It was a pleasure to be given the opportunity to represent Community of Faith [United Methodist Church] at the Virginia Annual Conference [of the United Methodist Church] in Roanoke from June 10th through the 14th. This was my fourth time representing you as a lay delegate to the conference, which is the annual gathering (for mission, worship, policy-making, administration, and fellowship) of United Methodists from throughout the Commonwealth.
The theme of this year’s conference was “Let’s Get Growing”, representing a goal set at last year’s Conference to make new disciples of Jesus Christ—and establish 250 new faith communities over the next 30 years while we do it. At the time, this ambitious goal sounded like an empty promise to me. I was pleasantly surprised to find its spirit permeating the gathering’s atmosphere this year and driving many of our activities and conversations. Accordingly, we spent much of the conference focused on reaching outside of the church through mission and evangelism, rather than focusing on ourselves as we are sometimes apt to do.
Let me share some numbers with you related to various conference mission projects:
- The annual conference offering, raised through churches and conference members, brought in over $240,000. This money goes to Initiatives of Hope partners in Russia, Mozambique, and Brazil; United Methodist ministries with native tribes in Alaska; and the Global AIDS Initiative.
- The ‘Kits for Conference’ project collected of over 35,000 kits, which provide all kinds of needed supplies for impoverished students, families, flood victims, and more—an estimated value of over $600,000, plus an additional $3,800 in bulk items and $55,000 in cash.
- A spontaneous (mock bidding war) collection for the Nothing But Nets campaign, which provides mosquito nets to combat malaria, raised over $25,000 dollars and pledges for over $80,000 more. Amazingly, malaria kills more than a million people each year yet can be effectively prevented with a mere $10 mosquito net.
- About 180 volunteers at the Society of Saint Andrew’s conference potato drop bagged over 46,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, which provided over 140,000 servings of food for the hungry.
When you add it all together, the monetary value of what we did at conference—with the support of churches like Community of Faith—amounted to over one million dollars. The value in prevented-disease and bettered-lives around the world is beyond measure.
A big part of annual conference is worship. There was a Service of Remembrance and Holy Communion, celebrating the lives of annual conference members who have passed away in the last year. There was a Service for the Ordering of Ministry, where new pastors were ordained. There was a celebration of the music and ministry of Charles Wesley.
We heard from two outstanding preachers who called us to grow our conference through active mission:
- Rev. Michael Slaughter told us at the Service of Evangelism how he grew a small, blue-collar church into a so-called ‘mega-churches’ through active mission in-and-out of the local community—in other words, by letting God work through them instead of working for themselves.
- Rev. Trevor Hudson, a special guest from South Africa, spoke several times as the conference preacher of our need to ‘hear the groans’—of our communities, of our world, and in our hearts—and be driven by them to put our faith into action around us.
But even amid all of this mission and worship, we still had business to attend to. The General Conference of the United Methodist Church—the top policy-making body of our denomination—will be held next year in Fort Worth, Texas. A big part of this year’s Annual Conference related to the selection of our delegates to General Conference (a tedious process I won’t bore you with the details of) and all of the five resolutions brought before the conference this year were intended to send recommendations to the General Conference:
- Resolutions 1-4 each dealt, one way or another, with membership in our churches. If passed, they would have sent recommendations to the General Conference for changes to the United Methodist Discipline. One resolution would emphasize the word ‘repentance;’ one would clarify the purpose of membership as intended to lead members toward holy living; one would state that unrepentant sinners are ‘clearly not ready for membership;’ and one would grant pastors the authority (consulting with other church leaders) to determine each person’s readiness for membership. Each of these resolutions failed.
- Resolution 5 was a Call for Peacemaking, a lengthy resolution which would call upon the General Conference to engage Methodists everywhere to become peacemakers. Additionally, it would engage a number of UMC boards and committees to work for peace in the world. This resolution passed.
On Thursday, at the end of four extremely busy days, the conference closed with the Fixing of Appointments. I am very happy to report that both Pastor Rob Vaughn and Assoc. Pastor Rocky Shoemaker have been appointed to Community of Faith for another year.
In conclusion, I want to thank you for again giving me the opportunity to represent this congregation at the Virginia Annual Conference. As in past reports, I feel as though I’ve only scratched the surface. MP3s of the sermons (and the Nothing But Nets bidding war), a PDF of the book of reports, the full text of each resolution, daily news reports produced at Conference, and much more are all available at the Virginia Conference web site: www.vaumc.org. Also, please feel free to ask me or any other members of the Community of Faith conference delegation any questions you may have!