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Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson opened the business session for June 20 reminding us what the three movements of the Spirit are:

  • The theological movement from prevenient grace to sanctification. This is the movement of the Holy Spirit in the human heart.
  • The historical movement of Methodism captured in our past, lived in our present, and pointed toward our future. This is the movement of the Holy Spirit in the church.
  • The missional movement from gathered spaces into all the world. This is the movement of the Holy Spirit in community.

Bishop Sue then introduced each of the upcoming teachers: Rev. Dr. Rodrigo Cruz, Rev. Dr. Michael Beck, and Rev. Woo Kang. 

Rev. Dr. Rodrigo Cruz opened with a gut-wrenching story of the very beginning of his ministry–the day after his very first sermon, he received a call to visit a mom who just lost her 12 year-old- son in a tragic accident. The mom asked many very difficult questions about whether her son is now in heaven, even though he never went to church. Dr. Cruz shared with her that through God’s preeminent grace, her son is with God even though he may not have known about his need for God’s grace.

Dr. Cruz shared how at the end of the day the church often shows who we truly are–being part of what the Holy Spirit is doing through the movements of grace. Often, it is simply showing up or remaining quiet. 

Rev. Dr. Jonathan Page, Director of Connectional Ministry for Innovation and Creativity, sat down with Dr. Cruz for a dialogue. What does it mean to establish credibility with the community of God’s love. First, you have to go out and listen to the journey of their story. Second, it is important to intentionally interact with people who are not like you. Your community context might not be very diverse, but there are probably people who are different socio-economically or politically. 

Dr. Page then invited Dr. Beck and Rev. Kang to join in the dialog. Rev. Kang shared it’s important to not go into situations with all answers, but to be vulnerable enough to say “I don’t know”. Dr. Beck shared about the tattoo church and how people loved sharing the stories behind their tattoos. Dr. Beck also shared that we as a church need to reclaim that entrepreneurial spirit of early Methodism as it formed out of Anglicanism. Dr. Cruz closed that we aren’t called to be perfect, we just have to love people.

Bishop Sue welcomed Rev. Tim Ward to offer the opening prayer for the Business Session. Rev. Dr. Charles Ledlum-Bates, District Superintendent of the Mission Rivers District, offered a welcome to Hampton. Dr. Bates also welcomed special guests and thanked Mission Rivers’ volunteers. Dr. Bates took a moment of special privilege to acknowledge the hard work of Bishop Sue to lead us as a team. Dr. Bates also acknowledged Dean Bates retirement and Dr. Cecelia Brooks returning to serving a local church. 

Bishop Sue thanked Rev. Joshua King for his outstanding service as Conference Secretary for the past four years. Rev. King introduced the incoming Conference Secretary, Rev. Claire Miller

Conference Lay Leader Martha Stokes was called by Bishop Sue to give the Laity Address. Martha expressed her appreciation for the service of the following individuals: Albert Weal, currently serving as the President of the United Methodist Men for the Virginia Conference, will be serving as the President of the United Methodist Men for the Southeastern Jurisdiction. Martha next introduced Alan Webber, incoming Virginia Conference Scouting Coordinator, and thanked Bill Chaffin for his service. 

Martha Stokes asked for the Youth Members and those under 35 to stand up, acknowledging that they are not only the future of the church but will also hold us accountable to be the church we’re called to be. 

Bishop Sue called Rachel Zahradka for the recommendation from the Conference Board of Laity. Rachel recommended that current Conference Lay Leader, Martha Stokes continue for the next quadrennium. The recommendation was approved.

Martha Stokes and Bishop Sue shared the Extended Extended Cabinet report. The work of  We need to really focus on our spiritual practices together and that we will dedicate our lives to prayer. The Annual Conference is here to serve the local church, not the other way. Martha shared how we can examine our real values and whether we have been living into them. 

Mr. Scott Diamond was called to share the Rules Committee Report. Mr. Diamond made the following recommendations: (1) the Site Selection Committee seeks more flexibility in its ability to negotiate and plan our gatherings – a reduction to one year instead of three years. (2) to reinstate the two separate teams: Conference Commission on Religion and Race and the Conference Committee on Ethnic Local Church Concerns. (3) restore resolutions as part of our proceedings. The recommendations were approved.

Mr. Neal Wise, Chair of the Site Selection Committee, made a recommendation to consider Harrisonburg for 2026. The recommendation was overwhelming approved. 

Bishop Sue recognized Mr. John Fuller, Director of VUMPI. There was a lot of discussion about including part-time clergy in coverage. This was recommended to be studied by the Equitable Compensation Committee. 

Bishop Sue took a moment of personal privilege to play a kazoo with the youth members!!

The General Conference Delegation was called next to give a report. Click HERE for more details. Several Virginia delegates were called to leadership positions of legislative committees.The vote on Globalization will occur during our 2025 Annual Conference and we will not learn the results until 2026. 

Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson presented the UM Ecumenical & Interreligious Award to Rev. Ryan Ware,Smith Memorial UMC, Mountain View District, for his work. 

Rev. Andrew Ensz made a motion that the Annual Conference make a Resolution of Apology to LGBTQ persons. After a number of discussions for and against, there was a motion to table the recommendation until tomorrow for the members to have time to review.

Rev. Chenda Lee offered the closing prayer and Bishop Sue adjourned the meeting at 5:25 PM.

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