Annual Conference 2019 Reflections
This past week was our Annual Conference Session for Greater New Jersey. Clergy and laity from each congregation gathered once again to commission and ordain clergy, approve next year’s budget, receive education and resources for ministry, and discuss other legislative items pertaining to the annual conference. This year, we also elected our clergy and lay delegates who will represent us at next year’s General Conference, where decisions will be made for the global denomination. This year, we commissioned and ordained 18 clergy, commissioned a missionary to service in Mongolia, and celebrated a baptism of a clergy couple’s baby. This year’s theme was Rooted, drawing inspiration from Jeremiah 17:8, “They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream.” In a turbulent time for our denomination, the bishop called us to stay rooted in our call and ministry.
In his remarks concerning the latest General Conference session on human sexuality, Bishop John Schol said GNJ is exploring new expressions of Methodism so we can continue to do the ministry we have been called to do. The most recent General Conference revealed that there is no global compromise that will work for everyone. But the bishop believes Annual Conferences can find a way forward given the relationships we have as congregations and clergy. GNJ has established a Way Forward Team made up of diverse persons on both sides of the issue to pave a way towards new expressions of Methodism that let progressive churches and traditional churches live out their ministry without hindrance. As he said in his episcopal address:
“I am not interested in changing a few paragraphs in The Book of Discipline and then call it a day. The Gospel demands more of us, of me and of you as leaders of the church of Jesus Christ. God is ready to do new things through us and while it will not look the same, it will be Wesleyan, it will be connectional, it will be transformative and it will turn the church outward.”
On the final day of conference, we were led in a training to focus on developing an outward mindset. When we approach contentious issues, we tend to view the other side as a problem, not as people. We focus on changing other’s minds when we have no control over them. Instead, an outward mindset invites us to see others as people, to focus on listening and learning over correcting as we seek to build relationships that are transformative. The old ways of debating and voting have not worked. But with the GNJ Way Forward Team, they are utilizing the outward mindset to pave a way forward as GNJ takes the lead in moving the denomination forward.
For more information about Annual Conference, you can find a recap on the conference website. All legislation and details of the conference will be included in the Conference Journal that will be published later this year and available in the church office or online on the conference website. If you have any questions, please feel free to talk to me or our Lay Member to Conference, Bob Sterling.
One final note: since conference has passed I can officially announce that I will once again be your pastor for another year. Ashley and I are glad to be here in Freehold and in ministry with you all. I pray this is the end of the first of many years in ministry together. Thank you.
Rev. Wil Wilson