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The theme for the 2024 Virginia Annual Conference, held June 20-22, 2024 at the Hampton Roads Convention Center in Hampton, Va., was “A Conference in Three Movements” with Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson as the officiating bishop. This theme emerged from the belief that there are three principal movements of the Holy Spirit taking place in the present era of the church:

  • 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.

These movements build upon each other, intertwining together to demonstrate what has been, what is, and what will be as God continues to move amongst God’s people. 

Over 1,000 people gathered for a Juneteenth observance on Wednesday, June 19. The Laity and Clergy Session took place at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 20. The 242nd Session of the Virginia Annual Conference was called to order on Thursday morning. 

Following the schedule of last year, members had evenings free for fellowship. 

Teaching Sessions

Rev. Dr. Rodrigo Cruz,  pastor of The Nett Church and District Superintendent of the Central East District in the North Georgia Conference; Rev. Dr. Michael Beck, pastor, professor, and author;  and Rev. Woo Kang, Associate Pastor of The Nett Church and the Lead Pastor of At The Table in the North Georgia Conference, were the three teachers for the Annual Conference session, each representing a piece of the three movements of the conference. 

Rev. Dr. Rodrigo Cruz

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 afterwards. 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. 

Rev. Dr. Michael Beck 

Rev. Dr. Michael Beck focused on the historical movement of Methodism and its role in the future. Beck opened by sharing about a Fresh Expressions church at a dog park. Larry is a lay leader who planted this church and recently asked, “If God was a dog, what kind of dog would God be?” Beck then shared several options for how to reach people not connected with a church: Pray and Wait, Attractional, or Incarnational. What Larry is doing is Incarnational, connecting with people where they already are and doing life together. 

The first Methodist to do Fresh Expressions was Susanna Wesley in her kitchen. Beck shared several examples of Fresh Expressions that his church has including meeting in a tattoo parlor, Burritos and Church, Shenanigans in a retirement facility – all of these are an ecology of church where “the world is our parish”. His church is not sustained by plate offerings but has grants and other funding as a shelter. 

Dr. Page joined Dr. Beck for a dialogue. The best way to begin Fresh Expressions is to just experiment. Try doing something like dinner church for 3 months and then evaluate. They discussed how everyone can have a part; for example, very introverted people can really blossom in a digital space such as a gaming church. These incarnational spaces provide opportunities for people who were harmed by the church to share about that experience.  Page shared that most churches claim to be “Welcoming” but they are often not as welcoming as they think they are. Rev. Dr. Rodrigo Cruz shared that “People go where they are welcomed, they stay where they are valued”. He also shared that “following Jesus is not complicated, but it is hard.” Rev. Woo Kang shared, “When you break bread together, you typically aren’t going to do so in silence” – by doing so it creates an opportunity for dialogue and sharing life together. Dr. Beck reminded us that we are in a loneliness epidemic and the one critical thing that we have to share is the communal life with Jesus. Bishop Sue challenged us to “go do some history” – all of our churches have “Fresh Expressions” in our history.

Rev. Woo Kang

“Why do we seek to be missional?” Is it because we are now in a privileged position because we can go and do various things? Just to have more people in the seats? We should ask ourselves, “why should we want to be a part of a missional church”? Kang compared the stories of the Tower of Babel and the Day of Pentecost. The first was about the people initially speaking the same language and then God confused them with a multitude of languages and scattered them to the ends of the earth. With Pentecost, people were still speaking a multitude of languages but the Holy Spirit spoke to them in their own language. The why of why we are called to be missional is so that we can be a good neighbor. Are we willing to walk with someone even though we do not fully understand them. Kang shared that the main reason he became Methodist was because of the Open Table, where all are welcome. 

In dialogue, Rev. Dr. Jonathan Page and Kang  dived a little deeper into the differences between diversity and unity. How do you approach cultural diversity without approaching cultural appropriation? Kang responded by inviting people of other cultures to tell their story. For example, rather than sing a song in Spanish, ask a Hispanic person to sing that song. Dr. Beck and Dr. Cruz were invited to join the conversation. Dr. Page asked, “How do we commit to ‘Doing No Harm’”? Cruz responded that you have to own the privilege that you own. For example, he said that as a Hispanic male, he has privileges that Hispanic females often do not have. Dr. Beck responded that we have a lot to learn from the Addiction Recovery Program. Apprenticeship/sponsorship and being real with people. Kang responded are we really willing to commit to love someone? Cruz responded that all churches should be risk- taking churches. 

