The 48th session of the West Virginia Annual Conference met June 9-12 at West Virginia Wesleyan College in Buckhannon, WV.
Putting the words and creeds of the Christian faith into action, to deploy ourselves into the world so that lives are transformed, was emphasized throughout Annual Conference.
The Rev. Dr. Vance Ross urged conference to “re-humanize a dehumanized world and its broken people through worship that “lets everybody know they are somebody, they have a place.”
Ross is the director of annual conference relationships for Discipleship Ministries (formerly known as the General Board of Discipleship or GBOD). He is a native of Bluefield, WV and served several churches in the West Virginia Annual Conference.
He shared a story about his daughter, Alyssa who came home one day from high school and casually mentioned that one of her friends in the choir was gay.
“Someone’s gay, in High School,” said Ross. “Doesn’t that bother you?”
“Why would that bother me, daddy?” she said. “That’s dumb.”
In that moment, Ross said, he realized his sin. “I dehumanized that young man,” he said, “I didn’t ask about his plans for the future. I didn’t ask how good his singing voice was. I didn’t ask him what he liked to do, what his hobbies were.”
“I dehumanized him, and it took my baby to rehumanize me.”
Ross reminded conference that treating all people well is not conservative or liberal; it is human. And something we are commanded to do by God.
Conference celebrated a year in which worship attendance, baptisms, and professions of faith saw substantive increases. The West Virginia Conference hopes to reach 2400 or more new people for Jesus Christ by the end of 2016.
A series of videos from the Bishop’s Cabinet highlighted the ministries in local churches that helped to drive statistics in a positive direction.
Two churches were recognized for their commitment to bringing new people to Christ by receiving the One Matters Award, given by Discipleship Ministries.
Hambleton United Methodist Church in Hambleton, WV (pop. 232), is near Parsons WV in the Potomac Highlands District. They began a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) in partnership with the town of Hambleton. The church also hosts a midweek children’s program which 30 children attend. They celebrated 16 baptisms and 11 professions of faith in 2016.
Forrest Burdette Memorial United Methodist Church in Hurricane, WV provides a ministry to families with children of all ages through a pre-school, youth ministries, and youth leadership in faith formation. They celebrated 29 professions of faith in 2015.
In a passionate sermon during Sunday morning’s service of Ordination and Commissioning, Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball called upon the Conference to learn from Moses.
“Moses was doing a great job tending to his flock,” said the bishop. “God finally had to resort to the supernatural, a burning bush, to get his attention.”
“The church must turn aside from church busyness,” said the bishop, “in order to bring God’s children out of suffering and pain.”
Other Conference Highlights
The Annual Conference concluded a year-long emphasis on repentance and reconciliation with Native Americans, culminating in a moving worship service Friday evening at Conference.
Circles of Grace, a small group process designed to cultivate covenantal conversation was used by the conference to convene conversations around human sexuality and the global nature of the church.
Conference elected the Rev. Dr. Joseph S. Kenaston after the first ballot as the episcopal candidate (office of bishop) from the West Virginia Annual Conference.
A resolution in response to the Council of Bishop’s plan, “A Way Forward,” was tabled.
The conference passed a resolution urging holiness, civility, and respect in conversation.
Judi Kenaston received the Susannah Wesley award from the United Methodist Men.
A budget of $12,278,989 was approved for 2017, an increase of $119,798, or .990% from the 2016 budget.
At the end of 2015, membership stood at 95,832, down 1,531 or 1.57% from 2014. Worship attendance rose from 40,563 to 42,309 or 4.3%. Professions of faith jumped by 10.16% – from 1,024 to 1,128. Enrollment in confirmation class rose more than a third from the previous year: from 476 to 648, an increase of 172 or 36.13%.
32 clergy entered the retired relationship with the annual conference. Six people were commissioned for the work of an elder; one for the work of a deacon. Seven elders and two deacons were ordained. The conference recognized two people as associate members. 21 people completed licensing school; 5 completed course of study.
More on the 2016 session of the West Virginia Annual Conference can be found at wvumc.org/conference