The Vision
The Newspaper of The New York Conference of The United Methodist Church March 2019

In this issue


Letter from the Bishop About GC2019
Bishop Bickerton with members of the NYAC in St. Louis for the 2019 General Conference.

1But now thus says the Lord,
  (the One) who created you, O Jacob,
  (the One) who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
  I have called you by name, you are mine.
2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;  and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. . . .
4Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, . . .

(Isaiah 43: 1–2, 4a)

 February 28, 2019

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I greet you in the precious name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The special called session of the General Conference has concluded with results that have confirmed the divisions and disagreements that exist within our church. By a vote of 438 to 384, the General Conference voted to support the Traditional Plan, which maintains and strengthens the current stance of our Book of Discipline. This decision has left some confused and disheartened, while others feel affirmed by this direction.

Much of the plan passed has already been ruled “unconstitutional” and not in compliance with our Book of Discipline. The entire Traditional Plan has been referred to our Judicial Council for a complete review. In addition, a plan to allow churches to disaffiliate with The United Methodist Church was passed. It too has been referred to the Judicial Council to determine whether or not it is compliant with the provisions of our Book of Discipline. The Judicial Council will be meeting April 23–25 to determine the outcome of these decisions. 

Some provisions of the approved plan maintain the current stance of the church while increasing accountability around issues related to same sex marriage and the ordination of LGBTQIA persons. It will take some time to determine which sections of this plan will become a part of our discipline and order. I will outline each of these decisions at our special called session of the Annual Conference on March 16. The purpose of that gathering is to provide clarity and information on these matters.

I want to acknowledge the faithful and hard work of those who were elected as your delegates to this Special Session. They were faithful to their convictions and maintained their integrity throughout the difficult moments of this conference. They, along with the gallery of concerned persons from the New York Conference, bore witness to the love of God and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by their prayers, their presence, their gifts, their service and, most especially, their witness.

The passage of the Traditional Plan has caused a great deal of pain and harm to many on both sides of the dialogue. It will require each of us to continue to listen deeply to one another and to work hard to model a spirit of Christian love. The vote at the Special Session was close (53 percent in favor of the Traditional Plan and 47 percent against). The results demonstrate that we need to be especially mindful of one another during this vulnerable and tender time in the life of our church and in the lives of all of our people. The New York Conference is a very diverse body of people with many distinct viewpoints. Yet, we have been able over the years to demonstrate how people from many walks and understandings of life can dwell together in ministry. We need to continue to witness to this fact as we navigate through these days of uncertainty.

What enables us to do this, in fact, are the words from the prophet in the book of Isaiah. The reminders of the prophet are clear: you and I are created, formed, redeemed, and known by our creator God. We are not abandoned when times are difficult. Rather, God is with us, all of us, because we are precious in the sight of God, honored and loved.

I want to offer a special word to those in the LGBTQIA community. The decisions of this Special Session have indeed made you feel as if you were erased and are unimportant. You were the subject of a conversation that has caused a deepened sense of alienation and harm within you. I want you to know that although you may not feel welcomed completely at the table, you are deeply loved and supported by many. You are precious in the sight of God and honored by me and by many who share the journey of life and ministry with you. That posture of love and grace does not change because of a decision at the General Conference. As we continue to work for the full inclusion of LGBTQIA persons in the life of our church, we will continue to love and support you each step of the journey.

I want you to envision a vine emerging from the soil. Now envision another vine that emerges next to it. Over time the two vines become entwined. As the vines grow the branches become so woven together that you cannot tell which branch belongs to what vine. If someone comes along to prune the vines, in all likelihood both vines will experience hurt in process. If someone comes along to fertilize the branches, both parts will be strengthened by the nourishment provided.

Friends, even though we continue to find disagreement and division in our church, we have been woven together for a very long time. Our lives have been and continue to be intertwined because of the mutual ministry we share. The Apostle Paul said it best when he wrote to the church in Corinth, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” (1 Corinthians 12:26)

This interweaving of our lives as United Methodist Christians means that we must exercise great love for one another for the sake of our public witness, for the preservation of the mission of the church to offer Christ to the world, and for the care we need to show for one another. Please remember today that there are members of our body who are suffering, confused, and feeling very much alone. Beloved, regardless of the decisions made, regardless of what position you take, let us do all we can to love one another in these days of uncertainty.

