|United Methodists to redraw some NEJ boundaries|
Bonnie Marden of the New England Conference, vice
chairperson of the Northeastern Jurisdiction boundaries committee,
presents the report on annual conference boundary changes, which were
A UMNS photo by Don Perry.
By Linda Bloom*
July 16, 2008 | HARRISBURG, Pa. (UMNS)
Northeastern United Methodists decided July 16 to redraw some
denominational boundaries as a way of providing more effective mission
Voting on a resolution from the boundaries committee, delegates to the
2008 Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference overwhelmingly agreed to
support changes already affirmed by the six annual (regional)
conferences involved. The action reduces the number of bishops in the
jurisdiction from 10 to nine beginning in 2010.
Boundary changes to take place by 2010 include:
- A new annual conference in New York state, formed by the current
North Central and Western New York conferences and churches of the
Wyoming and Troy conferences located in the state;
- A relocation of Troy Conference churches located in Vermont to the New England Conference; and
- A new annual conference in Pennsylvania, created from the
Pennsylvania churches of the current Wyoming Conference and all the
churches of the current Central Pennsylvania Conference.
Bonnie Marden of the New England Conference, vice chairperson of the
jurisdiction boundaries committee, noted that while much work remains to
be done on the reorganization, “I believe a leap of faith is in order.”
She recalled when her father, retired Bishop Clifton Ives, asked the
jurisdiction to consider a similar action 16 years ago. At that time,
three conferences combined in the Boston area to form the New England
“Like all leaps of faith, this will include both blessings and some adjustments,” she said.
According to a formula in the United Methodist Book of Discipline,
the number of bishops in a jurisdiction is based primarily on church
membership. Although a new episcopal area — the Albany (N.Y.) area — was
formed in 1990, recent membership declines in the Northeastern
Jurisdiction meant a reduction in bishops was probable.
A report presented to the jurisdictional boundaries committee from a
special task force of the four New York state conferences outlined some
of the decision-making behind the recommendations.
The report noted how the region had changed over the years, in terms of
demographics, finances and mission. But instead of dwelling on
membership decline and financial issues, conference members said they
decided to talk about ministry and vision, “a conversation focusing on a
new missional strategy for our region.”
Like gasoline and groceries, the financial cost of ministry is rising,
Marden pointed out. She hopes the new configuration will lead to new
models of cooperative mission, along with new opportunities for
Marden also acknowledged that the Northeastern Jurisdiction could lose
another 50,000 church members over the next five years and cautioned
that another reduction in episcopal areas could occur “unless we begin
to grow our ministry and membership and meet our needs now.”
During the conference’s episcopal address, Bishop Jane Middleton of the
Harrisburg (Pa.) Area noted that the action taken on the boundary
realignment “is positioning us to do ministry in new ways.”
Middleton, who leads the Central Pennsylvania Conference, commended the
four upstate New York conferences for taking the lead. “This is a model
for us to be willing to move into God’s future,” she said.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (6... or email@example.com.
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