The EcoEternity Forest at Pocono Plateau, the first of its kind in Pennsylvania, is a burial option for cremated ashes and an alternative to the traditional cemetery. Since it opened in 2008, our designated EcoEternity Forest has garnered 150 reservations and 37 interments.

The cremated ashes of the deceased are buried at the roots of a tree, allowing remaining minerals to be absorbed by the tree. It creates in essence a living memorial in a natural, peaceful woodland setting. 

The interment process causes no lasting disturbance to the forest floor. In a plot of mature growth forest, suitable trees are selected and registered in a log.

Bishop Peggy Johnson offers in her Bishop's Blog some background about a favorite hymn that speaks of saints departed but still watching over us, praying for the unity of their beloved, though beleaguered church.

Anglican priest, Rev. Samuel J. Stone penned the words to the beloved hymn: “The Church’s One Foundation” in 1866. (Book of Hymns #545)  According to Warren Shiver, author of Stories behind the Hymns, it was written as a call to unity in the church during a time of controversy.

Statement by Bishop Peggy A. Johnson in response to the United Methodist Judicial Council’s ruling in Decision 1270 affirming the Rev. Frank Schaefer’s reinstatement as an Elder in full connection:

I have received and reviewed the ruling by the United Methodist Church’s Judicial Council on the appeal of the Rev. Christopher Fisher, Counsel for the Church, who challenged the Northeastern Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals’ reinstatement of the Rev. Frank Schaefer’s ministerial credentials. That reinstatement effectively modified the penalty enacted by a jury of the Eastern PA Conference that led to the termination of the Rev. Schaefer’s credentials.

The NEJ Appeals Committee retained Rev. Schaefer’s 30-day suspension for officiating at the same-gender wedding of his son, Tim; but it vacated the jury’s conditional termination of his credentials that took effect when he could not assure our Board of Ordained Ministry that he would in the future “uphold the Book of Discipline in its entirety.” The Judicial Council rejected the Rev. Fisher’s questions and arguments challenging the Appeals Committee’s actions; and it thus, rejected his appeal. This judicial matter is now considered closed.

Mountainhome UMC, located in the Poconos area, has been hosting a daily prayer vigil outside the church during the tense, prolonged manhunt for Eric Frein, who allegedly shot two state troopers in that region, killing one, more than six weeks ago.

Each day at noon members and visitors surround a statue of Jesus praying, located near the church, and offer prayers for their community, for Frein, his family and his victims, and for the safety of law enforcement officers searching for him.

UPDATE: Read more information at the end of this story about how the police search for Eric Frein has impacted the Mountainhome church and its community, and how they have responded.

The annual Bishop’s Days on the Districts are intended to enable clergy and laity to dialogue with their episcopal leader. The clergy assembling across six districts throughout October are dialoguing with each other as well.

Their topic is the 2014 book Finding Our Way: Love and Law in The United Methodist Church. In it nine bishops address the dispute between clergy adherence and defiance to their Book of Discipline’s prohibition against same-gender weddings.

Asked to read the book in preparation, clergy participants are seeking to reconcile conservative views about biblical and church law with the growing acceptance of marital equality for same-gender couples. Meanwhile, their lay counterparts are engaged in the same quest during their evening district meetings with the bishop.

The Rev. Dr. Christopher J. Kurien
The fall season is busy with events happening in our lives and the lives of our churches. Many congregations have celebrated Homecoming Sunday, Back-to-Church Sunday or Rally Day to invite past and present members to come back to church for worship, fellowship and Christian education classes....and not to come alone.

Hopefully, many members are using this season as an opportunity to invite non-members--whether family, friends, colleagues or even strangers--home to their churches for worship, Bible study or special events. Fall is, after all, a season of harvest; and there is a plentiful harvest of souls we encounter daily who yearn for more meaningful, righteous and uplifting lives. All most of them need is an invitation.

The Rev. Mutwale Ntambo Wa Mushidi and Kabaka Ndala Alphonsine, United Methodist missionaries in Tanzania, East Africa, have been itinerating in the EPA Conference for much of October. During his sixth visit and her third, they have visited churches and shared the strides, hopes and critical needs of their growing mission enterprises, while meeting old and new friends and supporters.

Fast-growing, multicultural, multi-faith Dar es Salaam is Tanzania's capital and largest city. There they are involved in evangelization and church growth, Christian education, women's education and activities, community development, health education and refugee ministries. This active, dedicated missionary couple, who have four daughters and two sons, receives support for their work from donors in our conference, among others whom they are visiting. They will return home in December.

The EPA Conference Latino(a) Ministries Coalition offered back-to-back training events for two different groups in October, one focused on the relevant past, the other on the emerging future.

