Bishop Peggy Johnson hits the road again next week with her annual Days on the Districts tour. She just completed similar visits to her Peninsula-Delaware Conference districts last week and meets this weekend with other NEJ bishops and leaders at the Transformational Leadership Event in Hershey, PA.
Next week’s tour begins Oct. 8 in the Southeast District, followed by the Central (Oct. 13) and East (Oct. 14) districts. She enlarges her territory further the ensuing week when she visits the Northeast (Oct. 20), Northwest (Oct. 22) and Southwest (Oct. 28) districts.
Preaching from Luke’s Gospel story in which Jesus returns home to Nazareth to “preach good news to the poor,” Bishop Johnson will also report good news happening across the Eastern PA Conference, including growing engagement in missions and ministry, discipleship and resourcing for leaders. New Treasurer Jim Cruickshank and Pension and Health Benefits Director Jo Fielding will add to her report with remarks on conference finances and clergy benefits.
With interest mounting in denominational decision-making at the 2016 General and Northeastern Jurisdictional conferences, Bishop Johnson will give an overview of both and offer insights on several key issues. Those include: proposals to change the UMC’s Book of Discipline, especially around the perennial issue of human sexuality; the organization and operation of General Conference as the representative body becomes more global; and possible, eventual downsizing of the nine NEJ episcopal areas due to membership decline.
The two-term episcopal leader will also promote the conference’s new, short-term Imagine No Malaria campaign, scheduled to end December 31. She is asking churches to sponsor special fundraising and awareness events and activities, and to contribute $10 per worshipping member to the campaign.
Bishop Johnson will complete her report with a timely focus on the topic of race relations and reconciliation, the focus also for the 2016 Annual Conference (whose central theme will be “Open Wide Your Hearts” from 2 Corinthians 6:13). She will recall:
As usual, the bishop will meet during the day with clergy, for whom attendance is required, and with laity in the evenings. She will likely field questions on a variety of concerns in what may be some of the most lively district visits she has had during her tenure.