Conference adopts new strategy, structure, healthcare

On Saturday, November 13, at Hempfield United Methodist Church, nearly 500 members of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference attended the Adjourned (Fall) Session.

Rev. Jim Todd, superintendent for the Southwest District, and Rev. John Longmire, pastor of Hempfield UMC welcomed the crowd.

Rev. Rene Perez, pastor of Lititz UMC preached, noting the bad economy and its effect on the country. He asked, “How do we respond and live out faith – churches and conference asking the same question – how are we going to do this?”  Rev. Perez shared the situation in his own congregation, with the bad economy, and being $30,000 in debt, when they committed to sending a container with $10,000 of medical supplies to Kenya.  “We asked everyone in congregation to pray, and God planted dream and a vision.   It is God’s dream and vision – he will provide!”  He added, “We give not what we can give, but what God promised we could give.   Imagine the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference and all its churches together with one mission in mind – to change the world people with coming to Christ by the hundreds!”  And he asked, “Now how many of you are with me today?”

John Longmire introduced Michael Agwanda, director of Life for Children Ministry in Kisumu, Kenya.  This international partnership brings life and hope to HIV/AIDS orphans, of which there are 2.5 million in Kenya.  “1.8 million children are living on street, looking in trash cans for something to eat,” he said.  “It tears my heart, many will die without knowing the love of Jesus Christ.”  The Ministry feeds thousands of children a meal and teaches them about Jesus.

Bishop Peggy Johnson had words of encouragement: “Find some way your church can be involved in something international.  Do you have one already? Then please find a second.”

The conference voted to adopt agenda and rules of order.  Nominations for the Committee on Investigation were approved by vote.

Strategic Review Team, led by Rev. John Bhajjan, presented the proposed goals for the Annual Conference, which are divided into the four areas of focus: developing principled Christian leaders; creating new places for new people, younger people, more diverse people and revitalizing existing congregations; engaging in ministry with the poor; and improving health globally.  These goals are for how the local churches so they may live into their ministry with purpose.  Rev. Bhajjan said, “Look at these goals in the local context – in taking these goals to your congregation – and the conference to provide resourcing to achieve these goals.  The goals are bottom up – not top down.”

The new strategy was approved by vote of the conference.

The Structure Review proposes a new structure for staff and boards for the Annual Conference.  Jason Perkowski said, “The heart is the local church – working cooperatively in localities to find ways to do ministry better together.”  The new structure was adopted by vote.

2010-17A Healthcare resolution

Rev. Tim Anderman presented Jim DiGuiseppi, who explained the proposed Health Savings Account (HSA) funding plan through Aetna with a high deductible.  With a cost of $5,093,000 for 2011, this will bring a savings of $2,142,000 over IBC.  With the HSA high-deductible plan, an individual will pay $1000 and the conference will also pay $1000, after which there will be 100% coverage.  Family coverage will be $2000 cost for employee, matched by $2000 from the conference.

If the conference stayed with the current plan, the cost would be $21.5 over next 5 year.  The HSA will cost $17.1 over next 5 years.  99.3% of facilities and 97% of doctors used today are currently in Aetna’s network.

With a friendly amendment to study the cost if everyone were required to participate including part-time local pastors, the resolution was approved by a vote of conference.

An offering received for the Congo Partnership was in the amount of$3265.51.

Mike Netznick chair of the Conference Council on Finance and Administration, and Peter DiNofia, Conference Treasurer, presented the budget for 2011.  The budget of $3.5 million for Conference ministry and $2,764,710 for General Church ministry was approved.

Mr. Jim Wilkin presented the revised Safe Sanctuaries Resolution.  The resolution does not amend any requirements for background checks of church staff and volunteers who work with children and youth. This proposed amendment allows groups such as the Boy Scouts to submit their policies and procedures for screening, training and supervision to the conference Board of Trustees for approval. If the group receives the Trustee’s approval, they may then follow their own policies and procedures for screening, training and supervision. All other ministries of the church serving children and youth will continue to follow the requirements of the conference safe sanctuaries policy.  The Resolution was approved.

The Camping Strategic Planning Team, chaired by Rev. Mark Moore, presented an update on the strategic planning process for Conference Camping.  The Camping Board will present a strategic plan at  2011 Annual Conference in May.

By Suzy Keenan