May 14, 2024 | John W. Coleman

The 2024 Eastern PA Annual Conference, May 21-23, will consider 11 resolutions, including a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to continue and extend the 18-month collaborative partnership between the EPA and Greater New Jersey conferences (EPA&GNJ).

The MOU resolution—which also will be considered by the GNJ Annual Conference, May 19-21—formalizes the groundbreaking partnership that elected committees, leaders and staff of the two conferences have been working to develop for a year and a half. The historic proposal, presented by both conferences’ Connectional Table chairpersons, will further efforts at collaborative decision-making, staffing, budgeting and ministry. (See the related story to learn more about the MOU.)

Also, EPA members are expected to approve a full slate of leaders and members of conference boards, committees and agencies for 2024-2028, with many new leaders nominated for a new quadrennium by the Committee on Nominations & Leadership.

Innabah conservation easement for payment

In addition, EPA’s Camp & Retreat Ministries (CRM) Board proposes a restricted conservation easement of 126 acres of land at Innabah Camp & Retreat Center in Spring City. A conservation easement is a voluntary, legal agreement that permanently limits uses of land to protect its conservation values.

Innabah Camp & Retreat Center in Spring City

Innabah would retain ownership of the land and be paid from $1,392,000 to $1,834,000 for the loss of its usage value by a conservation trust for limiting use of it for conservation purposes.

The payment would enable the CRM board to pay all of Innabah’s past payroll liability and provide future CRM funding for camp development, improvements and scholarships. The funds would be invested and monitored according to EPA’s new fund policy. Innabah can use the remaining 46 acres of its property without restrictions.

Conference Advance Specials

Eight projects are being proposed for Conference Advance Special support as of July 1. Advance Specials are local projects given exclusive rights by the Annual Conference to solicit funding from churches conferencewide. Churches that first fulfill their shared (connectional) giving and remittance commitments can support Advance Special projects through “second-mile giving.”

The 2024-25 Advance Special ministries are:

  • The Center-Philadelphia and Grace Café at Arch Street UMC.
  • Code Blue winter homeless shelter ministry at Haws Avenue UMC, Norristown.
  • The Summer Reading and Lunch Program at Cokesbury UMC, Marcus Hook.
  • The Liberia Education Project at Somerton UMC, Philadelphia.
  • Light of Marnie, which supports a Christian Academy in Liberia, West Africa.
  • LUMINA, a family and community services ministry in Lancaster.
  • Spiritual Renewal Ministries, Inc., providing spiritual direction, retreats and seminars.
  • Wesley Foundation of the City of Philadelphia, a United Methodist-related campus ministry (Open Door Christian Community) at Drexel University

Advocacy to support freedom to vote

EPA’s Committee on Native American Ministry (CoNAM) offers a social advocacy resolution titled “Continuing the Journey toward Healing and Wholeness with Indigenous People.” They call upon EPA to join with the UMC’s Council of Bishops who took a “bold stand against voter suppression in 2020 and again in 2022 in their belief that ‘…the right of every citizen to vote in the United States is under attack…” The bishops urge United Methodists to “use their influence in their states, legislative districts, and local precincts to enable voter registration and to encourage elected officials to provide the resources necessary to support the fullest participation in elections.” (A Call for Equal Voting Rights, January 2022)

CoNAM calls on EPA members to support the Congressional Freedom to Vote Act (S.2747) and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (S.4) by contacting their senators directly or through the website at  Their rationale states that the voting rights legislation impacts the lives and rights of Native peoples across the nation.

Both acts would require that voters are given ample time and means to exercise their right to vote, while encouraging civic participation, protection of poll workers and transparency in the electoral process, says CoNAM.

GMC ties disqualify EPA delegation membership?

“United Methodists may not hold membership in two denominations simultaneously, and upon joining another denomination, membership in The United Methodist Church is terminated.” That is a rule cited by a resolution that would prohibit EPA members who belong to the new Global Methodist Church (GMC) or serve on its Transitional Leadership Council from also serving on the conference’s delegation to the Northeastern Jurisdiction, which meets in July.

Any such members would be required to “cease their involvement in the preparations and proceedings of Annual Conference, Jurisdictional Conference and subsequent General Conferences.”

Clergy benefits, church closures

Four clergy financial benefits resolutions relate to:

  • Clergy Retirement Security Program (CRSP)
  • Rental/Housing Allowances for Retired or Disabled Clergypersons 
  • Equitable Compensation for clergy in churches facing economic difficulties
  • A Clergy Salary Arrearage Policy

And the conference will vote on discontinuing seven closed churches, while expressing “thanksgiving for all the blessings made possible by the clergy and laity who have contributed to the ministry and mission of the following congregations”:

  • Fremont: Union UMC
  • Pottstown: Salem UMC
  • Hamburg: Bethany UMC
  • Port Carbon: First UMC
  • Donaldson UMC
  • Philadelphia: Servants of Christ UMC
  • Philadelphia: Trinity UMC