Conference Business

Commission of Truth telling & Reconciliation and Creation Care Work Group formed

Rev. Andrew Ensz made a motion June 20 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 June 21 for the members to have time to review. On June 22, a motion was made to create a Commission of Truth Telling and Reconciliation to listen to stories of harm and move in creative modes of reconciliation; members from both sides of whether to have the apology together made the motion. The Commission would report at the next Annual Conference. The motion passed and Bishop Sue offered prayer. 

Brian Christoffersen presented a motion on June 22 for the Annual Conference to create a Work Group to study how Virginia can go Net Zero by 2050 for all churches. The motion passed. Bishop Sue called on the Creation Care Team to have a summit before the next Annual Conference. 

‘Extended Extended Cabinet’

Bishop Sue and Conference Lay Leader Martha Stokes introduced the work of the ‘Extended Extended Cabinet’ This group was a gathering of conference leadership, beginning in January of 2024 to build relationships, discern directional aims, and develop a common focus for the work of the Virginia Annual Conference in the next quadrennium. This team included the Appointive and Extended Cabinet alongside members of the Common Table and Board of Ordained Ministry.  The principle of this group’s work said “At God’s initiative, the Virginia Annual Conference exists to support the transformation of lives by facilitating Christ-centered connections between individuals, local churches, communities, and across the wide array of God’s creation.”

Priorities coming from this work for the Virginia Annual Conference would be

  • Make time to grow in relationship with God and neighbor. We, the members of the Virginia Conference, intend to live in Christ’s love in such a way that our lives are transformed and exhibit the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23 and reflect the life and love of Christ. 
  • Define the practical roles of the Annual Conference, the District, and the Local Church within VAUMC. 

Find full report in the 2024 Official Packet. 

New Annual Conference site announced

The Site Selection Committee made the recommendation to consider Harrisonburg for 2026. The recommendation was overwhelmingly approved. 

Church Development Team Report/New Faith Communities

Rev. Dr. Jonathan Page, Director of Connectional Ministries for Innovation and Creativity, gave the Church Development Team Report concerning New Faith Communities. CDT has compiled a list of Lessons Learned Report in a successful church plant. Dr. Page shared that the CDT has been working with Ministry Incubators to streamline the grant making process. A Strategic Grantmaking Task Force will soon be created, digital resources will be shared, and potentially a Conference Staff person will be hired to write grants. 

Page introduced two new faith communities, Appomattox UMC and King William Campus of New Song UMC. Appomattox UMC formed from the remnants of major disaffiliation in the area. There was not a UMC presence in King William county prior to the planting of the King William Campus. 

members to also continue supporting campus ministries.

Just Compensation Task Force and Equitable Compensation Report

Rev. Jessie Colwell introduced the Just Compensation Task Force. The report can be found here. Rev. Colwell made a motion that the Just Compensation Task Force continue its work for another year. An amendment was made to include regular inspections of health hazards, including mold, lead paint, etc. The amendment and motion were approved. Rev. Tom Durrance gave the Equitable Compensation Report. Rev. Durrance made a motion that the Minimum Compensation Schedule and Floor schedule be approved. After discussion, Bishop Sue asked the Just Compensation Task Force to continue considering alternative funding since many churches struggle with paying their pastor the minimum. The motion to approve the Equitable Compensation Report was approved. 

New District Superintendents

On Saturday, Bishop Sue introduced Rev. Beth Givens as the new District Superintendent to the Coastal Virginia District, and thanked Rev. Dr. Cecelia Brooks for her service as she moves to a local church. Bishop Sue recognized Rev. Denise Bates as she retires and Rev. Dr. Sarah Calvert will be the new District Superintendent of the Mountain View District. Rev. Kirk Nave was recognized as the new District Superintendent of the Northern Virginia District. 

General Conference Delegation

The General Conference Delegation represented by Rev. Lindsey Byanham Freeman and Warren Harper gave a report on the General Conference session. Click HERE for more details. The vote on Regionalization will occur during the 2025 Annual Conference and results across the denomination will be released in 2026. 

