As your lay delegate, I was honored to co-represent Haymarket Church at the 241st session of the Virginia UMC Annual Conference earlier this summer in Roanoke, VA, along with Pastor Brian and Kim Johnson, Deb Angerman and Travis Angerman. We, along with hundreds of fellow United Methodist members, were eager to begin a new chapter under the episcopal leadership of Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson who officiated the session.
The conference theme was “United as One in Mission”, based on Acts 1:8b, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” NIV Everyone in attendance had a chance to participate in missions in a variety of ways. Over the 3 days, 3,170 UMCOR Menstrual Hygiene Kits were assembled, valued at $76,080; 20,000 food kits were created for Rise Against Hunger, meeting the conference goal; and 73 blood products were donated with the Red Cross Blood Drive, saving an estimated 231 lives. In addition, churches across the state collected 14,745 UMCOR kits, valued at $238,587 and over 1,000 pounds of food for food banks in the conference. A 5K Walk/Run was held, and all proceeds of this event were donated to the annual conference offering. The conference offering collected throughout the session totaled over $77,000. This offering will be used to help with food insecurity by giving to food banks around the state; refugee response by supporting ministries engaged in refugee resettlement; and international missions through Partnerships of Hope.
One notable vote this year was regarding the Virginia Delegation’s endorsement of the Christmas Covenant Regionalization Plan submitted to the United Methodist Church’s General Conference. After review and discussion, the members of the Virginia Annual Conference affirmed the delegation’s endorsement. The Christmas Covenant is a set of legislation and constitutional amendments submitted to the UMC General Conference with the goal of establishing regional equity in the structures of the church for missional effectiveness while sustaining connectional unity. Basically, the plan uses a global approach to keep the United Methodist Church unified despite differences by creating regional conferences. Regionalization allows space so that different parts of the world have more autonomy to discuss and decide on matters such as full inclusivity, pastoral benefits and other local concerns, so that General Conference can focus their energy on matters relating to global Christian witness. I encourage you to visit two websites for more information. https://www.christmascovenant.com/pagecc and https://www.christmascovenant.com/faqs
Other conference reports and business included the following:
- 13 churches closed
- 2 new faith communities established
- Since October 2022, 107 churches have disaffiliated from UMC under Paragraph 2553, which includes only one in Northern Virginia (Nokesville). Total consideration paid to the conference will be $8.46 million. The final called session to consider disaffiliating churches will be in October 2023.
- Youth delegation asked for a moment of personal privilege to welcome our new Bishop and rallied the crowd to share their belief that the best days of the Virginia Conference are ahead.
- 2024 Conference Budget of $27,362,000 approved, which is a decrease of 1.33% from 2023
- Service of Remembrance held to commemorate pastors who have passed away
- Retirement ceremony held to honor 58 retiring pastors
- Meaningful vows were taken in the Ordination service by 60 elders, provisional elders, local pastors and lay supply pastors (non-ordained). This celebration is a highlight of the conference, as it truly reflects the future of our church.
Bishop Sue, along with the many volunteers needed to present the conference, brought a positive energy to the forum and a refreshing spiritual intent beyond the scope of the necessary conference business. There were great bible study and discussion opportunities in the mornings, as well as beautiful hymn singing in different languages to celebrate the church’s diversity. Bishop Sue changed the conference schedule to have all of the business wrapped up by 5pm each evening in order to have time for renewal, fellowship and fun. Members were able to partake in a Mission Social, a Youth and Campus Ministries Tailgate Party, an Advocacy event and a Game Night during their free time.
Please reach out to me, or any of the delegates, if you have any questions about Annual Conference.