The Kentucky Annual Conference was held in Covington, Kentucky on June 3-6. The theme of this year’s Annual Conference was “Called by Christ, Sent by The Spirit: Effective Leaders.”
Bishop Lindsey Davis, Resident Bishop of the Louisville Area, presided over his first Annual Conference as our new Bishop. Bishop Davis was formerly a clergyperson in Kentucky, prior to becoming a bishop 13 years ago.
Bishop Davis spoke during the combined Opening Worship and Service of Remembrance on Wednesday afternoon. The Chapel Hill UMC Praise Band led Conference members in songs of praise and worship, and the Maysville Scott UMC Choir, under the direction of Rose Nelson, sang the anthem. Bishop Davis’ message for the afternoon was titled “Written on Our Hearts by the Spirit.” The message recounted the many different ways the 34 clergy and spouses being honored had answered the call of the Spirit in service to Christ and His church. Holy Communion concluded the service, which was followed by the organizational session.
Later that evening, Bishop Michael Coyner, Episcopal Leader of the Indiana Area, preached at the Service of Commissioning and Ordination. During the service, five candidates were commissioned as provisional members on the Elder track: Loletuth Flener, John Kalz, Brian Langlands, Rosario Picardo, and Matthew Seel. Two others, John Losey and Peggy Smith, were received as Associate Members. Kaye Bizzell, Sarah Holsinger-Friesen, Kenneth Lewis, Drew McNeill, Debra Massengale, and Cinda Swan were ordained as Deacons in full connection. Those ordained as Elders in full connection were Philip Bradley, Brian Ebel, Rebecca Heid, John Hill, Dwight Hughes, Esther Jadhav, Neil Janes, Kenneth Klemme, Michael McAllister, William Moore Jr., Sandra Murphree, Todd Nelson, Faron Owen, and Scott Stith. Bishop Coyner’s message told the story of a young girl who wanted to sing at her grandfather’s funeral. After singing the first verse, she found herself unable to complete the chorus. The people in attendance at the funeral took up the song there, and the girl was able to compose herself enough to sing the next verse, with the congregation joining in to sing the chorus again. Bishop Coyner said the church is called to “Finish the Song,” to continue the story that Jesus began. Sometimes leaders in the church—both clergy and laity—need help from others to do so.
Thursday began with a time of devotion and a Bible study, titled “The Calling of Moses,” led by Rev. Rick Bard. Rev. Bard talked about change and how as leaders we all change through time and are called to help others change. After Bible study, legislative committees were convened to hear and discuss reports from various committees and agencies related to the Conference. In the Retirement Celebration Thursday afternoon, the Conference paid tribute to seven clergy members who are retiring from active ministry. During the celebration, two members of the retiring class and two members of the newly ordained class participated in a passing of the mantle ceremony, representative of the transferring of the responsibilities and dedication of the older generation to a newer generation.
During the afternoon plenary session, Michael Morrissey and Sherri Tabaka-Morrissey, missionaries to Thailand, were introduced and were asked to deliver the opening prayer. The order of the day was discussion and voting on the 32 constitutional amendments set forth from the 2008 General Conference. A majority of those casting ballots voted in favor of Amendments 8, 9, 19, and 22. To be ratified, an amendment must receive two-thirds of the total votes of the laity and clergy members voting at their respective annual conference sessions throughout the United Methodist connection. The Kentucky Conference’s results will be submitted to the general church for tabulation with the other annual conferences to come to an aggregate total.
Thursday evening, Conference members enjoyed a free night. There were two service opportunities: “Cookout for Covington” at Immanuel UMC’s Grace Campus in downtown Covington and “A Child’s Own Book” distribution at Ida Spence Mission.
The Friday morning Bible study was led by Rev. Dr. Debbie Wallace-Padgett, who taught about the Holy Spirit’s sending action. This sending action begins by positioning us in the right direction and then continues with the right timing; you will learn that if you are being sent by God, the timing of your message will be perfect for those who hear it. Finally, the Holy Spirit sends us forth for the right reason—to serve. Dr. Wallace-Padgett states that “The Holy Spirit’s action results in both the big and also the routine service opportunities” and we must be willing to capitalize on those opportunities. Following Bible study, the morning plenary sessions continued with legislative committee reports. In one item of special note, Michael Watts, conference treasurer, read a complimentary letter from the General Conference for the Kentucky Conference being one of 17 conferences to pay 100% of our apportionments (3 of which were in the Southeastern Jurisdiction). Also throughout the day, churches and individuals were recognized for their ministries.
Friday evening at the Mission and Ministry Celebration, Bishop Coyner’s sermon was “Open Doors Swing Both Ways.” He shared stories of churches that are examples of Bishop Robert Schnase’s “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations”: Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission & Service, and Extravagant Generosity. One church, which represented all of the practices, went from nearly closing to renewal, with ministries that help children from their neighborhood, dinners that serve food to the poor, and worship that welcomes about 100 people weekly. As the church, we are called not only to welcome people in but also to go out through those open doors to serve. The mission offering totaled over $47,500 designated for the Central Conference Pension Initiative (CCPI), a long-term effort to provide financial security in retirement for retirees and their spouses in conferences outside the U.S. Music for Mission and Ministry night was provided by the Lexington United Methodist Korean Choir.
Closing day, Saturday, began with Bible study led by Rev. Dr. Tamara Brown. In her Bible study, titled “Leading Like a Shepherd,” Dr. Brown reminded us that if we are called and sent to a group, we are to be as shepherds tending a flock. Leaders, both clergy and laity, are to keep the flock safe, correct the flock as needed, keep the flock free from pests and other things that will distract them, keep them well fed, and be encouraging. If Shepherd Leaders are able to accomplish those things, they will garner the trust of the flock and be able to lead where Christ is sending them.
The 2009 session of Annual Conference concluded with the closing plenary where Conference members approved the 2009 budget and heard the report from the Task Force on Uniting Principles and District Line. Bishop Davis also set the appointments for the upcoming year.
Membership in the Kentucky Annual Conference stands at 152,498 people, up 484 people from the previous year. Average worship attendance stands at 58,392 people, down 418 people from the previous year. Sunday school attendance stands at 29,170 down 1,596 people from the previous year, while attendance in other Christian formation groups (small groups) stands at 16,342 up 1,809 from the previous year.