Treasurer’s and Statistician’s Reports

In the interest of time, David Dommisee directed the body to the Reports of the Statistician and Treasurer in the Book of Reports, see the reports here. Dommisse recognized William Talley, IV as the retiring CFA President, and Angie Williams will be the next President of the CFA. 

Rules Committee 

The Rules Committee Report offered 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.

VA UM Housing and Wesley Housing merge

Larry Dickenson gave a special announcement from the VA UM Housing Development.

VA UM Housing Development and Wesley Housing will merge into a single company to assure that affordable housing development will continue to be an expression of the VAUMC’s desire to provide more opportunities for housing to Virginia’s citizens representing the bottom 50% of income earners.  By combining into a single entity, they will be better positioned for long term sustainability and competitiveness in the marketplace. The combined companies will represent a portfolio of over 5000 apartment units across Virginia, with another 1000 units in the immediate pipeline.

United Methodist Colleges

Bishop Sue called on Dr. Scott Miller to share the UM College President’s report. Dr. Miller shared that the private UM institutions are dependent on the giving from UMC churches and individuals. Rev. Devon Earle, UVa Wesley Foundation campus minister,  spoke from the floor calling for continued support of Wesley Foundations and campus ministries. 

Thirteen Churches closed

A video was shown for the closure of thirteen churches:

  • Evergreen UMC, Coastal Virginia District
  • Indiana UMC, Coastal Virginia District
  • Branchville UMC, Living Waters District
  • Mt. Calvary UMC, Living Waters District
  • Bluff Point UMC, Mission Rivers District
  • Bethel UMC (Ridgeway), Mountain View District
  • Sharon UMC, Mountain View District
  • Spirit and Life UMC, Northern Virginia District
  • Shockeysville UMC, Shenandoah River District 
  • Walmsley UMC, Three Notch’d District
  • Chris UMC (Covington), Valley Ridge District
  • Hebron UMC, Valley Ridge District
  • Mt. Pleasant UMC (Covington), Valley Ridge District 

Opening Worship

Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson called the 242nd Annual Conference into session this morning. Bishop Sue then invited the oldest member (Rev. Jim Godwin) and the youngest member (Mr. Benton Crigger) to lead us in prayer. The worship began with interpretive dancing to Genesis 28:10-22, the story of Jacob sleeping at the well and awaking to the overwhelming presence of God.

Bishop Sue shared about living in Florida when Hurricane Charley was about to hit. They were able to find shelter but described the eeriness of venturing out after the storm. They had no idea what they would find. She described feeling isolated and wondering if the rest of the world even knew about the devastation that just happened. Bishop Sue then shared that later she was able to see the operations system and know that people were very much aware of what was going on – she was very joyful to learn that “we are on a grid!”. She transitioned to recalling the story of Jacob.

Bishop Sue reminded us that God is on the grid! Jacob wakes up at the well and realizes that God is there with him. Heaven is breaking in all around us – we are not always aware of it! She challenged us to focus on our own spiritual disciplines. She often challenges people to just sit in silence. We are on the grid, every single human being and God is beside us. God calls us to share with everyone that we have been called to be a people of blessing and we are to let people know that they are not alone that we are all connected to each other. She challenged us to focus more on our spiritual disciplines and we will reflect the fruits of the spirit even more.

Communion began next with Bishop Sue presiding. She reminded us that the Holy Spirit is always with us, that we ask for it to pour out on us in abundance, not in a trickle, but in abundance. 

Service of Remembrance

The Memorial Service began with Bishop Sue leading the procession of families of those being remembered during the service.  The names of the honored dead: bishops, clergy members, clergy spouses, and lay members were read as candles were lit. The Gospel Lesson was Mark 4:35-41. 

Rev. Kyungsuk Cho began his sermon “Over to the Other Side” with prayer. He shared several stories where people thought he was younger than he actually is. We appreciate being perceived as younger because it makes death seem further away. We avoid thinking about death because it is “the great unknown and uncharted territory”. Rev. Cho shared about the bravery of the first wave of missionaries to Korea, most facing certain death from either disease, accidents, or persecutions. In this faith, we have to keep moving forward to the otherside. When things stop moving, it’s death. Most of the problems in the Bible occurred when people stopped moving. We are not remembering a dead story, we are remembering a story of God’s movement. “One’s person’s movement is not just one person’s movement. When the dots are collected, it forms a line. And every line has a direction. All we can do is to keep moving in the right direction.” 

