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Annual Conference Friday, June 18, 2021

Members of the 239th session of the Virginia Annual Conference met virtually beginning Friday, June 18. The morning began with special music from Gerald Ricks and the Annual Conference House Band which included singers and accompanists. Dr. John Kinney, who has 27 years of service to Virginia Union University as Dean of the Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology and Senior Vice President of the University, led a morning Bible study.

Bishop Sharma D. Lewis called the 239th session of Virginia Annual Conference to order at 9:30 a.m., June 18. “We begin this annual conference by singing ‘And Are We Yet Alive,’ a hymn that has been sung by persons gathering for holy conferencing since the beginning of the Wesleyan movement,” The bishop said. “Please sing at home or wherever you are.” A prerecorded video was played to follow COVID guidelines.

The Rev. Raymond Wrenn, 102, and  and Youth Member Ms. Rachel Zahradka from Trinity UMC (Chesterfield) opened the Annual Conference in prayer.

Bishop Lewis thanked the Rev. Susan Reaves for her seven years of service as Conference Secretary. The Rev. Joshua King was elected the new Conference Secretary. The Rev. Susan Reaves and Mrs. Beverly Myers were elected assistant secretaries. Mrs. Madeline Pillow White was elected editor of the Journal.

Director of Connectional Ministries Dr. Steven Summers presented the report of the Common Table for Church Vitality.

Lynchburg District Superintendent Scott Davis introduced the report from the District Alignment Team (DAT). A video was shared that outlined the history and the recommendations of the team. A period of questions and answers followed the video.

William H. “Bill” Talley IV, president of the Virginia Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CFA) presented their report. The proposed budget may be found in the Book of Reports Addendum in the Official Packet.

The Rev. Thomas James, Alexandria District, Washington Street United Methodist Church, moved that the new budget lines, listed below, in the 2022 budget found in Schedule C be removed from the 2022 Conference budget.
• District Developers Salaries, Housing, and Pension $830,000,
• District Administrative Managers $120,000,
• District Ministry $480,000,
• District Superintendent Directed Funds $320,000,
• Extended Cabinet Directed Funds $40,000, and
• DS and new District Developer Moving Expenses, $18,000.
The motion was approved.

Neal Wise, chair of the Site Selection Committee, gave his report. The Annual Conference is scheduled to meet in Hampton in 2022 and Roanoke in 2023. The committee recommended that the 2024 Annual Conference be held in Hampton. The recommendations were approved.

The Rev. Mary Dadisman, clergy co-chair, gave the report of the Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW). They work with the CEMCA to monitor those who speak on the floor of Annual Conference. The goal is equitable access to all. After sharing stories of some of the first female clergy in Methodism, Dadisman shared that the Rev. Marg Kutz published the book “Nevertheless, She Preached: story of the two earliest Methodist clergywomen.”  (available from Amazon in kindle and paperback)

The Rev. Alan Layman, chair of the Minutes Committee, gave a video report. The committee will meet June 22 to review the minutes of this conference. The report was approved.

The Rev. Jeff Mickle, dean of the Cabinet, gave his report. The District Committees were approved. The following churches are closing in 2021.

  • Arlington Forest United Methodist Church on the Arlington District be discontinued effective as of June 30, 2021
  • Browns Chapel United Methodist Church on the Farmville District be discontinued effective as of April 9, 2021,
  • Early’s Chapel United Methodist Church on the Lynchburg District be discontinued effective June 30, 2021,
  • Fieldstone United Methodist Church on the Roanoke District be discontinued effective June 30, 2021
  • Jollett United Methodist Church on the Harrisonburg District be discontinued effective June 30, 2021,
  • Mount Clifton United Methodist Church on the Harrisonburg District be discontinued effective June 30, 2021,
  • Mount Hebron United Methodist Church on the Harrisonburg District be discontinued effective June 30, 2021,
  • Pamplin City United Methodist Church on the Farmville District be discontinued effective June 30, 2021,

Minutes questions 14, 15, and 16 were approved.

