Conferences bid bishops farewell, contribute to pension fund
Conferences bid bishops farewell, contribute to pension fund
July 6, 2004
story is based on reports filed by individuals in the annual
conferences. It is intended as an overview and not an exhaustive record
of every conference action. Editors may want to localize this story for
their publications. Individual reports can be found here. Photographs are available.
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
United Methodist News Service
Methodists said goodbye to retiring bishops, endorsed and affirmed
episcopal candidates for the church’s five jurisdictional conferences
and generously contributed to a pension program that will support
retiring pastors in the central conferences during their annual
conferences this year.
the sessions, church members also contributed to global concerns with
donations and supplies, welcomed central conference visitors, sought
ways to help with the rising costs of health care and prayed for peace.
U.S. bishops presided over their last annual conferences as episcopal
leaders. They will retire from active service in September after their
successors are elected at jurisdictional conferences in July.
43 years of appointment, I want you to know that the dominant reality
against failure is joy… There is joy in this calling,” said Bishop
Woodie W. White, during his sermon to those being commissioned and
ordained in the North Indiana Conference. White will retire from the
active episcopacy following 12 years in Indiana and 8 years in Illinois,
Central Conference Pension Fund
of the North Central New York Annual Conference, one of the first
conferences to meet, asked all other conferences within the United
States to join them in support of the Central Conference Pension Fund by
contributing 100 percent of the check each conference receives from the
United Methodist Publishing House to the fund.
Delegates to the 2004 United Methodist General Conference voted to add a provision to the church’s law book, The Book of Discipline,
establishing a pension plan for clergypersons in central conferences,
which are regional units of the church in Africa, Asia and Europe.
Many retired pastors in Africa live in extreme poverty.
for all United Methodist clergy, regardless of where they live and
serve, are part of our moral obligation,” said the Rev. R. Randy
Day, chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries,
which closely relates to the central conferences. U.S. clergy have
long had a pension plan.
contributing to the fund included South Indiana, North Indiana, Greater
New Jersey, North Central New York, West Virginia, Wyoming, the
Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference, North Carolina, South Georgia,
Virginia and Oregon-Idaho.
Partnerships celebrated, visitors welcomed
conference visitors were welcomed at many conference sessions. The
Africa University choir, for example, visited several conferences as
part of a tour promoting the university.
Dakotas Conference collected a $15,000 love gift for Africa University
in honor of Bishop Michael Coyner and his wife, Marsha; the Illinois
Great Rivers Conference approved a resolution for a funding campaign for
the Richard Reeves Building and Maintenance Endowment Fund. Other
conferences funded scholarships for students to attend Africa
Conference churches sent cash donations of more than $52,500 for
children in Liberia and Haiti. Members also filled a 40-foot container
with school, medical and sewing kits for Liberia, plus enough additional
kits to fill a 20-foot container. The Liberia Annual Conference and the
Methodist Church in Haiti are mission partners of the Detroit
Minnesota Annual Conference will enter into a partnership with the
Northwest District in the Eurasia Area of the United Methodist Church to
construct a building in St. Petersburg, Russia, to include space for
worship, lay training and social programs.
Wisconsin Conference welcomed 16 clergy and lay guests from the Dongbu
(East) Conference of the Korean Methodist Church. Bishop Sharon
Zimmerman Rader and Bishop Oh-Suh Kwon shared in the covenant bringing
the two conferences together in a sister relationship.
Holston Conference raised $106,332 for India’s “Hope for Today” mission
and $38,220 for “Change for Children” grants benefiting needy kids.
efforts of the Desert Southwest Conference focused on the “Child of
God.” Each congregation was asked to bring stuffed animals for
distribution to organizations that minister to or serve children in
need. Additional monetary gifts were collected to purchase an Ark of
Animals through Heifer Project International. Nearly 9,000 toys were
rounded up and more than $3,000 was “Ark-marked” for Heifer. Offerings
at other worship services totaled almost $9,000 for Angola, Honduras,
the Youth Service Fund and scholarships.
also were a focus of Pacific Northwest United Methodists. The
conference raised money for continued support of orphaned children
living in the South Congo, and for Kids for Hope, a summer camp program
that brings Palestinian children to the Pacific Northwest for
fellowship, learning and respite from the trauma caused by violence in
Resolutions on the war in Iraq
Northern Illinois and California-Nevada conferences passed resolutions
opposing the war in Iraq. The resolutions state in part: “We have
failed, in sum, to be the Church, to be agents of God’s peace and
reconciliation on earth, to live by the rule of love which casts out
fear and to be faithful witnesses of a justice-demanding God. We are
sorry and we repent, asking God’s forgiveness.”
Conference members adopted a resolution praying “that the mission of
the United States in Iraq will help fashion a responsible and
representative Iraqi government, legitimate in the eyes of the Iraqis
and the world.”
the theme, “Healing Streams in the Desert,” the West Michigan Annual
Conference heard Bishop Linda Lee list the ways human beings are
wounded: war, hatred and hostility, fear, illness, conflict.
A UMNS photo by Woody Woodrick
The Rev. Eric Pridmore kisses Gene, his Seeing Eye dog at the Mississippi Annual Conference meeting in Biloxi June 3.
Rev. Eric Pridmore kisses Gene, his Seeing Eye dog, at the Mississippi
Annual Conference meeting in Biloxi June 3. Pridmore was ordained an
elder in the conference and Gene, wearing his own stole, was
commissioned to Christian service. A UMNS photo by Woody Woodrick. Photo
number 04-247, 7/6/04
conferences grappled with the issue of rising health care costs. In
Iowa, the conference voted to discontinue the conference’s self-insured
health plan in favor of contracting with a statewide health care plan
and made participation in the health insurance plan mandatory for all
clergy and conference employees working at least three-quarters time.
