2019 Annual Conference
by Bob Wilson, New Zion lay delegate
This year’s theme, “Be not afraid, Hope” is based on the scripture from Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Once again, I’m privileged to represent New Zion UMC at The West Ohio Annual Conference. When Linda and I arrived Sunday afternoon, the first thing we did was deliver the 11 flood buckets that New Zion put together. Then, we registered and found our cottage.
That night, the memorial service started with a processional down the main aisle with the cross leading and Bishop Palmer at the end. Part of the service included the, “ROLL CALL OF THE VICTORIOUS.” Every pastor, pastor’s spouse, and child that had died the previous year were mentioned. When Rev. Lippiatt’s name was read, Linda and I stood up as former parishioners. Communion was served and 3,000 people were able to take it in a short amount of time. Pastor Laura Bensman was the speaker that evening. She talked about the gifts that the laity can use to help in serving the church. We ended the session by singing, “Jesus loves me this I know…….”
On Monday, the Laity Service started at 8:00 with singing familiar hymns including, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” Several laity gave their witness including Tracy, who in a short span of time lost her brother, lost her job, and came down with an unknown sickness. She waited on the Lord lamenting and praying. God answered her prayers on Easter Sunday, and she is now a new person in Christ. Another lay person is a young man from Lancaster First who is leading a youth group and helping young people identify their gifts in service to the Lord. He is also a middle school teacher at Liberty Union. A couple of young people were with him who witnessed to his help in their gifts that they can use in the future.
The 10:00 session began with “Worshipful Work.” Bishop Palmer introduced Bishop Mande Muyombo from the North Katanga District in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The delegates to the General Conference in 2020 were addressed and the voting procedures were explained.
RECOMMENDATION 1, 2, and 3 which involve setting the budget for the coming year plus pension and health benefits, and Equitable Compensation were presented. This includes connectional giving, funding plans, and the total expense budget. Several high points:
· Clergy benefits continue to consume the majority of conference income and expense.
· Conference ministries is about the same as last year in 2019.
· Local church apportionments will be reduced by 2% in the coming year. With connectional giving this year at 72% instead of 75%. This has happened because of cuts in other areas.
· Minimum Salary. Elder in full-time appointment, 2019- $41,720 and 2020- $42,550.
After several debates RECOMMENDATION 1, 2, and 3 passed.
More reports given:
. Missional presentation: Disaster Response, New Faith Communities, Abundant Health.
· Transformative Discipleship Team: Camps and Retreats.
· All In Community Ministry: Prison Ministry.
· Ohio Health Report
· Clergy Wellness: Services are free through Ohio Health.
· Light the Way Campaign: 8 new faith communities. 1,387 average new people in worship. The fund to be raised to support this campaign is 5 million dollars.
The Episcopal Address was given by Bishop Palmer that evening. The theme was, “If the foundation is destroyed, what will we do?” 1 Corinthians 13.
Tuesday started with the “LIGHT THE WAY” offering. So far the money raised for this campaign was $2,560,000, and the offering collected today was about $100,000. This included the $200 that New Zion gave. The rest of the day was spent with elections of General Conference delegates, (7 laity and 7 clergy.) Also, we voted for delegates to the Jurisdictional Conference, the same as above plus four alternates.
Wednesday services started with HEALING AND RESTORATION with anointing. One of the Hope witnesses was Mandy who had been incarcerated and joined the Lifeline UMC. Because of the love shown to her, she became involved, invested, and sober. “I have received more than I ever dreamed.”
A report was given concerning the North Katanga District.
· Wings of the Morning: A hangar is being built for the plane that is being used to pick up people in rural areas who need critical care. The plane was bought and paid for by West Ohio through the Miracle Offerings. The same fund was used to purchase mosquito nets.
· West Ohio also supports an orphanage in the area.
· Africa University which was founded in the 1980’s has graduated 7,000 leaders who are in 26 countries, is supported by West Ohio and several of the graduates are from the orphanage mentioned.
Numerous awards were given out to churches who have gone beyond their communities to help others. (Example: Kirkersville UMC raised money for scholarships to give for children and youth who otherwise couldn’t afford to go to camp.)
In the afternoon there was a service for retirement and ordination. Pastors we knew who were retiring were Ben and Cheryl Foulk and also Susan Palmquest.
Thursday’s services started by acknowledging all veterans who had served and were serving. Pictures of the destruction in and around the Dayton area were shown. UMCOR will be helping in rebuilding.
Report on Immigration: A center (Eclipse) in the Miami Valley District is helping immigrants becoming citizens.
New appointments in the West Ohio District were announced and were received in the front of the auditorium.
Issues 4 and 5 were introduced to the assembly. One involved clarification of context of ministry regarding where clergy would be able to minister and the other was about how often a new pastor would appear before a Licensing Board, annually or more. After much discussion both Recommendations passed.
Attendance at conference: Clergy--921, laity--1,149, spouse--201, visitors--226. Total--2,497.
The closing remarks: O may the God of hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope! Romans 15:13