The New Faith Community report was presented by Mr. Dwayne Stinson, conference director of Influencing Ministries. The New Faith Communities are

  1. Thalia UMC Microchurch Network, Joseph Varner and Dennis Morgan, Planters, Elizabeth River District
  2. The Mission at Washington Street UMC, Audrey Smith, Planter, James River District
  3. Northern Virginia (NOVA) Missional Hub, Monica Reynolds, Planter, Rappahannock River and Alexandria Districts
  4.  Indian Church RVA, Sam Kirbakaran, PLanter (2019), Richmond District

Conference Lay Leader Martha Stokes addressed the conference. She was emotional as she shared the story of a handkerchief that was given to her years ago by Mrs. Callis at her home church. She said she thought she might need it today. “I told you I would be much more emotional” than previous lay leaders, Stokes said. She acknowledged former Lay Leader Darlene Amon and said she would not be standing there today if it wasn’t for her. Darlene recently passed away on May 27, 2021. Darlene was elected as a General Conference delegate for every meeting since 1992. She served as president of the Southeastern Jurisdictional Lay Leaders and served as first woman of the national Lay Leaders’ Association. “I would not be who I am today without Darlene Amon. We would not be the church we are today if it wasn’t for her boldness.” Stokes offered a moment of silence to remember Amon’s witness. Click here for full remarks

Stokes related the struggle she has had with two foot surgeries. “My footprint has changed again,” she said, “so there will be no stepping into familiar things. The familiar ways of church aren’t the same anymore either.” She continued, “The pews that cradled us so comfortably are no more as we were moved outside, which is probably where we should be. The footprints we have been following are gone. We are being called to redefine and reinvent church.”

Stokes talked about a book by Sister Joan Chidester and the choices of the world we have to choose. “We have a world that defies everything we have ever been taught and we all have a prophet within ourselves. We must find out what we really stand for and what we have done to prove it,” Stokes said. Chidester said we either become prophets or remain simply church goers. “I believe this type of spiritual prophecy is what we are called to by virtue of our baptisms. We must find a new way to talk about our call to ministry. We must change our language around call. We are a team, laity and clergy together, both with 100 percent responsibility of outcomes.”

Stokes talked about new programs that will be coming. She said we must stand witness to the pandemic of covid and racial unjustice. She talked about the episodes of “Diversity Kitchen” that are modeling how people can come together through food and conversations. She is part of the conference workgroup looking at racial justice and on this even of Juneteenth we cannot look back. We must create safe space for conversations, jsut as Jesus did.

I”ve spent the last eight months listening. Laity and clergy I have heard you. She asked for conference members to pray for the SEJ delegation that is joining in a called meeting. Delegates will receive reports on anti-racism work and the pandemic.

Stokes closed with words from Darlene, “We can’t become what we need to be by remaining where we are.”

The Rev. Joseph T. Carson III gave a video report of the Equitable Compensation Commission. No change is recommended to the current compensation schedule or the floor schedule.

Dr. Steve Summers, director of Connectional Ministries, brought the report for the Common Table of Church Vitality. The report was approved. Dr. Summers brought the Nominations to Boards, Agencies, Commissions and Committees before the conference. They were approved. Bishop Lewis anointed those agencies.

David Dommisse presented a pre-recorded Statisticians Report. Churches adapted to online giving and many churches applied for grants through the Board of Communications and CFA to assist with technical challenges during the pandemic. There were still some 1,121 professions of faith and over 600 baptisms. Small groups still met virtually and awareness of needs in communities was higher than ever. Some 46,000 people were reported serving in mission.

The Green Church Award video was shared. It is presented by the Caretakers of God’s Creation of the Board of Church and Society. Ellen Comstock presented the award to Monumental United Methodist Church in Portsmouth and the Rev. Celeste Heath, pastor. A church member shared the ways the church built back as a green church following a church fire, including new lighting.

The Virginia United Methodist Pensions, Inc. (VUMPI) report was presented in a video presentation by Ms. Stacey Anthony. The Pensions report was approved as presented.

David Dommisse presented a video Treasurer’s report. Apportionment receipts were down but second mile giving was $828,568. He said the conference is in a strong financial position. He addressed the increase to legal expenditures in the past year due to the pandemic and the Boy Scouts issues. The motion passed.

The business was closed with prayer by Bishop Lewis.