New York Conference adopted stricter regulations for timely payment of
insurance premiums and the conference apportionment for clergy support.
Late payment of these amounts will jeopardize insurance coverage for
clergy in the delinquent churches.
Baltimore-Washington Conference adopted a budget of $17.8 million,
which includes $1.5 million in new money to begin to replenish health
insurance claim reserves and other funds.
Troy Conference voted to change the conference’s status with the
denominational health plan, becoming a mandatory-enrollment conference
instead of a voluntary-enrollment conference. Troy was one of only two
remaining voluntary-enrollment conferences.
West adopted a petition directing the Board of Pension to develop and
implement by Jan. 1, 2005, a plan for all three-quarter time or greater
appointments to share the cost of the conference’s health insurance plan
through direct billing. The conference also adopted a “Healthy
Lifestyles” initiative that will help churches and their leaders
establish healthy lifestyles and encourage healthy living in their
Mexico approved continued participation in conferencewide property,
liability and workers compensation insurance and celebrated the loss of
2,400 pounds of weight by clergy and lay delegates last year with an
offering for world hunger which was nearly a dollar a pound.
Methodists in Oregon-Idaho voted to retain apportioning 10 percent of
the health-care premium for active clergy serving local congregations,
thus adding $195,000 to the conference budget.
was expected to be a heated discussion concerning an increase in clergy
health insurance costs was averted in the Memphis Conference when the
chief executive officer of Methodist Hospital in Memphis stepped forward
to offer deep discounts to clergy for outpatient and inpatient costs
and a decrease in prescription costs.
Healthcare was responding to the urging of the bishops of the three
annual conferences (Mississippi, Arkansas and Memphis) that were
originally involved in the creation of the hospital system. Further
negotiations will be taking place with eventual implementation scheduled
for Oct. 1. Conference leaders expect to save $400,000 to $500,000 per
year through the Methodist Healthcare plan.
Many conferences are reducing the number of districts in their areas.
East Ohio will be restructuring the conference from 12 districts to 10 in July 2005.
the New York Conference, the number of superintendents was reduced from
eight to six. The final six district lines will be established at the
2005 conference session.
2004 session marked the dissolution of the Pittsburgh East District as
the Western Pennsylvania Conference reduced its districts and
superintendents to 10.
Kansas West Conference voted to reduce the number of districts from
seven to six beginning July 1, 2005. The conference voted to continue
conversation with Kansas East over becoming one conference and to
petition the South Central Jurisdiction for permission to merge if the
conferences can agree on a plan of union during the next quadrennium.
“severe financial and staff situation” was also a key concern for
United Methodists in the Germany North Annual Conference. Members agreed
that new structures are needed to better serve all existing
congregations and urged small congregations to join larger circuit
members in New Mexico voted to reduce the number of districts from four
to three. In Northwest Texas, the conference voted to reduce the number
of districts from six to four by 2005.
approved the Florida Conference Cabinet’s “Connecting for
Transformation” proposal, which will reduce the conference’s districts
from 14 to nine, encourage churches to be part of a cluster group of
churches within their district and change the responsibilities of
Conferences responded to disaster relief with donations of money and supplies to United Methodist Committee on Relief.
the Peninsula-Delaware Conference, an offering for the continued
efforts of the disaster recovery efforts from the devastation of a
hurricane that swept through the area in 2003 brought in just over
$11,000. Conference members in Western Pennsylvania contributed 14,500
relief kits for UMCOR.
Rev. Paul Dirdak, deputy general secretary for UMCOR, announced that
United Methodists in the Louisiana Conference demonstrated a 41 percent
increase over last year in their giving to “One Great Hour of Sharing,”
the highest giving increase in the denomination. Louisiana’s United
Methodists also collected more than 21,000 baby blankets for needy
families, facilitated by the Bishop’s Initiative on Children and
Virginia Conference collected 25,509 health kits, more than 13,500
school kits and 2,194 baby kits, as well as $42,000 in donations. They
also bagged 41,800 pounds of potatoes at a potato drop sponsored by the Society of Saint Andrew and Board of Global Ministries.
California-Pacific Conference’s United Methodist Volunteers In Mission
collected health kits for UMCOR. The more than 2,000 kits collected will
be sent to Haiti, where recent storms and mudslides have killed 2,000
people and left many injured and homeless.
A UMNS photo courtesy of Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference
The Illinois Great Rivers Conference set a goal to collect one million phone card minutes.
Wolfe, Illinois Great Rivers Conference director of missions and
outreach, counts the phone cards received during the 2004 Annual
Conference, held in Peoria IL, June 10-13. A UMNS photo courtesy of the
Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference. Photo number 04-226, 6/17/04
Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference sent out a request for churches
and individuals to bring phone cards to the conference session to
distribute to soldiers in the armed forces. As a result of the request,
the conference received 714,518 calling minutes to be sent to troops in
Iraq and other overseas assignments. The total includes 521,610
phone-card minutes and $9,645.43 in cash donations. The conference has
set a goal of collecting 1 million minutes.
Alabama-West Florida, the first-ever annual conference “Mission Day”
was held on June 8. Delegates reached “Out of the Pew & Into the
World,” by participating in hands-on mission work benefiting the
conference area and beyond.Projects
included flood bucket assembly, Habitat For Humanity pre-fabrication
work, a children’s carnival, on-site home repair, nursing home
visitation, layette kit assembly, food distribution and servant
Memphis, an afternoon of workshops on worship were filled to
overflowing while conference youth spent the afternoon hours canvassing
Jackson, Tenn., neighborhoods for nonperishable food items which were
then trucked to local food banks.
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer.