2023 New England Annual Conference

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Location of conference gathering: DoubleTree Manchester Downtown, Manchester, New Hampshire

Dates of conference gathering: June 8-10, 2023

Did the gathering have a theme or slogan, and if so, what was it? “Draw the Circle Wider Still…”; guiding Scripture: Philippians 4:4-9, CEB

Officiating bishop: Bishop Peggy A. Johnson

Guest speakers and memorable points or quotes by speakers: 

In her Episcopal Address, Bishop Peggy A. Johnson talked about circles — and the challenges we face when we try to “draw them wider still.” From Acts 1:6-9, Bishop Johnson referred to Jesus’ words to his disciples, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the end of the earth,” as “no little mission statement.”

“Still, today, as followers of Jesus, we are charged with the same thing. We are called to go and go far. I would emphasize that if your church’s ministry, your witness, your walk with the Lord does not resemble a ‘wider still’ movement, you may need to re-examine your scope.”

“Someone once said, ‘if you are not out in the margins you are taking up too much space.’ So keep going out there: with refugee resettlement, addiction recovery, foster care, mental health ministries, prison ministries, affordable housing ministries, disability ministries … the fields are ripe for wider still ministry. It is the kin-dom of God at its best.”

The Rev. Carol Lakota Eastin, an elder from the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference and Native American leader in the denomination, was guest preacher for the Memorial Service. In her sermon titled “The Empty Place” on Matthew 11:25-30 (First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of The New Testament), Eastin spoke about the death of her son from liver cancer at 17 and the “empty place” it left at their dinner table and in their hearts. 

“One thing that empty place teaches us is the wonder and beauty of human love,” Eastin said. “The wrenching pain teaches us how deep and powerful love is. One night, in tears, I said to my husband, isn’t it beautiful? That Creator made us so that we could love this much? And what is human love but a reflection of Creator’s love. We who are made in that image, when we love so deeply, when we grieve so deeply, we taste and demonstrate the Love of Creator for us.”

The Rev. Dr. Becca Girrell received the 2023 Wilbur C. Ziegler Award for Excellence in Preaching. Girrell serves as pastor of the United Community Church of Morrisville, Vermont. She preached on Acts 10 with a sermon titled, “What’s Next?”

“And that’s where we need to be, asking God, ‘what’s next?’ Girrell said. “… for all we have lost and will lose, for all the fear of the unknown, for all the temptation to fold in on ourselves and draw in close for protection, this is the time to ask not why now, but what’s next?” She said. “Even now, the Spirit is doing a new thing, birthing a new movement. And so yes, this is precisely the moment to take another leap, and to draw the circle wide, and wider still.”

Bishop Héctor A. Burgos-Núñez was guest preacher for the Service of Ordination and Commissioning:

“In a time where most people are not open to dialogue and that we have become polarized in our opinions, perhaps you need to practice more the gift of listening well — to God, and to each other. And when faced with the uncertainty about the future, just like those in the Upper Room, perhaps you need to exercise anew your trust in God, which sets us free from the anxieties of the unknown and releases us for creative and fruitful ministry that is relevant and impactful to the people in the community,” he said. 

“May the Spirit of Pentecost embolden you to proclaim the goods news of Christ which are available to all. May Holy Spirit fire push you out into your communities to reach and love those others don’t want to welcome and serve — to draw the circle even wider. May your eyes be open to the needs of the most vulnerable among you. May the God of Pentecost, continue to bring clarity into our lives, leadership and ministries, and once more pour on us HOLY BOLDNESS to follow, to serve, and to lead so that the world is transformed in Christ love.”

Bible Study

Philippians 4:4-9

Bible study leaders were:

The Rev. Zach Holler of the West Ohio Conference.

Holler is blind, Deaf and uses a wheelchair. He titled his study: The Circle of Character: Characteristics for Unity in the Body of Christ

Mx. Chris Paige, M.Div., of the OtherWise Academy.

Paige, who is nonbinary, spoke about the defrocking of their partner, the Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud, in the early 2000s and about using they/them pronouns.

See the study videos at https://www.neumc.org/ac-bible.

Main actions enacted by the conference:

RS-23-213 NEAC Divest From Fossil Fuels 
RS-23-214 Fund Black and Urban Churches With Equity: Establish a dedicated task force to: Understand how the conference has reached this position of inequity; the impact on churches and ministry, and the consequences for ministry today; Analyze the assets of the NEC in order to identify funds which could be used to repair this historical inequity; Bring specific proposals – supported by conference stakeholders — to the 2024 Annual Conference to plan and deploy capital to achieve these ends.
RS-23-215 Cancel Conference Debt of Black Churches: New England Conference of The United Methodist Church enacts the biblical principle of Jubilee by canceling conference liabilities of property insurance and mission share debt/arrearages for Black United Methodist congregations in New England.
RS-23-216 Praying For forea’s Peace (Here’s more information about how to join the effort to end the Korean War)
RS-23-217 Exploring Land Restitution: New England Annual Conference commits to exploring and considering land restitution (returning or restoring land to Indigenous communities, tribes, and nations) whenever the sale, abandonment, donation, or disposition of UMC-owned land in New England is considered.

