Health care, delegate elections top conference agendas
7/10/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
story is based on reports filed by individuals in each annual
conference. 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 at
http://umns.umc.org/acreports/index.html. For more on General Conference
delegates, see UMNS story #357. Photographs are available.
By United Methodist News Service
Revs. Charles Luers (left) and Judith Miller impose ashes on the
foreheads of worshippers during a service of repentance for racism at
the Iowa Annual Conference in Ames. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose. Photo
number 03-233, Accompanies UMNS #356, 7/10/03
No Long Caption Available for this Story
dancer Pat Palmer of the Praise Dance Ministry at Saint Paul’s African
Methodist Episcopal Church in Des Moines, Iowa, helps interpret the sin
of racism during a service of repentance at the Iowa Annual Conference
in Ames. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose. Photo number 03-232, Accompanies
UMNS #356, 7/10/03
No Long Caption Available for this Story
Methodist Bishop Gregory V. Palmer (left), Christian Methodist
Episcopal Bishop Lawrence Reddick (center) and the Rev. Darline
Balm-Demmel sing a hymn during a service of repentance for racism at the
Iowa Annual Conference in Ames. A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose. Photo
number 03-234, Accompanies UMNS #356, 7/10/03
No Long Caption Available for this Story
of the Iowa Annual Conference vote on legislation during a session in
the Hilton Coliseum at Iowa State University in Ames. United Methodists
wrestled with health care costs, elected delegates to their highest
assembly, performed acts of repentance for racism and even had time to
celebrate a birthday during their annual conference sessions this year. A
UMNS photo by Mike DuBose. Photo number 03-231, Accompanies UMNS #356,
No Long Caption Available for this Story
United Methodists wrestled with health care costs,
elected delegates to the church's highest assembly, performed acts of
repentance for racism and even had time to celebrate a birthday during
their annual conference sessions this year.
Throughout the sessions, church members stayed focused on their calling to do ministry.
are all given the same 24 hours," Missouri Bishop Ann Sherer told the
East Ohio Conference. "We have the time to do the mission; we have time
to do good, honest work. We are all called, clergy and laity, to give
all we have to God."
The denomination's 64 U.S. conferences met
in May and June, and several regional units outside the United States
also held annual gatherings at about the same time.
representatives to the 2004 General Conference was the universal item of
business for all of the church's regional assemblies this year. The
church is sending 984 voting delegates from around the world to the
General Conference in Pittsburgh, where they will make decisions guiding
church policy and also speak out on issues of the day. The results of
their work will be reflected in revisions of the denomination's Book of
Discipline and Book of Resolutions.
The U.S. annual conferences
elected additional delegates to attend one of five jurisdictional
gatherings later in 2004, where bishops will receive their geographical
assignments and new episcopal leaders will be elected to fill vacancies.
aside, rising health care costs for the church's clergy and lay
employees were the most frequently addressed item at this year's annual
conferences. More than 20 conferences acted to cut expenses or share
more of the cost burden with congregations or beneficiaries. A few
expressed support for a denominational health care program.
conferences committed themselves to promoting healthy lifestyles. The
Dakotas, with a rallying cry of "dump those donuts," asked each clergy
person to develop a wellness program. At the New Mexico session, Bishop
Max Whitfield told conference members that "all fat belongs to the Lord"
and challenged them to improve their health. Rocky Mountain decided to
pay $100 to each of its clergy and lay employees who take certain steps
to improve their health.
At least 14 conferences held services of
repentance for racism, in response to the 2000 General Conference's
call for all the church's regional bodies to perform such acts before
the 2004 assembly. Representatives of the historically African-American
Methodist traditions participated in the services.
"Racism is an
abomination to God," Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt Jr. of the Christian
Methodist Episcopal Church told the Central Pennsylvania gathering. He
invited the conference to "become in substance what symbol says we are:
one in Christ." Speaking separately to the Louisiana Conference, he
emphasized the importance of being willing to accept forgiveness as well
as to forgive.