The first training, on Oct. 10-12, was for members of Latino churches wanting to learn more about their Wesleyan heritage. The second, on Oct. 18, was for non-Latino churches wanting to learn more about the Latino communities growing in their midst and how best to reach and engage them in ministry.

The first training event taught about 23 lay members about Methodist tradition and history. They came from Cristo Rey in West Grove, El Buen Samaritano in West Chester, El Mesías in Philadelphia, Casa del Pueblo in Hatboro, El Redentor/St Paul's in Lancaster, La Trinidad in Allentown and Vida y Familia, a new church start also in Allentown.

October may become a month of completion (like the corresponding number 10) for the Eastern PA Conference in regard to resolutions on the controversial issue of clergy performance of a same-gender wedding.

Bishop Peggy Johnson announced on Oct. 3 that a Just Resolution was completed to satisfy a complaint filed May 30 against 36 clergy who had co-officiated such a wedding for two men at Philadelphia's Arch Street UMC on Nov. 9, 2013.

She also is meeting with clergy and laity groups during October for dialogues on this very issue as it pertains to clergy adherence and opposition to church law. Those meetings were requested by the Annual Conference in May as part of its decision to refer to the bishop's Cabinet six related resolutions on this same matter.

And finally, the Judicial Council, the United Methodist Church's high court, will affirm or reject on Oct. 22 the Northeastern Jurisdiction Appeals Committee's June ruling to restore clergy credentials to the Rev. Frank Schaefer.

monthly finance report

Conference Budget – Schedules A&B

Please reference Schedule A and Schedule B for a summary of the conference budget through September 2014. As a result of the faithful giving of EPA local churches to the connectional ministries fund or CMF we ended 2013 with a very strong result of $3,279,179. While this was short of the budget goal of $3.4 million by $120,821 or 3%, it was a reasonable variance. Given the ongoing struggles of many churches we are pleased and grateful for the commitment made by many to support this vital ministry.

Through nine months of 2014 giving from local churches to CMF was $2,253,605. This was $296,395 less than budget and $88,103 less than the amount received from September 2013. An analysis after nine months (Schedule E) shows that 51% of churches are “on budget”. However, there are 127 churches or 30% that have paid less than 50%. Forty-Five (45) churches have paid zero through nine months toward CMF. The district offices and CCFA are kept abreast of this and are taking steps to follow up.

Registration is now open for the 2015 Midwinter Retreat for Clergy (elders, deacons, local pastors) and their Spouses, to gather Jan. 13-15, 2015. Once again the retreat will convene at the Holiday Inn Oceanfront, 6600 Coastal Highway, Ocean City, Md.

Retreat planners have received requests over the years to address the needs of not only clergy but also their spouses and families. The 2015 retreat promises to do just that. "We are excited to host M. Garlinda Burton, a popular and dynamic speaker, a former journalist and denominational leader, who will inform, inspire and challenge us with insightful keynote presentations on the topic Ministering to our Id-entity as a Clergyperson and/or Clergy Spouse," said Bishop Peggy Johnson.

NEW!!  It has come to our attention that more retirees than we imagined would prefer to stay in the EPAUMC Dental Plan for 2015.  To accommodate this, The Board of Pension and Health Benefits will allow retired members to be automatically enrolled for 2015 if they are already enrolled in the current dental plan, unless they waive that coverage through AmWins.  If you are not currently enrolled in MetLife Dental, you will have the opportunity to enroll once the plan design and costs have been set.

Due to a hefty increase over last years rate, the MetLife Dental has been put out to bid.  We expect to have the cost for 2015 set by October 17th, 2014.  Retirees will receive a notification of carrier and cost after this date.

Thank you for your patience as we work to satisfy your requests for coverage.

The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church

Welcome!  The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church is made up of about 465 churches, which serve nearly 125,000 members in 16 counties.   Led by Bishop Peggy A. Johnson, the Conference's mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Today, this mission is the focus of the conference’s 465 churches, congregations which speak to diverse and multi-generational populations in the many cities, towns, and rural areas throughout our area.  The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and its sister Peninsula/Delaware Conference together compose the Philadelphia Area, with nearly 1,000 churches served by Bishop Peggy Johnson.

If you are a clergy person or member of one of our 465 churches, we invite you to explore this website for resources and information to support you in your effort to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

If you are looking for a welcoming faith family, we invite you to visit a United Methodist Church in your community: www.find-a-church.org.

Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Office: 980 Madison Ave., Norristown, PA 19403; telephone 610-666-9090; fax 610-666-9093.

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Bishop's Blog

Bishop's Blog

Read thoughts on faith and life from Bishop Peggy Johnson.