Gerald Lee Ricks, who has been providing special music throughout the conference sessions, introduced the musicians who have accompanied him.
The final day of the Annual Conference began with a Bible Study with Lisa Greenwood.
The Minutes Committee chair, the Rev. Alan Layman, gave his report. The Minutes Committee will meet on June 30 to complete the review and certification of the minutes including this morning’s session.
The bishop announced a Zoom Team Jeremiah Q&A meeting will be conducted within the next 30 days.
Mr. David Dommisse, conference statistician, brought his report. In 2021, many churches continued with virtual and hybrid worship services. Over 2,000 people were welcomed on professions of faith, an increase, along with an increase in baptisms. Over 1.3 million people were reached through missions. Revenues have been flat. Churches spent more on mission and less on administration.
Dommisse then brought the report of the conference treasurer. Apportionment receipts were $22,451,085. 2nd-mile benevolences increased more than 35 percent from 2020. He thanked the conference Serving office for promoting 2nd-mile giving throughout the year. Dommisse also thanked members of his staff – Carol Draper, Tina Gudgel, and Jennifer Honeycutt. The treasurer’s report was received by conference members.
Mr. William “Bill” Talley IV, president of the Council on Finance and Administration (CFA) gave his report after recognizing all members of CFA. Several members spoke in favor of adding funds to Higher Education. John Bright asked a question about money coming in from churches that are disaffiliating. Where will it be held and what will it be used for? Dommisse said churches pay for two years of apportionments and reimburse legal funds. CFA will decide how best to use other funds to best support pastors. John Fuller of the Pensions office, answered questions about unfunded liabilities.
Joshua McCauley made a motion for funds to be directed toward children and youth ministries. His request came too late to be considered by the conference. The pledging of funds for children and youth was initiated by Leesburg United Methodist Church pledging $1,000 and challenging 49 others to follow suit, followed by the Arlington/Alexandria District, and the other districts. Pledges were put on a table in front of the stage. The most recent numbers indicate over $62,000 has been pledged.
The conference adopted the conference budget as found in the Book of Reports. Talley introduced the policies of CFA. The policies were adopted.
Mr. Warren Harper introduced the nominee for Episcopal election, the Rev. Tom Berlin, pastor of Floris UMC, Herndon. Berlin was endorsed for the office of bishop by an overwhelming majority vote.
Berlin addressed the conference, and said it was honor to “stand here in this moment.” He said he loves his life, and why would anyone sign up for this position. “This job is hard,” he said, “but if you must be continually available to the will of the Holy Spirit.
Berlin invited members of the delegation to the General Conference and the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference to stand and be recognized. He asked members to look at those delegates and pray for them. “They will be voting for episcopal leaders in November. Every annual conference in the SEJ needs good leadership. I ask you to pray for them so they will have God’s wisdom.”
“Christ is doing a new thing,” Berlin said. “The foundations are dependable but the church is wet clay in the hands of God. God has us on a potter’s wheel and that’s why sometimes it feels like your head is spinning. So pray for the delegates that they may have wisdom and discernment. “I am not running for bishop,” Berlin said. “I am simply making myself available for discernment alongside other candidates. But your endorsement is one of the most remarkable honors of my life.”
The annual conference endorsed his nomination and gave him a standing ovation. Bishop Lewis and Conference Lay Leader Martha Stokes laid hands on Berlin as the bishop prayed for Berlin and the process ahead.
Phil Woodson proposed that the CFA and treasurer’s report be considered on the first day of Annual Conference.
Jim Wishmyer asked for a moment of personal privilege and said the Virginia Annual Conference owes our bishop a profound apology. Referring to the day before he said, “Over our squabble about due process, we put aside due process and disrespected our bishop. Repeated pleas to be seated were ignored. The ends do not justify the means.”
