Advocate 2022 logo

September 19, 2023

To submit news items, stories, or corrections for inclusion in the newsletter, email the conference Communications Office at [email protected].

In this week's edition of the Advocate, you will find:

  • Event calendar
  • Conference & Denomination Resources
  • Updates from Connectional Ministries: Innovation & Creativity
  • Virginia News
  • General Church News
  • One Last Word
Events (1)
To view conference and local church events, visit the Virginia Conference website at

To submit an local church event for inclusion, submit this form.

You are invited to join FXUM Theological Symposium webinar

Do you long to learn from and converse with leading Wesley scholars about the emerging United Methodist Church of the twenty-first century? Is there a way the people called Methodists can “bring forth treasures both old and new” (Matt 13:52) to help us thrive in a new reality? What practical applications might there be for our daily work in church planting and local congregations?

Fresh Expressions UM is a distinctly Wesleyan Spirit-led movement of new Christian communities that serve the present age. They seek to cultivate inclusive, accessible, transformative, and connectional communities of love and grace for people currently neglected by the church and have organized a theological symposium involving some of the most notable Wesley scholars in the world. There will be a symposium gathering on September 21 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. and Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson will be a panelist alongside others such as Bishop Tom Berlin, Bishop Ken Carter, Elaine Heath and Len Sweet.
Register now...

NOVA District offering hybrid training day on January 20, 2024

The 2024 NoVa District Training Day will welcome Rev. Matt Miofsky, author of Let Go: Leaning Into the Future Without Fear to the Northern Virginia District.

The event will focus on “The E Word” as we all continue to work to make disciples for the transformation of the world. This will be a HYBRID event with opportunities in person, online, and as teams.

Registration will open in November. Learn more...

Facing the Future 2023 Conference: November 14-16

Facing the Future is an experientially oriented conference from General Commission on Religion and Race (GCORR) geared explicitly toward clergy serving across differences throughout our United Methodist connection, coming together to be supported and encouraged as they journey faithfully with God and God’s people. With the help of recognized leaders within The United Methodist Church, Facing the Future will equip, inspire, and commission clergy serving in Cross-Racial/Cross-Cultural/Multi-cultural communities and settings to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a time such as this.

For more information, please visit website and register...
resources ac

Five ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

UNITED METHODIST COMMUNICATIONS-- Hispanic Heritage Month spans from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 and is a time when congregations can enrich their ministries as they interact with people whose culture and, perhaps, language are different from theirs. Check out a few ways non-Hispanic/Latino congregations can respectfully celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. Learn more...

Does your church really need all those committees?

LEWIS CENTER FOR CHURCH LEADERSHIP-- Are your church members kept busy doing committee work they are neither gifted for nor excited about? Andy Lunt and Ted Brown say congregations can free people to serve more fruitfully in ministry by reassessing the role of any committee not essential to their mission or required by their polity. Learn more...

Blessing of the Animals as community outreach

LEWIS CENTER FOR CHURCH LEADERSHIP-- How can a Blessing of the Animals reach new people in your community? Jessica Anschutz shares tips to engage pet owners and community partners as you celebrate all creatures great and small. Learn more...

United Methodist Communications offers week-long training

UNITED METHODIST COMMUNICATIONS-- United Methodist Communication (UMCom) has announced the return of its week-long ecumenical training opportunity launching this fall for anyone in ministry seeking to enhance their communications skills. Communications Learning Week: Communications that Transform will be held October 16-20, 2023 and is designed with busy schedules in mind. All of the learning week content will be recorded and stored in a learning portal that participants will have access to for six months following the event. Registration is open September 12 – October 12, 2023, with an early bird 20% discount available for people signing up by Sept. 30th.
During the learning week, church leaders and communicators will get access to a vast library of on-demand resources including recorded videos, tutorials and podcast episodes and self-guided eLearning modules curated by the UMCom training team. Workshops led by experts on a variety of topics will be presented followed by Q&A sessions with each facilitator. Opportunities for discussion and networking round out the week’s activities.
Sessions will include:
• Tik Tok for Churches
• Personal Branding
• Things I Wish I'd Known About Communications as a Senior Pastor
• Disaster Communications
• Content for Digital Congregations
• Next Level Canva Tools
• Combatting Disinformation

Learn more...

