2017
Annual
Conference

Saturday Morning, June 17

Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett started the day leading a Bible study. Wallace-Padgett was elected a bishop of the United Methodist Church at the 2012 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference. At the time of her election, she served as lead pastor of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Lexington, Kentucky – an appointment she served for eight years. Her previous service to the church includes six years as district superintendent of the Prestonburg District, with two years as Dean of the Cabinet of the Kentucky Conference, three years as pastor of Paris First UMC, and 11 years on staff at Lexington First UMC. She carried the theme of "A New Thing," happening in the Virginia Conference, and compared it to having "good soil" in which to grow.  She wanted congregants to ask themselves, "How might God be leading my church to reach new people to Christ?" She shared two videos featuring people talking about their faith and their journeys in faith.

Bishop Lewis called the session to order at 9 a.m. She introduced Paulo Lopes and announced the change in title from director of "Ministries with Young People" to the "Center for Next Generation Ministries" or simply "NextGen Ministries." Lopes led prayer.

Another Glory Sighting video was shown featuring the field hockey ministry at St. Luke's UMC, Yorktown. Emily Howdyshell shared that opening the door to sports ministry has brought in new members. One of the themes of the church is "Church happens anywhere" and they are providing a welcoming atmosphere. Stanley Thompson, Minutes Committee chair, reported on the previous days minutes. They were approved.

Mr. Warren Harper, conference lay leader, gave the laity address. He related that he accompanied Bishop Lewis on 15 of the 16 Chat and Chews. He talked about what he gleaned from these meetings. "The church is leaving the building. How do we that? Take Jesus to the streets." He asked, "What is this way forward? Clergy training, discipleship, a relevant church, a need for continuous prayer, let the new things occur as the spirit moves us." Bishop Lewis interrupted Harper and talked about her journey with him during the Chat and Chews. She talked about learning things when you travel with someone. She has learned Harper likes "funky socks," so she presented him with a new pair. She also thanked Harper's wife, Sandy, who traveled with her husband during the Chat and Chews. Bishop Lewis asked Harper with the Board of Laity will do with what was learned at the Chat and Chews. He said communication, laity training, and how to get closer to the local church with that training will be key in the next quadrennium. They discussed why the partnership between laity and clergy is so important. Harper said trust needs to be built. "We need to be trusting and transparent," he said. He said clergy are "our teachers and preachers" and they can help "the walls of the church disappear." Bishop Lewis questioned that youth "are the future." She said youth, "Are the now." Harper said, "We need to bring youth into our church using technology. There are way today that we accomplish those things and allow the sharing of ideas and concepts that we older folk need to hear." He talked about people aged 35-55 who are busy with families also need to be brought in.

Ken Peterson, chair of the Board of Pensions, brought a report and recommendations. That report can be found beginning on page 54 of the Book of Reports. The report was adopted with no discussion. Bishop Lewis thanked John Fuller, executive director of VUMPI, and the Board of Pensions for its work.

Rachel Miller and Jonathan Page brought the Common Table report. This report can be found beginning on page 69 in the Book of Reports. They emphasized that this is the Common Table for CHURCH VITALITY. The recommendations were approved. The talked about one of the recommendations just approved - FLOW Ministry and Virginia State University. Delano Douglas and Paulo Lopes shared about what's happening there. FLOW Ministry is a partnered ministry at Ettrick UMC.

The Rev. Marc Brown, director of Connectional Ministries; and Warren Harper, conference lay leader, brought the Leadership Discovery and Development team, page 116-120 in the Book of Reports. Victor Lopes, chair of the Hispanic-Latino caucus, nominated the Rev. Lydia Rodriguez to CEMCA. That was accepted. The nominations to boards and agencies were approved.

The Rev. Marc Brown announced that a record number of people are online using livestreaming.

Martha Stokes related to the conference that all of the delegates elected to the 2016 General Conference will be attending the 2019 Called Session of General Conference. The delegates were recognized and the bishop prayed for them.

The Rev. John Peters,  Executive Director of the Association of Educational Institutions, led the introduction of chaplains/ presidents of the six conference-related schools. A video was shared highlighting ministry projects taking place within the schools.

Videos from Wesley Theological Seminary and Duke Divinity School were shared. The bishop recognized all alumni and students of seminaries everywhere.

