#kac2022 Day 1: Christ’s love stands as a shining example, Bishop Fairley says

June 06, 2022
By Alan Wild

OWENSBORO, Kentucky – Jesus’ instruction chronicled in John 12:12 – “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” – is the best witness we can give for Christ’s love and grace, Bishop Leonard Fairley said during the Opening Worship Service on Monday, June 6, at the 2022 Annual Conference.

“Please note that this is not a suggestion: In the strongest terms possible, Jesus makes it a command. It’s not optional,” Fairley said during his sermon.

The first day of Annual Conference also saw Fairley call for a special called Annual Conference to be held later this year to consider matters concerning churches that wish to disaffiliate from the United Methodist Church. (More details below.)

Opening worship

Annual Conference opened with a video featuring Fairley with “John Wesley,” portrayed by Rev. Craig Taylor, Pastor of Scottsville First UMC. Taylor, who also portrayed Methodism’s founder at the 2017 Annual Conference in Bowling Green, is making appearances periodically, both live and by video, during the three-day Annual Conference.

Fairley’s sermon was titled ”See How They Love Each Other.” The title is an extension of this year’s Annual Conference theme, “Growing in the Love of Jesus.”

“What will the world see of us in these days?” Fairley asked. “What will they see of us in this, our first in-person Annual Conference since COVID-19 wreaked such havoc, death, and sickness among us? It is my prayer that the world will see in our holy conferencing, our Christian conferencing, a people not geared up with hearts of war, but of peace.

“It is my prayer that the world will witness our growth in the love of God in the words of John Wesley, when he says: ‘Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?  May we not be of one heart, though not of one opinion?  Without doubt, we may.  Herein all the children of God may unite, notwithstanding these smaller differences.’ “

Fairley cited Christ’s command in Matthew 25 for his people to be “forever committed to feeding the hungry; clothing the naked; offering the love, peace, hope, grace, and salvation found in Christ.”

He lamented that the world appears to have forgotten how to love: “If you do not believe me, just go on Facebook or any social media platform … and you will find rhetoric of such vitriolic hatred that it will make you weep, and some of it will turn your stomach.”

He alluded to his work as Bishop: He said that if he focuses on being Christ-centered, he is painted politically with a red brush stroke, while focusing on being a United Methodist Bishop gets him painted with a blue brush stroke, while anything in between ends up painting him with a purple brush stroke.

He is not blue, red, or purple, he emphasized, to applause.

“Sisters and brothers in Christ, there should never be any form of extremism – where there is self-righteousness, where there is social activism, where there is prophetic witness, evangelical fervor, or any bumper sticker, hashtag, or social media post – that is so desperate that you must get your way that no tactic, no meanness, no betrayal of love or friendship or harm is too great a cost,” Fairley said.

After his message, which was punctuated by applause several times, Fairley presided over Holy Communion.

Laity session

The Board of Laity, co-chaired by Jonna Carter and John Denham, included a series of procedural questions about the current denominational debates, including how churches can disaffiliate. Different district lay leaders took turns speaking.

A list of resources helping to explore various issues has been compiled and is available under the Resources tab on the Conference website, www.kyumc.org, they said. They also announced that a Zoom webinar for anyone interested will take place Thursday, July 14, at 7 p.m. EDT to continue the discussion. Information on how and where to register will be forthcoming.

Special called Annual Conference

During the afternoon plenary, Fairley said he intends to call a special session of the Annual Conference to address churches wishing to disaffiliate. The plan is for it to be held online, he said. A proposed date was not given Monday.

He announced his intention after a short video on behalf of the Bishop’s Operational Team stressing how to have holy conversations around difficult topics. It chronicled the planning of a worship service of clergy held in early May organized by a small group reflecting various viewpoints on social issues. (An article on that worship service can be found here.)

Fairley also updated members on recent Judicial Council decisions, including the possible departure of annual conferences from the UMC. The Judicial Council recently ruled that it cannot happen until approved by the General Conference, which has been postponed until 2024.

Other items:
  • Rev. David Garvin, the Conference Treasurer, and Kim Keller, Chair of the Council on Finance and Administration, presented first reading of the 2023 budget. The $6.4 million budget is roughly identical to the 2022 budget, they said, and churches’ apportionment (Our Missional Covenant) remains at 10%. The 2023 proposal shifts some allocations, including more money for youth and higher education programs, as well as camps. It also includes a 3% raise for Conference staff, as well as 3% more for health insurance coverage.
  • Rev. William Moore, Director of Connectional Ministries, presented the Nominations Committee report for first reading. Teams are elected every four years, but updates are done in intervening years, such as this year, he said. The formal vote to approve the team and committee updates will be Wednesday.
  • Jonna Carter, the Conference’s co-Lay Leader, presented an update on the proposed addition of a full-time Associate Director for African American Churches. A task team helped to write a job description, which was approved by the Personnel Committee. “There is energy, passion and commitment around completing this work,” Carter said.
  • Rev. Derek Robinette, Senior Pastor at Crestwood who oversees the Conference’s Isaiah Project, presented this summer’s interns, Emma Baker, serving at Onton; Kaleb Cunningham, serving at Crestwood; and Will Lovell, serving at Danville Centenary.
Service of Ordination and Commissioning

Lawson Bryan, retired Bishop of the South Georgia Conference now serving as a Bishop in Residence at a Montgomery, Alabama, church, preached the sermon, titled “The What, How and Why of Ministry.”

Much of his focus was on tending the flock – the work of shepherds. Beyond book learning, the Holy Spirit will be especially instructive, Bryan said. “The Holy Spirit catches us,” he said, adding that clergy can also learn much from their flock.

“Being with our people can help us grow, is the point,” Bryan said. It doesn’t matter if we are extrovert or introvert; whoever you are is the person God called, he added.

Ordained as Elders in Full Connection during the service were:
  • Thomas Brown, who serves as Senior Pastor at Prairie Village/Cooper Memorial in Louisville.
  • Sarah-Kate Cox, who serves as Senior Pastor at Morganfield First.
  • Peter Han, who serves at Bowman Memorial/Lothair in Hazard.
  • Daniel Henson, who serves as Pastor of Manchester First and Beech Creek in Manchester.
  • Christopher Lewis, who serves as Associate Pastor at First UMC in Hopkinsville.
Commissioned as Provisional Elders were:
  • Carol Cooper, who serves as Associate Pastor at First UMC’s Downtown Lexington Campus.
  • Joseph Cox, who serves as Pastor at Morganfield First and Cairo in Owensboro.
  • Kathleen Halpin, who serves as Associate Pastor at Georgetown First.
  • Megann Nyman, who serves as Pastor at Bedford in Trimble County and Mt. Tabor in Crestwood.
  • LeTicia Williams-Preacely, who serves at Duncan Chapel in Lexington and has been appointed Southern Hills Campus Pastor at The Source.
  • Jae Yoon, who serves as Assistant Pastor at All Nations in Nicholasville.
Commissioned as Provisional Deacon was:
  • Kyle Long, who serves as Chaplain at Baptist Health Deaconess in Madisonville.
Tuesday’s highlights
  • The Memorial Service with Holy Communion for clergy and spouses will take place during the morning session, which begins at 9 CDT.
  • The Mission Celebration will take place during the afternoon session, which begins at 2:30 CDT.
  • The Celebration on the Riverfront, featuring food trucks and bluegrass bands, will be at 5 p.m. CDT.
Annual Conference is being livestreamed in its entirely on both the Conference website and on the Conference’s Facebook Live page.  GNTV is again serving as the Conference’s multimedia ministry partner.