We Belong Together: 2024 Annual Conference Summary

May 23, 2024 |

Check out the 2024 GNJ Annual Conference Wrap-Up Video! Relive the highlights, the powerful moments, and the inspiring messages. Click above to watch the full video and download it to share with your church this Sunday.

Click here to access the full gallery of photos from Annual Conference that you can also share in your church presentation. 

Click here to access the playlist of videos that premiered at the Annual Conference, along with the livestream recordings of the sessions. Each video has a vimeo link in its description where you can download the video to share with your church.


The Greater New Jersey Annual Conference, May 19-21, at Wildwoods Convention Center, began and ended in sacramental worship, from the remembrance of baptism that inaugurated the inspiring Service of Commissioning and Ordination to the closing service of Holy Communion.

Amid colorful worship pageantry, diverse, spirited music and a robed procession, nine clergy members were ordained and commissioned to full and provisional membership, respectively, and two had their elder orders from the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico accepted. The evening ceremony recognized the well-earned accomplishments of all 11 after their years of enduring preparation.

©2024 Shari DeAngelo

Ordained as full elders were: Nicole Catherine Hamilton, Joseph Jueng, Eunkyong Kim, Sunghyuk Kim, Sooah Na Laura Quackenbush-Steele, Jesse Scott Ruch Jr. and Vanessa Wilson.  Commissioned as provisional members preparing for ordained ministry were: Timothy Andrew Conaway and Tayler Morgan Necoechea.

Ordained as a full deacon was Jamie Jimin Youm Min. And receiving recognition of their orders as full elders were: Guillermo Javier Barroso-Rodríguez and Jason David Ríos Ramos.

Bishop John Schol preached from the conference them, Belong, from Romans 12:5. He urged the church to reject society’s misguided demands that people first become and believe alike before they are allowed to belong.“You have to do what Jesus says: first invite and engage others to belong, then help them grow to believe, and then they can become the disciples God is calling them to be.”

Schol also delivered an expansive episcopal address, recalling many challenges, opportunities and accomplishments in his 12 years of leading GNJ and extoling many leaders and members who made ministry happen. “Our ministry could not be possible without you, our clergy and lay leadership. Our mission is only as strong as the ministry and mission of our local congregations, who are the mission outpost of The United Methodist Church. Thank you for all you do each and every week to serve God, serve the church, and serve the world.”

GNJ approves collaboration with EPA

The Greater New Jersey Annual Conference, meeting May 19-21 at Wildwoods Convention Center, approved a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to extend its 18-month-old collaborative partnership with the Eastern PA Conference.

The MOU resolution passed May 20 by about a 75 percent margin. It was later considered and approved by a 74 percent margin by the EPA Annual Conference May 22.

The MOU formalizes the groundbreaking partnership that elected committees, leaders and staff of the two conferences have been working together to develop for a year and a half. The historic proposal, presented by both conferences’ Connectional Table chairpersons—the Rev. Iraida Ruiz De Porras of GNJ and Lenora Thompson of EPA—with additional comments by Council on Finance & Administration chairperson Vasanth Victor, will further efforts at collaborative decision-making, staffing, budgeting and ministry.

The presenters assured conference members that the MOU is not legally binding and is an “iterative” plan that may be adjusted as needed and will be reviewed and updated by both elected conference leaders and future conference sessions. The MOU also allows for adaptation if the Northeastern Jurisdiction in July creates new conference alignments and episcopal assignments.

The GNJ conference also approved an adjusted 2023 Strategic Direction proposal referred back to the Cabinet in 2023 for further, collaborative development with the Connectional Table. The conference heard a Strategic Direction progress report of increasing growth and vitality among congregations, reflected in the development of their worship life, small groups, mission outreach engagement, financial stewardship and disciple-making efforts.

Also affirmed was progress made in meeting GNJ’s strategic ministry initiatives in leadership development and diversity, and progress made in “ending the sin of racism,” while strengthening racial-ethnic congregations.

Greater New Jersey exceeds For Tanzania Campaign goal

Annual Conference viewed compelling videos throughout the session that highlighted “The Culture of the Call” (in two parts), the IGNITE youth conference and the For Tanzania fundraising campaign to fund payment of livable wages for pastors and the building of Bamia United Methodist Church in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. A For Tanzania offering raised $24,373 in donations brought by churches and given onsite. That total brings the campaign’s total giving to about $110,000, exceeding the $100,000 goal.