The road in front of us will be challenging and difficult. But in the midst of those challenges, I pledge to walk with each of you every step of that journey. The New York Conference is a beautiful example of the body of Christ and I am so deeply blessed to be a part of your lives. We are in this together and we will find our way together as we seek to remain open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our midst.

Remember today that each of you are thought of, prayed for, and loved.

The Journey Continues, . . .

Peace & Blessings,

Thomas J. Bickerton

Resident Bishop

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton chats with the NYAC delegation after the first day of work on February 24.

GC2019 Maps an Uncertain Way Forward
The bishops, above, came out of their chairs to meet delegates in a prayer before the final vote on the Traditional Plan; below right, young adults surround a delegate pleading for passage of the One Church Plan.

By UMNS with Local Reporting

Beneath the Arch that symbolizes the U.S. Gateway to the West, more than 820 General Conference delegates worked to open a gateway in the denomination’s longtime homosexuality debate.

But after four days of prayers, speeches, protests, and votes, it remains to be seen whether the United Methodist Church has found a way forward or remains stuck.

“It was our aspiration that we would find a way forward beyond our impasse. That was to try to really listen to people and listen to their values and understand them as people, rather than issues,” Bishop Kenneth H. Carter, president of the Council of Bishops, said in a press conference after General Conference adjourned.

“I will simply say we have work to do. We did not accomplish that.”

Bottom line: More than 53 percent of the multinational denomination’s top lawmaking body supported the Traditional Plan that reinforces the church’s bans on same-gender unions and “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy.

Still uncertain is how much of the legislation will take effect—or whether it will change the dynamic in places where a number of United Methodists, including entire annual conferences, openly defy these rules.

Late afternoon February 26, delegates requested a declaratory decision by the Judicial Council on the constitutionality of the Traditional Plan. On March 6, it was announced that the Council of Bishops (COB) also asked the council for a declaratory decision as to the constitutionality of a “disaffiliation” plan that had also been approved by the plenary. The constitutionality of Petition 90066, “Disaffiliation of Local Churches Over Issues Related to Human Sexuality,” was questioned because it omitted the annual conference as the body ratifying a local church vote to change affiliation.

The denomination’s top court will address these requests at its next scheduled meeting April 23–25 in Evanston, Ill. That meeting will be the Judicial Council’s third review of the legislation to see if it is in line with the denomination’s constitution.

Rev. Gary Graves, secretary of General Conference, said any piece of legislation that the Judicial Council declares unconstitutional would not be included in the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s policy book.

In October, the Judicial Council—in a unanimous ruling—found seven of 17 petitions unconstitutional and identified unconstitutional portions in two others. It ruled eight petitions constitutional.

After some amendments to the plan, the General Conference on February 25 asked the Judicial Council to review the legislation again. Early on February 26, delegates learned the court—citing the same constitutional issues as before—ruled seven of the petitions unconstitutional and identified an unconstitutional sentence in another.

In the afternoon, plan supporters amended some of the legislation again but didn’t address all the previously identified constitutional issues.

The final Traditional Plan legislative package did not include two petitions because they had not been moved forward by the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters, the first stop for legislation that affects church regions in Africa, Europe and the Philippines.

One of the petitions not included in the final package could have been far-reaching, requiring annual conferences to certify they would uphold the marriage and ordination prohibitions or leave the denomination.

The parts of the Traditional Plan that the Judicial Council has held constitutional include an augmented definition of “self-avowed practicing homosexual,” to say it includes people “living in a same-sex marriage, domestic partnership or civil union or is a person who publicly states she or he is a practicing homosexual.”

Also previously held to be constitutional is legislation that sets a minimum penalty for clergy performing a same-sex wedding of one year’s suspension without pay for the first offense and loss of credentials for the second.

Regardless of what the Judicial Council does, no one left General Conference feeling happy with what happened.

Rev. Wellington Chiomadzi, a Zimbabwean student at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois, worried after the plan passed what the vote would mean for relationships across the international church.

Voting is by secret ballot, but it was clear from floor-vote speeches that tallies reflected regional differences.

“The decisions will have a big impact on the future of the church,” Chiomadzi said. “I am not sure relationships across the church are going to be the same after this. I am very anxious.”

