately captured my attention. ‘Enough yes for the day.’ Christ had enough yes for the day.”
That spirit of hope and affirmation — of “yes” — was present throughout the 238th session of the Peninsula-Delaware Annual Conference.
The plenary session opened with a Lakota prayer, honoring Native American traditions and spirituality, and closed with the observance of historic gun control legislation that had passed the day before in Delaware, which contained measures lobbied for by conference members. During the three-day session, members stopped to pray for three people who were shot and killed at a church in Alabama June 17. They also lifted up prayers for Doug Lanter, the conference director of communications, who is undergoing significant health challenges.
During the session, members celebrated:
- The retirement of 12 pastors and other clergy marking milestones in ministry.
- The Congo Partnership, a ministry of shared faith and experiences, which provides life-giving services to hundreds of children, seniors and others in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
- Asbury United Methodist Church in Allen, Maryland, which was awarded $1,000 as the recipient of Discipleship Ministries’ One Matters Award for their community-centered ministry, which led to five baptisms, the relaunch of confirmation classes and six new members last year.
- The 251 churches who received gold, silver or bronze badges for making their churches accessible to people with disabilities, twice the number of churches as two years ago.
- Mdwese Basil, a Congolese student at Africa University, who is the recipient of a conference scholarship.
Caring for the Ministry of Stewardship
During the plenary session on June 17, members conducted a number of ministry-related tasks including passing a resolution on providing conference members with a detailed accounting of stewardship-related information each year. Members also approved , at the recommendation of the Pen-Del Equitable Compensation Commission, a 6% raise for clergy that brings the minimum salary compensation to $43,237 for full members and $37,349 for full-time local pastors.
A 2023 budget of $4,878,995 to support conference ministry needs was adopted. The apportionment for 2023 will be based on a formula of the average of a church’s net operating expenses for 2018, 2019, 2020. An apportionment cap of 16% of a local church’s operating expenses was set.
In other action, members chose not to endorse a candidate for the episcopacy. The Peninsula-Delaware delegation will attend the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference Nov. 2-5 to elect bishops. Members will elect between one and three new bishops to serve the jurisdiction beginning in January 2023.
The Rev. Eric Warner, pastor of Elkton United Methodist Church, was named to serve as the interim conference secretary; and members also heard a report from Conference Chancellor David Rutt on a new affiliation agreement that will be used by congregations and Boy Scout units meeting at their churches. The new agreement, which goes into full affect Oct. 31, comes on the heels of the Boy Scouts of America filing for bankruptcy in the wake of allegations of sexual abuse that spanned 40-50 years, Rutt said.
Looking to the Future
Members also received glimpses into future conference ministries. They include:
- A new 18-week online course that explores Who Are We— as children of God, as people of the Wesleyan faith, and members of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference.
- The Center for Vital Leadership, led by Rev. Jack Shitama at Camp Pecometh, announced several learning opportunities and events. These include a six-course certification program on congregational development and the seven-month Living Well program, designed by clergy for clergy, to enable pastors to assess their lives and ministries through the lens of health and wellness.
- Bishop Easterling is sponsoring a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in January 2024.
- Disabilities Sunday is scheduled for July 10, 2022 and July 9, 2023. Churches are encouraged to take a special offering for Camp Pecometh on Aug. 14, 2021 and Aug. 13, 2022.
- The 2023 Session of the Peninsula-Delaware Conference will be held June 8-10, 2023.
—Melissa Lauber, Baltimore-Washington Conference director of communications.
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