Resolutions or actions related to the postponed 2020 General Conference, now set for 2024:

RS-23-301 GC Allow Study To Be Fully Online 
RS-23-302 Fossil Fuels to UM Investment Screens 
RS-23-303 Adding Diversity to Our Theological Task 
RS-23-304 Affirming Gender Identities 
RS-23-305 Removing Mandatory Retirement 
RS-23-306 Right to Peacefully Address Injustice 
RS-23-307 Addressing Israeli Detention of Children 
RS-23-308 Allow Cancellation of a General Conference 

Did any churches disaffiliate or leave the conference (and if so, please list each church)?

The following disaffiliations were approved; not all are complete at this writing:

Ballardvale United Federated, Andover, Massachusetts 
Brownsville (Vermont) Community United Methodist Church
Bryantville United Methodist Church, Pembroke, Massachusetts
Christ United Methodist Church, Lawrence, Massachusetts 
Cressey Road United Methodist Church, Gorham, Maine
CT Central Korean United Methodist Church, East Hampton, Connecticut 
Exeter (New Hampshire) United Methodist Church 
Faith Community Church, Plymouth, Massachusetts
Lyndonville (Vermont) United Methodist Church 
North Woolwich United Methodist Church, Woolwich, Maine 
Nueva Vida United Methodist Church, Chelsea, Massachusetts
South Middleboro United Methodist Church, Middleboro, Massachusetts
Vida Abundante, Providence, Rhode Island 
Wesley United Methodist Church, Wareham, Massachusetts

Number of churches that closed (please list each church): 

Ferrisburgh Center United Methodist Church, Ferrisburgh Center, Vermont

Gloucester United Methodist Church, Gloucester, Massachusetts

Rockport United Methodist Church, Rockport, Massachusetts

North Bucksport United Methodist Church, Bucksport, Maine

Ripley United Methodist Church, Dexter, Maine

United Methodist portion of United Church of South Royalton, South Royalton, Vermont

Any special annual conference set: No

What budget did the conference pass and how did it change from last year?

Members adopted a 2024 budget of $7,199,581; up from $7,068,371 in 2023

Other resolutions adopted by the conference:

Complete list of legislation adopted by the 2023 Annual Conference can be found at www.neumc.org/news, keyword: AC23 Reca

Did the conference have to elect replacement delegates due to the delay? No 

Names of delegates for both General Conference and jurisdictional or central conference and designation of lay or clergy:

GENERAL CONFERENCE

Clergy

The Rev. Jay Williams
The Rev. Becca Girrell
The Rev. Effie McAvoy
Laity
Bonnie Marden
Amanda Bonnette-Kim
Ralph Oduor 

NORTHEASTERN JURISDICTIONAL CONFERENCE

Clergy
René Perez
Leigh Goodrich
Sandra Bonnette-Kim
Laity
Ana María Rodríguez Alfonso
Noah Spicer
Claire Holston

RESERVE DELEGATES TO NEJ CONFERENCE

Clergy
David Calhoun
Cristian De La Rosa
Charlotte Pridgen-Randolph
Laity
Adama Brown (ordained a deacon in 2021; no longer part of the delegation)
Uchenna Joan Awa
Roberta Bra

Was there a push at your conference to elect younger delegates? If so, how many delegates under 35 were elected and what are their names and ages?

Amanda Bonnette-Kim and Noah Spicer

Number of people ordained, commissioned or received into associate membershi

2023 ordinands:

Deacon
Maylis de la Fe-Rodriguez
Ashley Michele Benner Murphy
Elder
Kate Galop             
Jordan Marcel Harris 
John Herbert Domingo Lucy
Bumshik Min
Alicia Vélez Stewart
John Brooks Whitley

2023 commissionees:

Deacon
Thomas Anthony Andrew
Elder
Joanne Hus
Barry Alan Judd
Yuseong Kim
James Jeounghun Koo
Evan Reid McElreath
J.J. Warren

Welcomed from another denomination
JongWook Hong (elder)

Gil Pyo Lee (provisional elder)

Number of clergy retired: 17

Membership stands at 65,833, down 2,524 from the previous year. 

Worship attendance stands at 14,743, down 991. 

Church school attendance stands at 2,537, down 525. 

Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2022: 575, up 162 from 2021 (413).

Adults and young adults in small groups for 2022: 7,393, down from 2021 (7,743).

Worshippers engaged in mission for 2022: 10,098, up from 2021 (9,995).



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