James Salley, assistant vice chancellor of the
church's Africa University, called racism "the church's unfinished
agenda" and emphasized the need for Christians to sound the alarm about
it. During that same service, held by the Baltimore-Washington
Conference, worshipers raised more than $21,000 for the proposed Martin
Luther King Jr. Memorial on the Mall in Washington.
Western North Carolina and Nebraska held services of reconciliation for
injustices done to Native Americans, and West Michigan included Indians
and African Americans in its repentance service. "Lord, we confess that
we enjoy a prosperity and a civilization that are built upon the lands,
the civilizations and the blood of others," Bishop Bruce R. Ough said as
he led West Ohio members in their confession.
concerns were addressed at a number of other gatherings as well,
including Kentucky, where members called for ending the stereotypical
use of Indian names and images.
Ministry with and among ethnic
groups was affirmed in many ways. At least three conferences celebrated
the 100th anniversary of Korean-American Methodist ministries. Many U.S.
conferences took action supporting Hispanic ministries, and Southwest
Texas and Rio Grande marked the 150th anniversary of the first Methodist
sermon in Spanish preached in the United States, in Santa Fe, N.M. In
addition, Southwest Texas established a commission on Hispanic
Many annual conferences held special programs
marking the 300th anniversary of John Wesley's birth, and the founder of
Methodism - along with his mother, Susanna - made several "guest
appearances," courtesy of church actors. Around the connection, United
Methodists celebrated the milestone with seminars, Wesleyan hymn singing
and worship services, and other events. The Detroit Conference adopted
as its theme the Wesleyan principle of "Going on to Perfection."
Wisconsin members devoted their Bible study sessions to discussing
Wesley's writings on slavery, evangelical zeal and money.
Rev. Randy Maddox, a professor of Wesleyan theology at Seattle Pacific
University, emphasized to the Dakotas Conference that, for Wesley,
Christianity was a social religion. "Wesley encourages us to imitate the
One who cares for all creation, not just salvation for souls but for
the whole of creation," he said.
Support for children
concerns continued to be front and center for the church, thanks in
part to the Bishops' Initiative on Children and Poverty and the "Hope
for the Children of Africa" appeal. Northern Illinois received nearly
$109,000, the largest offering in its history, toward a goal of raising
$1 million by next year for four projects to help children. The
conference also will ask General Conference to continue the bishops'
With the help of a $100,000 check from its
foundation, the Oklahoma Conference kicked off a $1.4 million sustaining
drive for a ministry that serves more than 200 children and youth in
four residential programs and a foster-care program. East Ohioans
announced a fund drive to support camperships for children with
financial needs and adopted resolutions for state child-care subsidies
and school funding reform. North and South Indiana celebrated Bishop
Woodie White's April 26 children's march on the state capital, in which
more than 400 people participated. And Virginia raised nearly $390,000
to support ministries that will help children and young people. Similar
outpourings of support for children occurred throughout the connection.
and young people were active during the annual gatherings, holding
parallel conferences in some cases. The Switzerland-France Conference
heard a challenge to make the church relevant to teens.
bond that United Methodists around the world share with the people of
Africa was evident as U.S. conferences collected money and supplies for
needs on the continent.
Peninsula-Delaware members approved a
relationship with the denomination's Central Congo Area, including a
$30,000 yearly financial commitment. Yellowstone members asked Bishop
Warner Brown Jr. to develop a partnership covenant agreement with the
Eastern Angola Annual Conference. Florida began a long-term relationship
with Eastern Angola by raising nearly $122,000 to rebuild a church
destroyed by war. California-Nevada, which sent a delegation to Western
Angola this year, is preparing to send youth volunteers to South Africa.
Kentucky adopted an East Africa Mission Initiative.
From the other direction, Mozambique sent a Volunteer In Mission team to the Troy Conference and a choir to Missouri.
church remains a beacon of hope in areas devastated by war. The Liberia
Conference supported its national council of churches' call for
international intervention to calm the country. Elsewhere in West
Africa, the Sierra Leone Conference is trying to rebuild its schools,
clinics and churches following the civil war that ruined much of the
country, and Bishop Joseph C. Humper told his annual gathering that 2002
had been hardest year of his tenure because of financial restraints.
than half a dozen conferences took action in support of Africa
University, the United Methodist-related school in Mutare, Zimbabwe.
conferences also showed support for other parts of the globe.
Nicaragua, India, Poland, Lithuania, Cambodia and Haiti were a few of
the countries for which United Methodists collected money and planned
The Middle East, in particular, was a point of
concern. Several conferences supported relief programs for Iraq, and the
Alaska Missionary Conference adopted the children of Iraq as its
missional priority for 2003-04.
Many conferences took up
offerings for the church's work in Russia. Bishop Ruediger Minor, new
president of the Council of Bishops and leader of the church's Eurasia
Area, logged plenty of travel miles during annual conference season,
making appearances at no fewer than five conference gatherings around
the United States.
The war on terrorism received attention from
some conferences. California-Nevada called for revising the U.S. Patriot
Act to ensure that civil rights are protected, while Northern Illinois
voiced opposition to mistreating U.S. detainees in the war on terrorism.
Three conferences opposed either the use of military force in resolving
international disputes or the use of pre-emptive military strikes in
particular. North Carolina endorsed the use of diplomacy through the
United Nations in future conflicts.
out on social concerns is part of the Wesleyan heritage, and
conferences took aim at such issues as gambling, alcohol use and abuse,
land mines and the death penalty.
Kansas West called for General
Conference to create a global fund and committee to address the AIDS
crisis. North Carolina asked that the church withdraw from the Religious
Coalition for Reproductive Choice.
Homosexuality and the rights
of gays and lesbians in the church will be on the General Conference
agenda in Pittsburgh, as they have been for more than 30 years. At least
13 conferences took some action specifically related to homosexuality.
United Methodist Church declares the practice of homosexuality
"incompatible with Christian teaching," and it forbids the ordination of
self-avowed practicing homosexuals and the performance of same-sex
unions in its churches. However, it also teaches that gays and lesbians
are people of sacred worth.
Several conferences approved
petitions calling for changing language in the Book of Discipline
regarding homosexuality. Nebraska will petition General Conference to
delete all parts of Paragraph 161G that restrict the full participation
of homosexuals in the life of the church. Pacific Northwest will ask
that the book be changed to say United Methodists are not of one mind on
South Carolina will ask General Conference to allow
church funds to be spent on discussing issues of homosexuality, and it
approved a resolution asking that the churchwide Board of Discipleship
use more resources to provide and promote United Methodist ministry with
homosexuals. West Michigan wants to encourage all congregations to
engage in biblical studies on sexual orientation.
conferences approved resolutions seeking greater accountability and
enforcement of the Book of Discipline. Memphis, for example, affirmed
commitment to "the historic doctrines of the Christian faith" and
resolved that bishops or other church leaders "who cannot honestly
subscribe to these most basic teachings â€¦ are unqualified to hold
leadership positions" in the church. Memphis and Mississippi also want
to require bishops to use oversight "to maintain the doctrinal
expressions of the church."
Other topics included: Â· Church
growth: The mission of making disciples of Christ was reflected in new
church starts and programs throughout the connection. Bishop Alfred
Norris held out the challenge for the Texas Conference to grow its
membership to 300,000 by 2004, from a current level of about 286,000.
Media campaign: Several conferences affirmed the churchwide "Igniting
Ministry" advertising and welcoming campaign, managed by United
Methodist Communications, and asked that General Conference continue to
Â· General agencies: Some Southeastern U.S.
conferences will ask General Conference to change the membership
composition of boards and agencies to be more representative of areas
with high concentrations of United Methodists.
retirement: Detroit and Wisconsin adopted petitions to General
Conference calling for the removal of the mandatory retirement age for