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Annual Conference Wrap-up

Meeting in Roanoke, members of the 229th Virginia Annual Conference elected the largest U.S. delegation to the 2012 General Conference, considered almost 20 resolutions and welcomed a familiar face filling in for their bishop as “substitute teacher.”

Richmond Area Bishop Charlene Kammerer became very ill the week before conference due to an adverse reaction to a typhoid vaccination she had in preparation for an upcoming trip to Mozambique. She asked Bishop Timothy Whitaker of Florida – who was elected to the episcopacy from Virginia in 2001 and will retire to the Commonwealth next year – to preside, and it proved to be a very comfortable fit.

The theme of the gathering was mission, “Being Christ to Others: Snapshots of the Kingdom.” Thirteen children from the conference-supported Shade and Fresh Water project in Brazil were special guests at a celebration of mission. Forty-three “Mission Mentors,” who will make themselves available to speak at local churches about mission opportunities, were commissioned. The Annual Conference Offering, which will go to mission partners in Brazil, Mozambique, Roanoke and Horntown on the Eastern Shore, collected $167,345 with additional receipts expected.

Thomas Kemper, General Secretary for the General Board of Global Ministries, announced that the Virginia Conference was again the denominational leader for designated giving for mission support in 2010. Kemper talked about United Methodist ministries in Haiti, Mongolia, Eastern Europe and Vietnam, and introduced Clara Biswas, a missionary in Southeast Asia.

Members collected 53,469 kits for the United Methodist Committee on Relief, including 26,617 health kits and 944 cleaning buckets. The Society of St. Andrew’s “Potato Drop” involved more than 220 participants who unloaded and packed 39,000 pounds of sweet potatoes that went out to 12 feeding agencies in Virginia and West Virginia.

Conference preacher the Rev. Dr. Sam Wells, Dean of Duke Chapel, preached on the indifference faced by persons doing Christian ministry, and the passive-aggressive behavior of many members of the typical congregation. “Isn’t this why pastors burn out?” Wells asked. He encouraged everyone to not be discouraged by indifference, but to “shake it off” and “see what a God who makes all things new will do.”

In his sermon during the ordination service, Wells said he didn’t want to “spoil” the night of those being ordained, commissioned and licensed, but offered some tough love, at one point asking “are you up for it?”

Wells also preached on division, particularly in congregations. “Many of us resent that wasted time and grieve the waste of emotional energy,” he said. “We can pretend there’s no conflict, but Jesus says not to call it peace if it isn’t.”

At the Ordering of Ministry service, 25 persons were licensed as local pastors, one received as an associate member, 20 were commissioned as provisional members, one was ordained a deacon and 19 ordained as elders.

Forty-one retiring clergy were recognized. Together they represented 1,170 years of service.

Members passed resolutions on the election of additional lay members, a call to fast and pray, the priority of proclaiming Christ, support of “20/20: Visioning an AIDS-Free World,” peace-making efforts between Palestinians and Israelis, and honoring the 50th anniversary of the founding of Virginia Wesleyan College. They narrowly defeated a resolution affirming the retired bishops’ “Statement of Counsel to the Church,” which urges a change in the Book of Discipline in regard to views on homosexuality and ordination of gays and lesbians.

Click here to view the list of clergy and lay delegates elected to General and Jurisdictional Conference.

Membership stands at 335,275, down 3,806 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 108,420 down 4,204.

-Neill Caldwell



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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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