Bishop Lewis shared that she was part of the 25th anniversary celebration of Africa University. Dr. James Salley, Associate Vice-Chancellor for Institutional Advancement of Africa University, brought greetings. He recognized the bishops and conferences and their contributions to Africa University. It's the first time Africa University has made a presentation to the Virginia Conference. Salley shared a "glory sighting" of a church in Virginia. There were some naysayers when the university first came to be. Now 25 years later there are some 1,500 students are on campus and 700 are studying off campus. It has a balanced budget and no debt." Africa University is a uniting United Methodist dream come true," Salley said. More than 90 percent of the graduates stay in Africa and lead in their home areas. "It is transformation in action," he said.


  Denise Honeycutt, right, presented mission awards to the conference.
  Accepting them on behalf of the conference were, from left, Glenn
  Rowley, Bishop Lewis, and Warren Harper.

The Rev. Denise Honeycutt, senior connectional engagement specialist for the Board of Global Ministries, addressed the conference and shared a video about Global Ministries move to Atlanta to reduce costs and deepen connections to conferences. Regional offices are being set up across the world. Some 350 missionaries serve in more than 60 countries around the world.  Improving health around the world is an emphasis. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) continues its work in disaster response. "The people of the Virginia Conference are mission people," Honeycutt said. "They are making a positive impact around the world and in their local communities. Mission is about relationships," she said. She introduced Glenn Rowley, director of missions for the Virginia Conference. Honeycutt presented the conference for being the highest giving conference to mission in the Southeastern Jurisdiction. Honeycutt presented to Bishop Lewis and award for the Virginia Conference having the highest total giving to designated gifts. A third award was presented to Conference Lay Leader Warren Harper, having the highest number of missionaries supported in the Southeastern Jurisdiction. "Thank you for continuing to put your faith into action," Honeycutt said.

A Mission Worship Service was celebrated. Different individuals involved in various ministries of the conference came forward with items that represent their ministry. The items were placed on the altar to “build” the altarscape for the service. Amy Crisp, deacon, received the items. Kamesha Miller and Forrest White issued the call to worship. The Rev. Victor Gomez offered prayer. After Scripture reading by Miller and White, Bishop Lewis introduced Bishop James E. Swanson Sr., resident bishop of the  Mississippi Conference, whose sermon title was "Stay Focused." He talked about a vacation he took in Virginia and said it taught him you have to learn to renew yourself. "It's good to be back in Virginia," he said. He talked about the Chinese people being invaded three times during the building of the great wall of China. They didn't go over the wall, the bribed the  gatekeepers. The Chinese people "put their faith and trust in building walls," instead of putting our faith in the people. He talked about external pressures that can keep people off track. In making the choice of the 12 disciples, Jesus knew there was an equal chance that they would either make him proud and they might make him regret he chose them. Despite the chance that they might fail him, he still made the choice. "Whether we like it or not, there is no way that through our own power and strength that we can ensure success in any enterprise we undertake. We must get used to taking risks and trusting the results into God's own hands."
God put "mission in the hands of the people," Swanson said. "That's where God has chosen to put it." He said we can be afraid to surrender, because we know we'll have to give it all to God. He asked how many people had been a mission trip. He asked if they thought they were going to help others, but they discovered they had done something for themselves. "If you decide to do real justice work and be with them even when the cameras aren't there, you'll really make the world mad. If you do God's work you make the world mad. There was a man who came on earth and all he did was good things. He healed the sick, he raised the dead, and for all the good he did, they took him and they nailed him on a cross. If you do good, you will get killed. But that's all right. because if you do what God wants you to do, God's got something for you. Those of you who worry about the justice, just live it. Quit getting mad at folk who don't do justice, because if you are angry, you are just as bad as them. Love is the juice that justice requires."
Following the sermon, Bishop Lewis issued an altar call. "The minute we believe we are perfected, we are in trouble," said Bishop Swanson. He also said some may be feeling called to some mission work that may be being denied. Others may be looking for healing.
The conference offering was collected with assistance from the Holy Rollers, a group of cyclists and cycle to conference each year to bring attention to and raise funds for the offering. This year the conference offering will continue to support the partnerships with the Virginia Conference's United Methodist missions in Cambodia, Mozambique and Brazil. In the Virginia Conference, the special offering will provide funds to three areas: VAUMVIM will allocate funds for small churches who desire to engage in mission that may lack resources; development of ethnic minority missional ministries and to continue to assist with disaster recovery from the tornado and hurricanes that hit several areas in Virginia.

 

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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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