New sexual misconduct, abuse policies

Among two dozen Annual Conference resolutions, the conference also approved new policies to prevent and respond to sexual misconduct and abuse, including an update to GNJ’s sexual ethics policy, with new definitions and information on ministerial relationships and forms of sexual misconduct.

The conference created a Sexual Misconduct Response Team (SMRT) to assist individuals and churches when sexual misconduct is discovered. It calls for recruitment, screening, training and deployment of diverse team members, plus trauma-informed care for victims. But the response team would not be involved in any judicial or disciplinary processes.

Also approved were two resolutions to clarify and improve the “A Safer GNJ” policy adopted by the 2023 Annual Conference. GNJ’sConnectional Table and COSROW are asked to co-create an online assistance portal for “victims and survivors of sexual abuse perpetrated by GNJ laity leaders and clergy members to come forward so they may get the help they need, and perpetrators may be called to account.”

©2024 Shari DeAngelo

Clergy Transitions, Episcopal Nominations, General Conference Report

The Rev. Ronell Howard, Central District Superintendent, preached powerfully on “Remember Me” for the Service of Remembrance to honor recently deceased clergy and clergy spouses and their surviving families. The conference also honored 20 clergy retirees who passed the mantle of ministerial service on to new ordinands and commissionees, in the annual Service of Passage with Anointing.

The conference endorsed two GNJ district superintendents as candidates for election to bishop at the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference in July. The Revs. Sang Won Doh of the Raritan Shore District and William Williams III of the Meadowlands District are also both regional team leaders. They each received sufficient votes, as the conference session declined the GNJ General and Jurisdictional Conference delegation’s recommendation that no candidates be endorsed.

Members of GNJ’s General and Jurisdictional Conference delegation reported on their experiences at and personal impressions of the postponed 2020/2024 General Conference, April 23-May 3, in  Charlotte, N.C. They highlighted key legislation passed by the quadrennial assembly, including:

  • Regionalization of the global denomination to be more contextual in different regions served by the church.
  • Removal of discriminatory language and restrictions related to ministry by, with and for “self-avowed practicing” gay and lesbian people.
  • A decrease in the apportionment percentage assigned to churches for support of connectional ministry.
  • A 2025-2028 budget of $373.4 million, about 40 percent less than the current budget passed in 2016.
  • The first full revision of the denomination’s Social Principles in nearly 50 years.
  • An end to the temporary church disaffiliation policy passed by the special 2019 General Conference and a mandate that annual conferences develop “grace-filled policies for reaffiliation of churches that want to rejoin the denomination.”
  • Extension of sacramental authority to ordained deacons, allowing them to celebrate baptism and communion where appropriate.
  • Approval of a new retirement plan for U.S. clergy, called Compass, that includes a defined contribution plan similar to what many corporate employers provide. The plan takes effect in 2026.
  • Approval of a full communion agreement with the Episcopal Church, pending the Episcopal Church’s approval when its legislative assembly meets in June.
  • Approval of two constitutional amendments that address our commitment to eradicating racism and that include “gender” and “ability” among the attributes that should not impede full participation in the life of any congregation.
  • Approval of an apology to victims and survivors of sexual misconduct by clergy and lay leaders in the church. The resolution also encourages the reporting of sexual abuse and states that the abuse of power will not be tolerated in the church.

The General Conference asked bishops to read the apology aloud to their annual conferences, which Bishop Schol did during this week’s session.

The conference also enjoyed a festive moment when the six district superintendents read a long list of new pastoral appointments. The incoming pastors and their future lay members to conference marched forward to music and cheers and joined Bishop Schol for group photographs.

In other actions, the body approved:

  • Changes in the bylaws of “A Future with Hope, Inc.”
  • Leadership nominations for conference and district boards and committees for 2024-2028.
  • Updates to the conference Safe Sanctuaries policies.
  • Minimum standards and responsibilities for maintaining church-owned parsonages.
  • A clergy salary arrearage policy.
  • 2025 Pension and Health Benefit policies and rates.
  • Discontinuation of five closed churches.
  • The 2025 budget, clergy pensions and health insurance benefits, Minimum Equitable Salary, 10 Conference Advance Specials, and enabling and approving actions taken by the Conference Board of Trustees.