Friday Afternoon Business
Stacey Anthony presented the report of Virginia United Methodist Pensions and Related Benefits. The report was adopted as presented in the Book of Reports.
The Rev. Dr. Steve Summers presented the Common Table report.
The recommendations presented were:
That the Relationship Agreements as presented to the Missional Connections Team of the Conference Missional Ministries Board between the Virginia Conference and Heart Havens, Inc.; UMFS; Pinnacle Living; Virginia United Methodist Housing Development Corporation; and Wesley Housing Development Corporation, be continued.
That Gregory B. West be recommended and endorsed as a General Evangelist according to the standards set by the General Board of Discipleship.
The recommendations were accepted by the conference.
Dr. Summers took a moment of personal privilege and introduce Bryan Compton, Bev Myers, and Brenda Capen who will be retiring from Connectional Ministries in the coming year with more than 81 years of combined service.
A video about Heart Havens was presented to the conference. Jennifer Boyden, CEO, gave words of greetings on behalf of Heart Havens.
The clergy retiree class of 2022 took to the stage for the Retirement Service.
The Rev. Clarence Brown, retirement service preacher.
The Rev. Clarence Brown, representing the retiring class, used the Scripture Philippians 4:1-9 to preach his sermon titled, “Whatever…”
“I want to say ‘thank you’ for all the ways you have blessed my life and all those who sit here… to cry with you when you are sad, laugh with you when you are happy, baptize your babies, marry your sons and daughters. This has been a marvelous journey,” Brown said.
He continued, “But now that I reflect one word comes to me… whatever. As a pronoun, this means a lack of structure. As an adverb, it means closing down, a sense of exasperation.”
Brown said he never imagined that his last few years of itinerant ministry would look like this. “The pandemic shut us down, left us isolated.. mask on, mask off, and all kinds of other challenges. Black lives matter, blue lives matter, all lives matter. Shall we stay, shall we go, shall we affiliate should we disaffiliate? You just get overwhelmed. Whatever, whatever, whatever… but I’m retired now, so whatever!”
But, Brown said, who had more reason to be exasperated than the Apostle Paul? Some of the members of the flock were fussing and fighting. “When we have the mind of Christ, and when we order our lives as the example of Christ, we can sit at the table as brothers and sisters. And what happens when we sit at the table together. Joy! I have Joy! The world can’t give it and the world can’t give it away!”
“Then,” he said, “you know what happens when he gets that all straight. He hits them with ‘whatever.’ This means confess your sins and get all the junk out. We fool ourselves and what I’ve discovered is that human beings have an incredible capacity ifor self-deception. You need to get on your knees and confess to Jesus because he already knows.”
Brown concluded, “We spend too much time majoring in minors and minoring in majors. Help me to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We are so busy fighting with each other that we can’t tend to the world. Think on these things and the peace of God will be with us.”
The retirees were introduced to the conference as statements and pictures from each was shared.
Passing the mantle
Sandra Stanley, deacon retiree, Richmond District, passed the mantle to Johnathan Fuller, Richmond District, deacon ordained class of 2022.
B. Failes, Thrasher Memorial UMC, Roanoke District, elder retiree class of 2022, passed the mantle to the Rev. Lauren Wright, Messiah UMC, Elizabeth River District Elder Ordinand class of 2022.
Bishop Lewis introduced the members of Team Jeremiah. They have been working since January to help the conference through the disaffiliation process.
The Rev. Kathy Gochenour, president of the Board of Discipleship presented the Denman Award.
Sow, Grow, Show is the biblical cycle of discipleship for each and every one of us. Evangelism includes both the Show and Sow parts in this cycle as the fruit from a life of discipleship becomes seed to sow in the lives of those around them. The Harry Denman Evangelism Award is named for Dr. Harry Denman, founder of The Foundation for Evangelism and renowned lay evangelist. Harry spent his life focused on sharing the Word of God with everyone he encountered. He believed that faith sharing should be the focus of every Christian. The Virginia Board of Discipleship presents these awards to persons who are recognized by the Annual Conference for the influence their lives and personal ministry have on the people around them. Today we present three awards to laity and clergy who are faith sharing through service and influencing others to serve.
Each year, the Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church celebrates laity who have demonstrated evangelism in word and deed. The Board of Discipleship of the Virginia Annual Conference is delighted to present two of the 2022 Harry Denman Awards to a couple in ministry together, Earl & Geneice Kemper! Both of them are deeply formed spiritual leaders who have the ability to assist others in their discipleship.
Today, we celebrate Earl & Geneice because they freely share with others about the power of God in their lives, how God’s love is offered to all, and the blessings of worshipping and serving at their Bethel UMC. For the past six years, a woman with many health, financial, and social problems has been cared for by Earl and Geneice. Her multiple problems make it difficult for her to hold on to a caretaker or aid. Earl and Geneice have stepped in by mowing her lawn, doing her shopping, driving her to doctor appointments, court hearings, and even taking her dog to the vet. On a community mission day, Earl had volunteers come to reside part of her house and on another day to weed her gardens and tend to other parts of her yard. Each time Pastor Faith goes with them to her house, this woman talks about how she sees God’s love in both Earl & Geneice. While this woman has not transformed the way she lives her life or become an active church member anywhere, according to her, through the care and support of Earl and Geneice, she knows that God has not abandoned her, like so many others have.
The Board of Discipleship of the Virginia Annual Conference is delighted to present the 2022 Harry Denman Clergy Award to Pastor Elizabeth ‘Betsey’ Davis!