A motion was made to have the bishop appoint an advisory group to have conference focus more on missions and be more transparent. The motion was moved out of order. Scott Diamond shared the Rules Committee shared that there are already two bodies that serve that role. The Rev. Steve Summers shared that the Common Table shares the vision of the annual conference and feedback is welcome. Following Annual Conference, everyone will receive a survey and feedback is welcome.
The Rev. Rebecca Rumburg asked for a moment of personal privilege. She gave thanks for the ministry of retired clergy. She asked them to stand and they were applauded.
Jay Carey, DS, asked for personal privilege and prayer request. He announced that pastor Rick Franklin died Wednesday night and his service is today at 4 p.m. The bishop asked him to pray for RIck and asked for clergy and laity who were not able to attend conference due to COVID and other health issues.
The Rev. Janine Howard offered a prayer for the Rev. Jessie Colwell, director of Clergy Excellence, whose father died this week.
The Rev. Tizzy von Trapp Walker invited the clergy and lay members to “channel their inner Pentecostal life” to learn the ASL version of a hymn. The Rev. Katie Phillips issues the Call to Worship. The Galilee UMC Dance Team performed a liturgical dance.
Closing worship with the Rev. Dr. Steve Summers
The Rev. Hee Won Cho, Arlington District, read the Scripture from Ephesians 2:1-10.
Bishop Lewis introduced the Rev. Dr. Steve Summers, Assistant to the Bishop and Director of Connectional Ministries, the preacher for the closing worship service.
He thanked the Annual Conference Planning Team, especially the Rev. Eric Vaudt, chair; Terri Biggins and Bev Myers, Gerald Ricks and the House Band, Mr. Neal Wise who serves as Annual Conference planner; Bishop Lewis for her wisdom, and conference staff who work behind the scenes.
I’ve titled my sermon, From Mess, to Bless, he said.”I know it’s not a best practice to begin a sermon on a negative note, but let’s be unconventional in the interest of getting the skunk on the table, to borrow a Bishop Lewis-ism. If you are willing… will you raise your hand if you believe that we have some pretty significant struggles in the world today? YES! It seems to me that the world is in quite a mess right now. “
Summers expounded on the many problems facing the country and the world. “Even preparing for the annual conference has been a mess,” he said. He cited the technical difficulties experienced by the staff at the UM Center and worrying about all the things that need to come together.
“Like I said – it’s tough out there,” Summers repeated. “In fact, we live in what some leadership experts have termed a VUCA world.” He explained VUCA is an acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity.
“I share this VUCA metaphor to simply speak to the present needs in our lives and communities, “Summers said. “We need to move from mess to bless.”
“I don’t want to insult anyone here,” he said, “but I think we are ALL all messed up. Doesn’t the Bible say that we ‘have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God?’ Aren’t we all moving on to Christian perfection? My point is not to be insulting; it’s to claim the Truth that WE have in common our messed-upness.”
Here’s the Good News, he continued, “We Move from Mess to Bless when we fully embrace that we are all sinners in need of God’s grace. In fact, the reality of that very confessional unites us as one, giving us a blessing we are way too willing to not acknowledge out of our selfishness and self-centeredness. Why does this confession unite us? Because we all need Jesus, just like they did in Ephesus. We all need Jesus, not just you or you or you or you or you or me.”
Fixing of Appointments
Bishop Lewis called the district superintendents to the stage for the Fixing of appointments. She also introduced the Rev. Cecelia Brooks, who will be the superintendent of the new Coastal Virginia District.
The new district names approved by conference clergy and lay members are:
1 – Coastal Virginia District – Eastern Shore and Elizabeth River
2 – Living Waters District – Farmville and James River
3 – Mission Rivers District – Rappahannock River and York River
4 – Mountain View District – Danville and Lynchburg
5 – Northern Virginia District – Alexandria and Arlington
6 – Shenandoah River District – Harrisonburg and Winchester
7 – Three Notch’d District – Richmond and Charlottesville
8 – Valley Ridge District – Roanoke and Staunton