Annual Conference speakers to teach ‘Faithful Stewardship’

Emphasizing faithful stewardship, the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference’s 2015 annual session, May 14-16, will engage church leaders in exploring wide-ranging concerns that promote what presiding Bishop Peggy Johnson aptly calls “responsible living and giving.”

“Faithful Stewardship of Our Time, Treasure and Environment” is this year’s theme for the annual conference of representative lay and clergy leadership. Attendees will hear major addresses on these three aspects of holistic stewardship. They will also participate in worship, resolutions and reports, legislative debates (known as Holy Conferencing), and voting for delegates to the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Oregon.

Financial stewardship expert Clif Christopher, a popular speaker, author and consultant on church finance, will offer a keynote address on wise stewardship of our treasure, a vital emphasis for many churches at this time. And the Rev. Susan Henry Crowe, General Secretary of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, will focus on vigilant care for our earth’s environment when she preaches during the opening worship celebration.

Bishop Peggy Johnson will focus on stewardship of time when she preaches at the Memorial Service to honor clergy members and spouses who died during the past year, many after giving years of devotion to ministry. And her colleague, Bishop James E. Swanson Sr. of the Mississippi Episcopal Area, will preach for the always anticipated Service of Ordination, no doubt celebrating the talents of faithful stewards facing new challenges of leadership in ministry.

“I am anticipating the Holy Spirit to be working in and among us at this year’s annual conference,” said Bishop Johnson. “Our theme of stewardship will help lay and clergy leaders to better equip and engage our churches in responsible living and giving.”

Many churches are shouldering heavy fiscal burdens due to declining memberships, rising costs, stagnant incomes and other causes. Yet, faithful giving to the conference’s Connectional Ministries Fund and Lifestyle Stewardship Campaign continues, in addition to support for other denominational funding needs.

Twenty-five clergy members are enrolled in the Mid-Atlantic Foundation’s new Financial Leadership Academy. And dozens of church teams have learned stewardship wisdom from giving guru Clif Christopher, a former pastor himself.  He will return to the conference once more in October, according to Foundation executive director Jack Brooks, to teach another full-day workshop.

When the Rev. Susan Henry Crowe preaches during opening worship, she will likely address major environmental concerns that her agency is addressing and that threaten and already impact our nation and our world.  Henry-Crowe has led the church’s social concerns education and advocacy board, based in Washington DC, since last February. She was the second woman to be ordained in the South Carolina Conference and the first woman president of the United Methodist Judicial Council.  Bishop Johnson serves on the Board of Church and Society.

Bishop Swanson, a much in-demand preacher, previously led the Knoxville (Tenn.) Episcopal Area. He chairs the General Commission on United Methodist Men, and also serves on the denomination’s Connectional Table, the advisory board of PATH 1, which resources new church development, and the International Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges and Universities.

“We are working hard to create an atmosphere of Holy Conferencing where all members of the Annual Conference can openly discuss where they believe God is leading the church in the future,” said the Rev. James Anderman, who chairs the Commission on Conference Sessions. “At the same time we are endeavoring to provide the members and the churches they represent with resources to assist them in being better stewards of all that God has provided.”