Sixty-one conference clergy and laity who died since the last Annual Conference were remembered. 

Service of Recognition & Call (formerly the Retirement Service and Service of Ordering)

Thirty-one persons were part of the 2024 Retirement Class. These individuals have a combined total of 763.50 years of service.

The Service of Recognition and Call began with processional hymns. Monica Chafinhofer led the Call to Worship. Rev. Jessie Colwell recognized the 31 individuals of the Class of 2024 retirees. After a worship song and a youth reenactment of Luke 24:13-35, Bishop Tom Berlin, Florida Conference, preached the sermon. 

Bishop Berlin shared that his mother died this week, and he shared some of the tender moments surrounding this time. There were moments when the Holy Spirit prays for you, when you look around and realize you are not alone. “What is the nature of the hope that you carry in this moment and in the days ahead? Our hope is that a relationship with Jesus Christ transforms life.” Bishop Berlin spoke directly to the ordinands that their job is “Hope Leadership”, even though there will be many failures – you have to “fail quickly and move on”.  The new United Methodist Church is rise or fall on our Spiritual Roots – we must continue to focus on spiritual disciplines so that our roots will go deeper. 

Rev. Crystal Sygeel recognized the call of the 14 individuals of Lay Supply Class of 2024  and the  10 individuals of Certified Lay Ministers Class of 2024. Bishop Sue offered a prayer of blessing. 

Bishop Sue commissioned Deaconess Amy Purdom to the ministry at Staunton High School as a Special Education teacher.  

Bishop Sue examined the persons being recognized/ordained: 26 Local Licensed Pastors , 3 Provisional Deacons, 11 Provisional Elders, 2 Ordained Deacons, and 9 Ordained Elders.

Awards

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

The One Matters Award, given to a church with significant improvement of baptisms and professions of faith, was presented to Emmanuel UMC in the Mountain View District.

The Harry Denman Awards are named for Dr. Harry Denman, founder of The Foundation for Evangelism. The Board of Discipleship presents this award to individuals whose exceptional ministry of evangelism – expressed in Word, Sign, and Deed and bring people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. The Harry Denman Evangelism Award was then presented to youth member Jesse Burdette and clergy member Rev. Don Jamison. 

The Green Church Award recipients are: Cranford UMC, Fairlington UMC, St. Andrews UMC, Wakefield UMC; Sustaining Green Church Award Winners: Bethlehem UMC, Burke UMC, and St. Stephens UMC. 

The Francis Asbury Award, named for early American Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury and honors his call to establish a school in the vicinity of every church,  was presented to Rev. Bret Gresham, Wesley Foundation at Virginia Tech, and Rev. Amanda Miller Garber, previously the Director of the Rise Community Center in Harrisonburg, now the Director of Missional Engagement at the Virginia Conference. 

Wrap-up stats

The Conference Statistician and Treasurer David Dommisse reported the statistics for 2023:  876 churches, 257,777 members,  85,568 in average worship attendance, 1,864  professions of faith, 1,172 baptisms, and 43,458 small group participants.  He also reported, 39,000 served in missions (reaching over 1,400,000) and 6.6 % of church revenue was used in missions. The effect of 227 disaffiliated churches from the Virginia Conference results in the following statistics:

  • 8.2 % of local church revenues
  • 11.2% of apportionments
  • 10.6% of membership
  • 14.4% of average worship attendance
  • 10.9% of professions of faith 

Apportionments receipts totaled $22,541,060 with a collection percentage of 81.29%. Second-mile benevolences totaled $1,0004,502. 

As of Monday June 24 , over $82,000 was collected for the conference offering. The offering benefits: Partnerships of Hope Countries (50% of goal) supports Brazil, Cambodia, Mozambique, Native Americans, Haiti, and Vietnam and UnDue Medical Debt (50 %). Undue Medical Debt is a non-profit organization that purchases medical debt for pennies on the dollar and then cancels the debt for people who desperately need this opportunity.

UMCOR kits were organized at the district level for the second year in a row.  So far, the total is 11,455 hygiene kits; 656 cleaning kits and 2,316 menstrual kits, for a total of 14,427.

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