|Oklahoma Annual Conference|
May 24-28, 2009, Oklahoma City
Young people streamed to center stage during the May 26 business
session of the 2009 Oklahoma Annual Conference. Their T-shirts declared
“Loved radically.” They faced an audience of United Methodists from
across the state.
One teen raised high a poster stating, “Drug and drinking
addiction.” She flipped the poster, and the audience saw, “For 3 months
I’ve been sober. Thanks to God.”Another teen held up a sign: “Had no
faith in God.” The reverse side announced, “Baptized May 17.”
Inside Oklahoma City University’s Freede Center, delegates and
guests rose, affirming the children and youth with booming applause.
That United Methodist Circle of Care agency presentation was a
testimony of God’s power to transform lives—and of the faith witness
that permeated the reports and rituals of the annual meeting.
The 166th business session of the Oklahoma Annual Conference was
hosted by Oklahoma City University and St. Luke’s United Methodist
Church. The theme “Living the Plan: loving radically, serving
compassionately, making disciples intentionally,” was based on
1Corinthians 11:1.The guest preacher was Wisconsin Bishop Linda Lee.
Oklahoma Area Bishop Robert E. Hayes Jr. said, “It is impossible to
speak about the state of our Oklahoma Conference without including an
honest assessment of how continuing economic turmoil is affecting our
ministry. The church, too, is caught in the middle of this great
The conference’s strategic plan, approved in May 2008, “has proved
timely and prophetic because its design prepared us to conduct business
in innovative ways as the recession has deepened,” the bishop said.
“This crisis is a wake-up call for the church,” Hayes said. “We need to
be honest and name the fact that The United Methodist Church ranks near
the bottom of all mainline denominations when it comes to giving.
United Methodists give less than 2 percent of their incomes to charity.
The message has to go out that giving is a sign of spiritual maturity.”
He said the conference treasurer’s office and the council on finance
and administration have devised a more flexible budget, and some
programs and ministries have been consolidated. Salaries have been
frozen for district superintendents and other key conference officers.
Delegates approved a slightly smaller budget for 2010. Total
apportionments will be $15,984,163, compared to a budget of $16,012,248
for the current year. The Annual Conference offering totaled
about $39,000, for two projects: the LIFE fund, to help reduce
educational debt for Oklahoma’s clergy, and the Liberian Methodist
In other actions, the Rev. Chris Dodson described a new church
startup in southeast Moore. CrossTimbers United Methodist Church meets
in an elementary school. Each new worshipper receives a T-shirt
imprinted with “These are my church clothes.”
A new Asian Initiative seeks to bridge cultures within Oklahoma’s
United Methodist congregations. The Department of Congregational
Development also is designing an outreach to Vietnamese populations in
Five-Star Church awards went to 57 congregations for supporting a
wide range of mission work, ranging from Cookson Hills Center in
eastern Oklahoma to missionaries in India. Rachel Harvey, representing
The Advance for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries,
announced that of all United Methodist annual conferences, Oklahoma had
the most churches that contributed to Advance projects in 2008.
Five hundred of 529 Oklahoma churches responded to the Strategic
Plan, reported the Rev. Craig Stinson, director of Connectional
Ministries and Congregational Development. Research showed one-third of
churches grew in average worship attendance the past five years,
despite any demographic differences.
In separate clergy and laity meetings later this year, pastors and
lay leaders of those churches will sit down with Bishop Hayes to
identify common factors for that growth. “We will see what we can learn
from their responses,” Stinson said.
Annual conference worship rituals formally certified 23 ordained
clergy, 14 commissioned clergy, and an associate clergy member.
Fourteen clergy officially retired. For the memorial roll call, white
roses represented 25 clergy, diaconal ministers, and spouses who had
Volunteers In Mission leaders issued an urgent call for teams to
serve at Rio Bravo, Mexico. Officials said the VIM Manos Juntas project
there, normally operating at peak during summer, has been severely
impacted by economic news and fears of disease and crime. VIM
also collected 1,884 emergency supply kits, valued at almost $34,000,
for UMCOR: 751 health kits, 491 sewing kits, 371 school kits, 151
layettes, and more.
Delegates and guests crowded St. Luke’s United Methodist Church for
a roundtable business session on the evening of May 26. They voted on
32 proposed amendments to the denomination’s Constitution. The Oklahoma
Conference Department of Communications will report the results in July.
In other actions:
- The Denman Award for Evangelism was presented to layman
Mike Sparks of Mangum First United Methodist Church and clergyman Tom
McElroy of Tulsa-First United Methodist Church.
- The Lamplighter Award for support of campus ministries was presented to 148 churches.
Commission on the Status and Role of Women unveiled a new logo and
presented stoles bearing the symbol to newly ordained clergywomen.
to a formal request by the young adults, the bishop announced he is
naming a task force to study all aspects of the annual meeting. Hayes
asked, “How do we best maximize our time together?”
voted to close seven churches. Yet the closings open at least one
facility to new possibilities. Bryan Chapel United Methodist Church
will be deeded to the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference. A Cherokee
laywoman will be appointed to lead an OIMC congregation at that site,
reported the Rev. David Wilson, OIMC superintendent.
The conference statistician reported total church membership of
241,333 people in 2008. The worship attendance average, including all
churches, was 58,374.