4,000 United Methodists gather in Roanoke for 234th Annual Conference

Nearly 4,000 clergy and laity representatives of United Methodist churches across Virginia gathered at the Berglund Center in Roanoke June 17-19 for the 234th Annual Conference meeting of worship, mission projects, celebration of ministries and conducting the business of the conference. Theme for the 2016 Virginia Annual Conference was “Thy Will be Done.” Bishop Young Jin Cho presided over the proceedings for the last time before his retirement.

Bishop Cho led the Annual Conference in
remembering victims of the Orlando shooting.

With 49 candles on the altar representing lives lost during the Orlando shootings, Bishop Cho read a statement from the Council of Bishops and offered prayer for the victims’ families, leaders of the country and members of the Florida Conference. Annual Conference members later approved a resolution encouraging United Methodists to work to destroy the systemic fear, hatred and discrimination that leads to violence against LGBTQ persons and communities.

Episcopal Address
In his episcopal address, Bishop Cho looked back on the accomplishments of the Virginia Conference over the last four years. He highlighted major ministry moments including the Imagine No Malaria initiative in which the conference raised more than $1 million in 15 months.

He said he commissioned a task force to review and evaluate the strategic plan of All Things New-Equipping Vital Congregations adopted in 2008. Bishop Cho said the task force’s final report will be presented to the new Virginia Conference bishop as a guide and a way forward for the conference.

 The Rev. Ted Smith (center) is endorsed
  for bishop.

Ted Smith endorsed for bishop
Members of Annual Conference vote by acclamation to endorse the Rev. Dr. Ted Smith, Fredericksburg District superintendent, for election as bishop at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference to be held in July.

Rev. Myrtle Frances Hatcher preached for the Memorial Service.

Service of Remembrance and Holy Communion
The Rev. Myrtle Frances Hatcher, pastor of Main St. UMC, Suffolk, James River District, preached for the Service of Remembrance and Holy Communion in which 50 conference clergy and laity who died since the last Annual Conference were remembered.


Ordination was a highlight of the 2016 Annual

Service for the Ordering of Ministry
Twenty-one men and women were ordained elders, two were ordained deacons, 14 were commissioned as provisional elders, two were commissioned as provisional deacons and 31 were licensed as local pastors in the Saturday evening Ordering of Ministry service.

Bishop Mark J. Webb, Upper New York Annual Conference, delivered the sermon and spoke about celebrating those who have chosen to be available to God’s call upon their lives and the importance of a willingness to serve.

The Rev. Eun Pa Hong (right), pastor of Bupyeong Methodist Church in Incheon, Korea, preached for
the Mission worship service. The Rev. Won Gyu Lee (left), associate pastor of Fredericksburg UMC, was translator.

Conference Mission Worship Service
The Rev. Eun Pa Hong, pastor of Bupyeong Methodist Church in Incheon, Korea, preached for the Mission worship service saying he was thankful for American missionaries who came to Korea and built schools, hospitals and churches.

To date, $131,003.58 has been received for this year's Annual Conference special offering, nearly $19,000 shy of the goal of $150,000. The offering will help the Methodist Mission in Cambodia train lay and clergy leadership and build churches; support the Methodist Church of Brazil programs with at-risk children; provide education and resources for training laity in United Methodist churches in Mozambique; and fund disaster response in Virginia, particularly long-term recovery work following Feb. 24 tornadoes in three districts of the conference.

Dr. L. Gregory Jones
led Bible study

Bible Study
Dr. L. Gregory Jones, Duke University Vice President and Vice Provost for Global Strategy and Programs, led Bible study.

Recognition of Bishop Cho's Ministry
In a recognition of Bishop Young Jin Cho’s ministry, Shirley Cauffman, chair of the Committee on Episcopacy, recounted his four years of service as bishop of the conference. The Rev. Tom Berlin, Committee on the Episcopacy, said, "You have reminded us that where there is great prayer there is great power."