Service of Lessons and Carols available on Christmas Eve

VIRGINIA CONFERENCE-- The conference Office of Connectional Ministries and the Center for Clergy Excellence will be partnering together to share a Service of Lessons and Carols for Christmas Eve. Please use and share this resource if it will be helpful for your ministry context. The service will be shared on the conference Facebook page and on the conference website.
innovation & creativity

Updates from Innovation &Creativity in Connectional Ministries

Rev. Dr. Jonathan Page, Director of Connectional Ministries for Innovation & Creativity, has visited several ministries around the conference following the creation of his position and beginning of his appointment on July 1. Take a look at a few places he has traveled so far:

September 2023: Belmont Community Resource Services and Belmont United Methodist Church: "People from all over the Three Notch'd District of the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church come together each week to provide food, clothing, and other resources to over 500 families in the metro Richmond area. They even give away fresh flowers! This is a beautiful illustration of the connection at work. I'm grateful to be a United Methodist and especially grateful for these friends at Belmont," Page said.

August 2023: Embrace Waynesboro: Rev. Jenelle Watson shared that Embrace is a repurposed church facility that is now used as a center for community not a community center. "By sharing gifts and resources, and talent and God's love in ways that are transformative and help build connection," she said.

July 2023: The Gathering at Scott Memorial UIMC on Coastal Virginia District: The Rev. Stephanie Parker shared about 'Fresh Food Wednesday.' "What I love is this is a ministry that happens inside our church but it involves people from all parts of life, other churches, and people who don't consider themselves Christian, yet they come together to love their neighbors," she said. This ministry serves 1500-1700 people a week.

View the short ministry clips at the conference Facebook page.

Virginia News

New Skunk on the Table episode talks disaffiliation, future of the VAUMC

September 15-- Skunk on the Table is a video, podcast and article series focused on simple and clear conversations about topics of interest to the conference and denomination. In this episode, David Dommisse, Conference Treasurer, answers questions related to disaffiliation in the Virginia Conference and the financial impacts. David shared that “we are still very stable financially, we are going to lose roughly 11% of the financial capacity of the conference through disaffiliations…that’s a significant number, but one we can handle…we’ve done a good job managing, we will have to make significant changes, but we’re coming from a place of relative strength and I believe we will continue to be strong into the future.”
Also joining the conversation is Dwayne Stinson, Director of Connectional Ministries for Discipleship and Congregational Vitality, who shares that “the future of the conference is on mission and ministry…I’m hoping we can renew our focus on how we share the Gospel with people in a way that shows them Jesus loves them and invites them to follow the call that God has for them and has equipped [them for]…that’s my hope that we can get back to our actual mission as a denomination and [as] Christians.”

A Special Annual Conference will be held via Zoom Webinar on Saturday, October 7, 2023, to consider local church disaffiliation under Paragraph 2553 of the Book of Discipline. A Disaffiliation Reporting Guide and more was shared at:

Virginia Wesleyan University and Haygood United Methodist Church: A Model Collaboration

In the vicinity of Northampton interchange, Virginia Wesleyan University (VWU) stands as a hub of academic excellence, embodying the spirit of Virginia Beach's community. The institution has formed a remarkable partnership with Haygood United Methodist Church, a collaboration rooted in shared values and a dedication to inclusivity, setting a precedent for Methodist-affiliated establishments nationwide.
The collaboration was conceived during the 2020 LGBTQ rights debates within the United Methodist Church, where both entities remained firm in their commitment to inclusivity, becoming logical allies during a period of division within the conference. Although having historic ties to Methodism, the university operates with significant autonomy, fostering a richly diverse community under the leadership of Dr. Scott D. Miller.
This alliance, fortified by the synergies between Rev. Beth Givens and Marie Porter of Haygood UMC and the university, has facilitated expansive opportunities for community interaction, including shared facilities and mutually beneficial educational programs. The partnership embodies a historic journey of autonomy and inclusivity, marking a significant shift in governance while maintaining a deep connection to Methodist heritage.
In the wake of ongoing transformations within the United Methodist Church, VWU stands as a potent advocate for inclusivity, actively supporting the establishment of a U.S. Regional Conference to promote a more inclusive approach to Methodism in the country. Through their steadfast commitment to inclusivity and community engagement, VWU and Haygood United Methodist Church forge a path toward a brighter future, underscoring the transformative power of education intertwined with ministry.

