Like the words of David in 1 Chronicles 28, the members of GNJ were “strong and courageous” and did “the work” with dedication and faith in God to guide us on our journey these past two days at the 2020 Annual Conference. It was virtual but still just as powerful and meaningful.
Bishop John Schol opened the 21st Annual Conference of United Methodists of Greater New Jersey with a welcome video.
In his opening address, Bishop John Schol said the COVID-19 crisis moved the people of GNJ to deeper conviction, which is leading to resurrection. Evidence of the risen Christ was celebrated in the ministries of congregations in Greater New Jersey as the Bishop shared ways that clergy and congregational leaders have created innovative and profound ways to help others and continue their missions. Proclaiming how churches in GNJ are distributing 20,000 meals each month, the Bishop commended churches for their courage and faith in God to guide them. “Crisis deepened conviction, and conviction gave rise to courage. You sacrificed, and God is resurrecting.” he said.
Bishop Schol called on everyone to embrace the GNJ initiative to end the sin of racism. “We have come this far by faith and we are not turning back.” He applauded those who have already started moving forward to ending racism and challenged others to be proactive in doing the same. The Bishop said, “This is hard work, but I have never seen the people of GNJ shy away from hard work. You have been strong in the face of the winds of Superstorm Sandy, you have faced down a pandemic and are leading forward, you are choosing to be an equitable, inclusive and just church – you are difference makers.”
To read the entire address, visit here.
A Journey of Hope
A Journey of Hope was passed by a resounding vote of 303 to 68. GNJ is leading our congregations on an important journey to end the sin of racism. With A Journey of Hope, GNJ will Invest $5 million for a more racially just, equitable and inclusive GNJ as GNJ continues to honor the humanity, racial identity, uniqueness and sacred worth of everyone as we live out our baptismal vow. Read A Journey of Hope and legislation here.
“The time is now, and we must all do this together,” said Rev. Kay Dubuisson, chair of the Connectional Table and pastor at the Spring Valley UMC.
We had powerful worship experiences with a profound and heartfelt sermon from Skylands District Superintendent Rev. Dr. Eunice Vega-Perez on Monday for the Service of Remembrance where we honored 50 clergy and lay members who passed in the last year and a half. She said, “Today we celebrate the cloud of witnesses. We remember them. They are with us in spirit.” Interspersed was beautiful music led by Director of Worship Lan Wilson and several choirs and musicians throughout GNJ.
At the Service of Passage we celebrated the ministries of 22 clergy who retired representing 527 years in ministry with the people of Greater New Jersey.
The people of GNJ celebrated the Miracles Everywhere Campaign, which was launched three years ago to raise money for bringing young disciples to Christ (Next Generation Ministries), bringing hope to your communities (Hope Centers), partnering with Tanzania (GNJ Pastor School) and hurricane relief and recovery (UMCOR). In 2020 we increased the goal to include $1,000,000 for the COVID-19 Relief Fund to fund new ministries that are emerging from the pandemic and to bring relief to churches with paying bills and salaries. We have already funded more than $800,000 grants from the COVID-19 Relief Fund. Praise God!
We passed legislation to sell Aldersgate Camp in order to infuse camping and retreat ministries, fostering more growth among our youth. We committed to honoring the mission and legacy of Henry Appenzeller and Dale Forsman as Next Generation Ministries moves forward.
The passage of the Black Lives Matter resolution allows the Conference to “remember, acknowledge, commit and move forward to a journey of hope” for all People of Color, as stated by Rev. Vanessa Wilson, who chairs the Commission of Religion and Race. We can become a church where anti-racist behavior work is absolutely necessary to the spiritual and Christian disciplines developed in a Christian disciple, and where everyone can have a voice, a life and have it more abundantly.
We approved the $66.4 million budget that continues and expands the mission and ministry of GNJ while keeping the percentage that churches contribute flat. For six years the amount congregations are apportioned has been reduced. The apportionment percentage continued at 15.2%, which Is lower than the 15.6% goal set four years ago.
Ordination and Commissioning
On Tuesday, GNJ commissioned and ordained 21 clergy, which consisted of Kimberly Burse as deaconess, Sung Il Lee who will serve as a missionary in Fiji and one commissioned deacon, 11 commissioned elders and eight ordained.
After urging people to be mindful that this is a time for grace, to help others and to break down division and build unity, Bishop Schol said in his sermon Tuesday, “There can be no courage without fear” as he embraced resiliency and the powers of God within us. “Embrace your fears,” he said.
You can watch and share videos of both days of Annual Conference here.
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