Pictured: Delegates elected Nov. 14 to represent the Eastern PA Conference in 2016.
Two other elected General Conference delegates were not present at the session: Aaron Smith and Jeffrey Raffauf.
More than 500 Eastern PA Conference members took care of unfinished business at their Annual Conference adjourned session Saturday, Nov. 14, at Bethany UMC in Macungie, Pa., approving a 2016 budget and electing delegates to the 2016 General and Northeastern Jurisdictional conferences. But beyond budgets and ballots, they also raised a surprising $40,000 for The United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria campaign, inspired by two special guests who were largely responsible for the genesis of that campaign.
Members approved a proposed $3.198 million budget for Connectional Ministries in 2016, a 4 percent increase from 2015. The spending budget falls just below the conference Council on Finance and Administration (CFA) request for $3.2 million in church giving to the Connectional Ministries Fund next year. That giving request, to fund the conference’s mission and ministries, is unchanged from 2015, is 3 percent less than in 2014, and is well below the conference’s allowed apportionment goal of nearly $3.9 million.
Members also elected a full slate of delegates to represent the annual conference at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in May, in Portland, Oregon, and the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference next July in Lancaster, Pa. The original election at the Annual Conference this past May was invalidated because of errors discovered later, and new elections were scheduled for the adjourned session Nov. 14.
Twenty-two delegates were elected, most of them for the second time. Elected to General Conference in order were:
Laity: Judy Ehninger, Aaron J. Smith, Krystl Johnson and Clarita Krall
Clergy: Dawn Taylor-Storm, Jeffrey A. Raffauf, Joseph F. DiPaolo and Lydia E. Munoz
Elected to join them at the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference were:
Laity: Jane Bonner, Lenora Thompson, Jordan Harris and David Koch
Clergy: Robert J. Wilt, Tracy Bass, Christopher J. Kurien and Robin Hynicka
Elected as alternates were:
Laity: Ross Brightwell, Ann C. Jacob and Wilhelmina J. Young
Clergy: Irving Cotto, Lillian Smith and Melinda L. McKonly.
The delegates, led by the Rev. Dawn Taylor-Storm and Judy Ehninger, both elected first, will have a lot of catching up to do, as other conference delegations are already having meetings, being assigned to legislative committees and poring over materials for General Conference. The newly elected delegates will meet Dec. 2 at the Conference Office and again Jan. 30 at First UMC Lancaster.
While the six-hour business session ended on a high note with elections completed, it began with a truly elevated esprit de corps from the soaring praise music of Bethany UMC’s choir and musicians and from a surprise visit by special guests Lynda and Katherine Commale. The mother and daughter team came to help promote the conference’s support for Imagine No Malaria, The United Methodist Church’s campaign to raise awareness and $75 million by 2016 to help end malaria, a lethal but preventable global disease that continues to take thousands of lives.
With remarks and video clips, the Commales recalled how 10 years ago, then 5-year-old Katherine and her family, inspired by a television program, began promoting and raising money for specially treated bed nets to help protect African children from malaria. They thanked the Eastern PA Conference and their own church, Hopewell UMC in Downingtown, Pa., for giving ongoing support to an effort that helped spawn two global campaigns: the U.N. Foundation’s Nothing but Nets and the UMC’s Imagine No Malaria.
Katherine, now 15, said she is most proud of how the reported death toll for young victims of malaria has dropped from one every 30 seconds to one every 60 seconds. Lynda Commale recalled visiting a Ugandan village years ago where she painfully encountered a mother whose infant had just died for lack of a bed net. “It made me committed to go back and work harder to help remedy this deadly disease.
“This has been a marathon, without a doubt, and we are in the final lap,” she said. “We’ve come so far, raising $66 million and collecting 2.3 million nets to protect families in Africa. Only $9 million more to go.
“We know the power of what one person can do,” she said, pointing at her daughter. “And now we know the power of many, the power of ‘we.’”
Inspired by her words the conference collected an offering onsite of $10,000. The Rev. Steve Morton, Hopewell’s pastor, then pledged $5,000 more as a matching donation if other church leaders could add another $5,000 to the offering. Members began hurrying forward bringing pledges and checks until the amount collected reached $30,000, adding to the initial offering for a remarkable total of $40,000.
In the end, the conference members’ enthusiasm was coupled with awareness of multiple challenges facing their leaders. In addition to Imagine No Malaria’s still formidable fundraising goal, they heard conference CFA chair Kip Craven and treasurer Jim Cruickshank encourage churches that pay less than 100 percent of their apportioned asking to “be faithful in their giving to support our mission and ministry.” The two also emphasized the urgent need to pay off pledges made in the Fulfilling Our Covenant capital campaign to help meet the unfunded pension liability for pre-1982 clergy retirees.
“The best way to meet our financial needs and challenges is to increase the number of churches paying 100 percent of their apportionments and direct bills,” said Cruickshank. “That means helping our clergy and lay members develop and implement viable plans to succeed in their ministries and stewardship.”
In addition, the Rev. Jim Brashear, host pastor of Bethany, the Northeastern Jurisdiction’s largest church, lamented the disharmony, decline and disillusionment he sees across the denomination and challenged the conference body in his opening sermon to “tear down the walls of division.”
He urged his fellow members to reclaim the unity and fellowship he fondly recalled from earlier annual conferences of decades past, to turn away from divisive issues and ideologies, and to focus their attention instead on living up to the denomination’s mission to “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
By John W. Coleman
Conference Communications Director