Bishop Cho dances to "Happy" with members of the youth delegation.

Cauffman announced that $14,310 has been contributed to the Bishops Foundation for spiritual leadership training in Bishop Cho’s name.

A video was shown highlighting Bishop Cho’s ministry. Following the video, the song “Happy” by Pharrell was played as members of the youth delegation danced with the bishop on stage.

The Rev. Clarence Brown, pastor of Annandale UMC, started a bidding war to buy a life-size cutout of Bishop Cho. The Rev. Bob Parks offered the winning bid of $3,200 from the Cabinet. The funds will go to the Annual Conference offering.

Harry Denman Evangelism Awards
This year’s Harry Denman Evangelism Award for clergy was presented to the Rev. Emmanuel Nkrumah, founding pastor of Ghana Wesley UMC in Arlington. Denman Laity Award went to Mary Elle Fuquay, chair of the Evangelism/Vital Church Team at St. Matthias UMC in Fredericksburg. Denman Youth Award went to Heather Galway, member of St. Paul's UMC in Staunton who has been instrumental in raising money for mission work.

During a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Order
of Deacon, deacons talked about the variety of ministries
they provide.

Order of Deacon
A celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Order of Deacon included a video and presentations from deacons talking about the ministries they provide.

Conference Business
Ten churches were discontinued in five districts. Five new faith communities and their pastors were introduced. Fifteen new faith communities have been started this quadrennium.

The Rev. Marc Brown, director of Connectional Ministries, announced the Sept. 1 retirement of Linda Rhodes, conference director of Communications, and said that Madeline Pillow has been named interim director of Communications.

Steven D. Brown was elected conference chancellor for the next quadrennium.

Annual Conference voted to urge Virginia state legislators to enact legislation banning questions about criminal history from initial job applications for public and private employment. Annual Conference members also voted to encourage all United Methodist local churches to establish a ministry in which congregation members provide guidance and encouragement to adolescents who are not reaching their full academic potential. A third resolution, "Responding to requests from Christians in the Holy Land," was withdrawn because it was already approved by General Conference.

Tom Berlin gives part of the report on General Conference 2016.

2016 General Conference Report
Martha Stokes and the Rev. Tom Berlin, the laity and clergy heads of the General Conference delegation, reported on General Conference 2016.

Speaking on the issue of human sexuality and the conversations Berlin was part of during General Conference, he talked about the number of opinions people have on this issue and the weariness people feel over the arguments. But he urged members not to trivialize this debate

“Because even though we are weary with the argument, we’ve got to stick with it because we’re talking about people’s lives,” Berlin said.

Berlin said he believes the special commission on human sexuality to be named by the Council of Bishops will do “the most important work in the next decade of the United Methodist Church.”

But he reminded members that the real problems facing the denomination are the financial situation of the church and the decline of U.S. membership just as churches in Asia and Africa are growing rapidly. He emphasized the U.S. denomination is at a “pivotal, critical moment” and he asked members “to get down on your knees with us.”

Annual Conference members contributed 10,039 pounds of canned goods and boxed dry food for the Roanoke Rescue Mission.

Wrap-up stats
Annual Conference members brought 52,016 disaster relief kits for United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to Annual Conference. Kits included 29,676 Health Kits; 17,637 School Kits; 2,634 Birthing Kits; 1,352 Layette Kits; 303 Cleaning Kits; 55 Bedding Kits and 359 Sewing Kits.

Attendees of conference contributed 10,039 pounds of canned goods and boxed dry foods as part of the "4 Cans 4 Conference" drive to benefit the Roanoke area Rescue Mission.

Members approved a 2017 budget of $32,000,000, down 0.96% from the 2016 budget.

As of the end of 2015, membership stood at 327,647, down 0.46 %. Worship attendance stood at 98,253, down 4%. Reaffirmations of faith were at 4,010, down 6 %. For 2017, there is a 2.2% decrease in apportionments towards mission and ministries.




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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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