Rethink Conference Update from Bishop Peggy Johnson

In recent months the leadership of the conference in concert with many of the clergy and laity of EPA have been considering plans to “rethink the annual conference by reducing the size and refocusing resources to support churches to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”  In the summer we worked on a revision of the 2005 Strategic Plan, and in the spring we received feedback in focus groups that were led by a team of four of our conference leaders.  We engaged in 7  town hall meetings and received results from over 500 surveys.   We also conferred with an outside consultant, the Conference Transformation Team, the Conference Staff, the Human Resource Committee and the Structure Review Committee to perfect our structure and staffing.  In addition I met with the leadership of the Latino Commission, the Healing the Wounds of Racism Committee and the leadership of the Black United Methodist Preachers.  My thanks to all who faithfully participated in this process and gave helpful and Spirit-led feedback and direction.

Some of our findings include this:

1)      Passion about making disciples for Jesus Christ in new places, with new people, more diverse people and younger people

2)      Revitalizing our existing congregations

3)      Missions and outreach in the community and world

4)      Need for more children, youth and young adult ministry

5)      Continued emphasis on “Healing the Wounds of Racism” and ethnic church ministries

6)      More localized resourcing on a district and cluster level

7)      Continue our camping program

8)      Find a way to lower apportionments, reduce health care costs

9)      Increase the use of the conference website for more effective communication and reduced paperwork.

10)   Effectively teach and promote Christian stewardship

My original plan was to bring the strategic goals and structure to the annual conference for a vote during our May 20-22 session.  The work of the structure review and the Conference Camping Board’s Strategic Planning process is not complete and it is my best wisdom that until we have the full picture we are not prepared to vote on this plan.  However the structure we have so far will be presented at the Pre-Conference meeting on Sun. April 25th at 3 pm (one on each district at the same time).  This plan will also be included in the conference materials but not voted upon.

We will vote upon the plan and the budget at the adjourned session on Sat. November 13th at 9:00 am at Hempfield UMC.  By that time we will have a fully completed structure, a staff recommendation, a final revised strategic plan and a report from the camping board and the budget.

I continue to covet your prayers for this process as we move forward.

Bishop Peggy A. Johnson