Today, we celebrate Elizabeth Davis, a deeply formed spiritual leader, who has the ability to assist others in their discipleship because she freely shares with others about the power of God in her life. Elizabeth is called Betsey and she took over as lay pastor when her husband, Pastor Mike Davis died in February 2019. Betsey was licensed as a Local Pastor in 2021. Also, she is the Director of Journey Community Center which is an outreach ministry of the United Methodist Church.
While COVID restrictions made it difficult for churches to reach out in ministry as they normally would, Betsey offered many innovative church services by Zoom when they were unable to meet in person. Once they were able to reopen, a few of the evangelistic programs to reach out to the community during 2021 were:
- Vaccine Clinics – to encourage participation, free dinner meals at the Journey Station Restaurant were given to those who took part.
- A Wednesday evening free dinner “Breaking Bread” was offered to anyone in the community who desired to come. The video study “The Chosen” was shown. It brought people in who were not affiliated with the church as an opportunity for relational evangelism. They plan to begin another one in the fall.
- Another small group “Good Grief Cafe” was started in October. They meet every other week. They can bring their lunch or purchase one from the restaurant. It has new participants on a regular basis because loss continues to occur and the need for supportive friendships continue.
- In addition to the above, various short-term art projects were offered during the year that brought in people with interests in creative expression.
- The restaurant uses some of their dessert money to donate to various community social agencies each month.
- The ambitious project ahead in 2023 is the renovation of a motel to create short-term emergency housing when needed.
These ministries combine works of loving-kindness with the sharing of their Christian faith to all people at the points of their need. It is evangelism in the spirit of John Wesley.
Green Church Award
Mr. Brian Christoffersen presented the Green Church Award.
Today we are here to celebrate God’s sustaining and redeeming work in all of creation and the work of conference green church teams. In the 2020 Revised social principles ‘community of all creation’ section, the General Conference of the UMC affirmed that all creation belongs to God and is a manifestation of God’s goodness and providential care. Human beings, nonhuman animals, plants, and other sentient and non-sentient beings participate in the community of creation, and their flourishing depends on the care of all God’s creation. Rather than treating creation as if it were placed here solely for humanity’s use and consumption, we are called to practice responsible stewardship and to live in the right relationship with the Creator and with the whole of God’s creation (Gen. 1:26–31; Matt. 6:26–30; Rom. 8:22–24). We are also called to honor the role of every part of creation in healing the whole; thus we praise God with the whole of creation (Ps. 148) and recognize that we are part of complex ecosystems, all valued by God. We affirm our sacred calling to be responsible stewards and to lovingly tend all that God has wrought. We recognize the inherent worth of God’s creation, celebrate earth’s abundance and diversity, and, along with the entirety of the cosmos, give praise to its Creator. We recognize we are interconnected members of complex ecosystems, and intricate webs of life, all of which have their origins in God’s gracious act of creation. – 2020 United Methodist Revised Social Principals pg. 9
As members of the United Methodist Creation Justice Movement and the Conference Board of Church and Society Creation Justice Team we are recognizing congregations that are dedicated to creation care and creation justice ministries. Today we present the 2022 Green Church Award to Ivey Memorial UMC – James River District being accepted by Janice Ganoe and Dennis Gance. Thank you for Ivey Memorial’s dedication to joining in God’s transforming grace of all of Creation. Today we present the first inaugural Sustaining Green Church award to Bethlehem UMC – Lynchburg District being accepted by Ann Marie Smith. Thank you for supporting Bethlehem’s UMC’s continuing dedication to joining in God’s transforming grace of all of Creation.
Francis Asbury Award
The Rev. Ryan LaRock, chair of the Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministry,
This year’s recipient of the Francis Asbury Award goes to another longtime servant leader in campus ministry, one who is preparing for a new season of ministry after 21 years at the Wesley Foundation at the University of Virginia. The Rev. Deborah Lewis, once a student involved in the same Wesley Foundation of which she has been Director, has shepherded students in a space that is “a place to be and a place to become.” Throughout her many years at UVA, Deborah has been instrumental in walking with students through some of the most challenging times in our recent history, including one that directly affected the Charlottesville community in 2017, when white supremacists and neo-Nazis stormed the Universtiy and town with messages of hate that also led to the tragic death of Heather Heyer. Deborah is a longtime advocate for social justice, taking students every year to the Fluvanna Correctional Center to share in worship with the women there, to creating lasting friendships with Hillel and the Muslim Student Association, supporting students in the wake of sexual assault on grounds, and in recent years, encouraging students in their desire to take the steps to become a reconciling community in our denomination. Not to mention, there is no doubt that Deborah’s ministry continues to be a reminder to all of us of the importance of women’s voices in the pulpit. Deborah has also fostered a culture of calling that has raised up several lay and clergy leaders in our Conference and across the connection that pastor local churches, serve as hospital chaplains, as delegates to Conference, and even administrators in local churches, just to name a few. In her new appointment, Deborah will be starting graduate work in Mental Health Counseling at William and Mary. Please join me in congratulating the Rev. Deborah Lewis as this year’s recipient of the Francis Asbury Award.
LaRock asked that the conference recognize the chaplains and campus ministers at universities and colleges. Those present were recognized by the members of conference. He also acknowledged the Rev. Justin Allen who received the award in 2021 even though the conference did not meet in person that year.
United Methodist College Presidents
Dr. Robert Lindgren, president of Randolph-Macon College, brought greetings to the conference on behalf of all the college presidents serving conference-related schools.
Ferrum College, Dr. David Johns; Randolph Macon Academy, Major General David Wesley; Randolph Macon College, Dr. Robert Lundgren; Virginia Wesleyan College, Dr. Scott Miller; Shenandoah University, Dr. Tracy Fitzsimmons.