Recap: 2021 Annual Conference – Forward

May 26, 2021

More than 1,500 gathered May 24 and 25 for the 2021 Annual Conference Session – Forward. Proverbs 3:6 shaped the conference sessions as the conversations, actions and worship trusted God for our path forward.

Episcopal Address
In his opening address, Bishop Schol encouraged everyone to find something to celebrate, as he shared a lesson he learned from a rabbi named Jonathan Sacks. “Celebration reflects an attitude of gratitude to God and others and gives thanks for what we have, instead of looking to what is next. Celebration also changes things,” said Schol.

Bishop John Schol invited United Methodists to celebrate our way forward. His address celebrated GNJ clergy, laity, the lay certified ministry and the 65th celebration of when women were given full clergy rights in the Methodist Church. From discipleship at any age to clergy paying it forward to help the underserved, Schol celebrated the wonderful ministries at GNJ and the people who infuse vitality into local churches.

“We have more ministries than we can celebrate, but the one that’s impacting people’s lives in these ever-changing and challenging times, is the Hospitality Ministry,” said Schol who recognized churches who are feeding the homeless, caring for the marginalized and making masks to keep those in their communities safe.

Amid the challenges are signs of hope, said Schol who is looking forward to working together to end the sin of racism and building congregational vitality through A Journey of Hope and a rebirth of worship and ministry following the pandemic.

In celebration of our similarities and differences, Schol said, “We are a holy communion of different races, ethnicities, cultures, and perspectives united by the Holy Spirit, driven by the mission of Christ, and bearing the good news of an unmerited grace that changes lives and transforms communities.”

To view the entire address, visit here.

A Journey of Hope
Amid a pathway of collaboration and insight, A Journey of Hope moves forward with the selection of the consultant, Fearless Dialogues, who will equip 150 leaders to lead the project into the next phase of providing training support to our churches as we grow our vitality and engage in the community, we will work together to end the sin of racism.

The conference passed legislation to strengthen A Journey of Hope–ensuring equity, ensuring congregations in low income communities are apportioned shared ministry at a reduced amount and ensuring that all congregations are treated the same regardless of their shared ministry.

GNJ looks forward to building congregational vitality and helping churches create their own plans as we work toward ending the sin of racism!

Read A Journey of Hope and legislation here, where you will find more details about ACT, which calls us to act by creating compelling Aspirations to end the sin of racism, deepening Comprehension and understanding of racism and how to end racism, and Transform the church into a vital and dynamic witness of God’s grace through Jesus Christ and live out our baptismal vows.

Other Legislation

On Monday, we passed legislation related to the Trustee Enabling Resolutions, which gives the Board of Trustees the authority to carry out its work, set minimum salaries for clergy and approved 11 advance specials for mission and ministry in the community.

The GNJ Designated Fund Policies was postponed to the adjourned session, October 14, 2021, when the financial and property sales reports will be provided.

On Tuesday, we added new legislation in response to the sexist clause found in the United Methodist Men report in the Preconference Journal. Following testimonies from some of our clergywomen and a vote of 498-23, that language has been removed from the report. To view the presentation of the new legislation presented by Rev. Iraida Ruiz De Porras, Commission on Status and Role of Women chairperson, and senior pastor, Christ UMC in Lakewood, click here.

CFA Chair Vasanth Victor shared with us that billing collections this year are up 29% over 2020, and that our churches have received about $5.9 million in PPP funding in 2021. He also reiterated that vigilant efforts would continue to be made toward budget control and oversight.

Also passed on Tuesday was Intersectional Peace with Justice legislation from the United Methodist Women as presented by GNJ UMW President Sue Zahorbenski to “work for justice through compassionate service and advocacy to change unfair policies and systems” and “provide educational experiences that lead to personal change in order to transform the world.”

The legislation, making the Educational Society of the GNJAC a subcommittee of the Board of Higher Education and Ministry, passed. The Educational Society has provided financial help through scholarships and loans to students pursuing ministry in the former Southern New Jersey Annual Conference and the GNJAC since at least 1863.

At the Service of Passage on Monday we celebrated the ministries of 22 clergy who retired, including Palisades District Superintendent Rev. Dr. Gina Kim who has faithfully served God full time for 30 years as youth pastor, associate pastor, senior pastor and district superintendent. Her farewell service is Tuesday, June 1 at 7:00 p.m. at Korean Community Church.

On Tuesday, Rev. Kim called on everyone to “tap into the reservoir of the power of the Holy Spirit,” and Bishop Schol encouraged us to narrow our paths and focus more on clarity, play and loving and nurturing each other to become closer to God.

GNJ commissioned and ordained 13 clergy, which consisted of Bridget Galvin as a provisional deacon; David Ledford, Jaemyoung James Lee, Joshua Shuster and JiSun Yang as ordained elders; and Brendan Galvin, Elouise Hill-Challenger, Eunkyong Kim, Geralda Aldajuste, Hyunsook Song, Hyun Woo Kim, Laura Steele and Tiffany Murphy as commissioned.

The service was graced by two powerful testimonies from Laura and James who shared with us the circuitous journeys that brought them to this place and how they listened to the voice of God.

Miracles Everywhere

The people of GNJ, including our miracle maker, Rev. Donald Kirschner, celebrated Miracles Everywhere, a mission that is gearing up for a strong end this December. When the pandemic shook our world, you listened and you acted to provide stability to those who needed it most. Today, we thank you for your dedication, compassion and generosity. But those people still need our help-for some, the need is even greater. Your donation, no matter how small, will sustain this wonderful mission to help others live fruitful lives and will provide a pathway for young and old alike.