Annual Conference 2020 to focus on reaching out and stretching forward

By John W. Coleman

“Engaging Communities for Christ” will be the outreaching theme for the 2020 Eastern PA Annual Conference, June 18-20. Returning to the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, Pa., the yearly session will feature a diverse array of mission-minded guest speakers, preachers and worship leaders.

The Rev. Junius B. Dotson (left), General Secretary of United Methodist Discipleship Ministries, will teach the annual conference on Friday morning about doing just what its theme calls for: community engagement. Before taking the Discipleship Ministries helm in 2016, he was the senior pastor of Saint Mark UMC, a 3,500-member, multi-campus church in Wichita, Kansas.

“We must shift the conversation from fixing churches to reaching people for Christ…” Dotson says when he speaks, teaches and writes to promote “See All the People,” his agency’s evangelism and church revitalization resourcing campaign. His goals include helping conferences and churches improve their disciple-making systems.

“The most essential step for making disciples of Jesus Christ is to immerse ourselves in the lives of people who are right outside our doors,” See All the People teaches, “acknowledging that God calls us to have meaningful relationships in authentic, organic and consistent ways.”

Bishop Mark Webb (left), leader of the Upper New York Episcopal Area, will preach the Service of Ordination and Commissioning. President of Discipleship Ministries’ board since 2016, he was formerly a pastor and superintendent in the Susquehanna Conference and a Harry Denman Evangelism Awardee in 2002.

Born in Williamsport, Pa., Webb has a passion for collaborative leadership development, new faith communities, and fostering mission-minded vitality among all congregations.

The conference’s Latino Commission will plan and conduct opening worship on Thursday afternoon, June 18, inspiring the assembly with Latino/Hispanic music, dance, liturgy, visuals and voices. Those voices will include young adults like the Rev. Dorlimar Lebrón Malavé (right), who will preach during opening worship. She is the pastor of First Spanish UMC in New York City, and she continues the conference’s focus on hearing young voices like those who taught and spoke at the 2019 annual session.

The conference will hear a report from its delegates to General Conference 2020 (May 5-15) and consider candidates for episcopal elections, if any are to be elected at the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference in July. Members will also celebrate Bishop Peggy Johnson’s 12-year term here and likely bid farewell to her, unless a change at General Conference delays her reassignment and keeps her here. She will preach at the Memorial Service to honor recently deceased clergy and clergy spouses.

Among other actions, the conference will also:

  • approve a 2021 budget, based in part on new, 2021-2024 general church apportionments;
  • elect conference council and committee chairpersons for the 2021-2024 quadrennium;
  • ordain and commission elders and deacons; and
  • honor new clergy retirees.

Clergy retirees will be able to attend the conference at no cost, a change approved by members at the 2019 session.

“We look forward to welcoming more conference members—active and retired—at this historic annual session,” said Bishop Johnson. “We will respond faithfully to dramatic changes that may likely occur at General Conference. But only with God’s steadfast guidance and grace will we be able to trust in a future with hope, as we chart our path forward into the next quadrennium and beyond.”