Join VAUMC discipleship book study and group discussion

The VAUMC Office of Discipleship and Congregational Vitality is offering a book study and group discussion of the 25th Anniversary Revision of The Godbearing Life (Kenda Creasy Dean, Ron Foster, and Megan DeWald).
The study will begin the week of October 2 and will end the week of November 13. If you are interested in taking part in this group discussion, please follow this link. We will determine what time(s) and day(s) we will meet based on your availability. Please contact Hannah Bryn ([email protected]) or Dwayne Stinson ([email protected]) if you have questions.

Support UMCOR disaster relief efforts in Libya

Please join us in prayer for the people of Libya impacted greatly by the recent severe flooding. More than 2,000 people are feared dead as whole neighborhoods were swept into the sea by flash floods. Pray also for the safety of first responders and medical personnel working on the front lines of this crisis. UMCOR is coordinating with regional contacts to determine how best to support them. To help those impacted by this and other disasters around the world, donate here.

Faith-based effort in Winchester takes on food insecurity

Two recent articles in the Winchester Star highlighted how a faith-based effort is continuing to meet the needs of people who suffer from food insecurity.
View the articles:

Community refrigerator opens in Winchester

Second Freedge opens near Stephens City

Rev. Dr. John Copenhaver, retired elder in the VAUMC, and his wife Marsha have set aside funds to buy refrigerators for a Freedge ministry. Such a ministry is a commitment, Copenhaver says, on the part of the church or community. It needs to be cleaned and refilled daily and should be located in a place that is accessible to persons on foot. If your United Methodist church would like to provide such a ministry, please reach out to Copenhaver at [email protected].

UMC and BSA agreements remain the same from 2022

It is that time of year when your church may consider renewing or establishing agreements with community organizations or ministries, including the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).

On December 21, 2022, the conference shared information about BSA and approved agreements for churches to use with the organization. The information in this communication remains in effect.

There are only two approved agreements related to BSA for local churches. Charters should not be used by any United Methodist Church.

The Virginia Conference believes that churches can be well served with the revised Annual Affiliation Agreement, which can be found here. We also believe local churches can be well served by using the September 2022 Facilities Use Agreement if the Annual Affiliation Agreement is not the best option. The Facilities Use Agreement can be found here.

This change came as a result of the class -action lawsuit against BSA and the subsequent bankruptcy case. Use of these agreements, rather than charters, allows churches the choice in how they engage with Scouting ministries. These forms establishing the legal relationship between a local church and BSA still allow local churches to partner in ministry with scouting in rich and meaningful ways.

If you have any questions, please contact your district superintendent or Assistant to the Bishop the Rev. Dr. Steve Summers.
umc news

General Church News

Bishops serving in Africa pledge to stay in The United Methodist Church

COUNCIL OF BISHOPS—United Methodist Church bishops serving the church in Africa have issued a statement declaring their intention to stay in the denomination despite differences on the issue of human sexuality. Read more...

Reviving the Sabbath

UNITED METHODIST NEWS—“Sabbath: An Ancient Tradition Meets the Modern World” is airing on PBS stations and is free to stream at the website of Journey Films. The two-hour documentary looks at how various groups observe a weekly Sabbath, and argues for the importance of the practice. United Methodists are part of the team that made the film and appear in it. Read more...

Prison evangelism transforms inmates

UNITED METHODIST NEWS—The United Methodist Church’s prison ministry in Zimbabwe leads to 350 inmates being baptized at maximum-security prison. The church also brought supplies for the prisoners, including soap, lotion, footwear, books and food valued at $5,000. Maplan Kakoto, Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison superintendent, said the work of the church helps with the rehabilitation of inmates and their re-entry into society. Read more...

One Last Word: Getting to Know You

Bishop Sue is visiting all the districts to get to know their churches, missions, ministries, and people as she continues to learn about the Virginia Conference since starting her tenure in January 2023.
She recently visited the Northern Virginia District for a two-day trip. Read story and view pictures from NoVA District...
bishop sue nova
Please send any issues or concerns to [email protected]. If you have issues with the formatting trying to forward (especially in Outlook), you can use the following link. More...
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