Through public witness, prayers, chants, and songs, many LGBTQIA United Methodists and their allies expressed a sense of anguish.

“Each day was filled with the promise of God’s love, and the disappointment and pain that resulted when it was demonstrated by some delegates who were more interested in having their way, than caring for the rights of our LGBTQIA+ siblings,” said NYAC delegate, Fred Brewington, in an email. “What I know, is that the struggle for full inclusion is worth every hour, minute and second we can invest.”

His fellow delegate, Rev. Alex da Silva Souto, lamented the pain that was experienced.

 

“Suffice it to say, today we witnessed a modern-day crucifixion,” wrote da Silva Souto, a co-author of the Simple Plan. “But, we are not a Good Friday people. We are an Easter people . . . We will continue resurrecting, just as our savior did . . . It is not death, but resurrection that will have the final word.”

Also unknown is how many disheartened United Methodists will make their way to the exits.

The last piece of legislation General Conference approved was an amended version of a petition that allows churches, with limitations, to leave the denomination with their property. The Judicial Council ruled a previous iteration of the legislation unconstitutional but the new version is not, at this point, up for court review.

Just before General Conference ended, the Rev. Donna Pritchard, delegate from the Oregon-Idaho Conference, proclaimed the Western Jurisdiction was not going anywhere and would remain on its path of inclusion.

“The Western Jurisdiction intends to continue to be one church, fully inclusive and open to all God’s children across the theological and social spectrum,” Pritchard said as other delegates from across the jurisdiction stood beside her. Following the conference, the Western Jurisdiction’s bishops released a video, “A Home for All God’s People,” reiterating that stance.

The jurisdiction elected Bishop Karen Oliveto, the denomination’s first openly gay bishop and leader of the Mountain Sky Conference.

Rev. Jeff Greenway, chair of the Wesleyan Covenant Association that lobbied hard for the Traditional and Modified Traditional plans, worried that the plan as it stands “has no teeth.”

“There’s little likelihood of accountability, which means people all around the church are increasingly frustrated,” he said.

The Wesleyan Covenant Association’s leadership council held a meeting February 27–28 to determine next steps, which could include calling an April 25–26 Convening Conference that would potentially start a new denomination.

This special General Conference—the first such off-year gathering in the denomination since 1970—came about after long tensions boiled over at the 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon.

That General Conference authorized the bishops to form the 32-member Commission on a Way Forward to find ways to help the church stay together—and to call a special General Conference to take up the commission’s proposals.

The Traditional Plan was among the plans to emerge from the commission’s work as did the One Church Plan, which would have left questions of marriage up to individual churches and clergy, and ordination up to conferences.

The One Church Plan had the backing of a majority of bishops and was affirmed by a majority of commission members. But the plan only had about 47 percent support from the delegates.

Although most of the delegates are the same as those who served in 2016, the New York Conference elected a new slate of delegates to give more LGBTQIA members a voice at the table. Out of the 16 delegates and reserves, seven self-identify as LGBTQIA. Eleven are persons of color.

As of October, the bishop-appointed commission had used 56.2 percent of its nearly $1.5 million budget. That does not include the commission’s participation in the special General Conference. The special General Conference itself cost about $3.6 million.

No matter what they feel about what transpired, many of those at General Conference were already looking to Sunday.

Even those in pain saw hope in the weekly worship timed to be a reminder of Christ’s resurrection.

Ben Weger, a transgender worship leader at Allendale United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg, Fla., said he expects to go to church on Sunday and have a time of lament.

“But I think there will also be joy because we already know who we are,” he said of his church, which identified as reconciling, meaning it advocates LGBTQ equality. “We are going to continue to be and build the church we have been called to.”

Bishop Carter, who also leads the Florida Conference, said he doesn’t take anybody’s participation in church for granted.

“The people who are my heroes,” he said, “are the people who have been hurt by the church and yet stay at the table.”

Reaction to GC2019 Remains Strong
Above, Matt Henson, a prayer room volunteer, creates a stained-glass wall out of prayers offered by those attending the 2019 General Conference; below right, the altar for the final day.

BY SAM HODGES AND KATHY L. GILBERT

UMNS | For the Rev. Matt Miofsky, the results of the special called General Conference weren’t what he’d hoped for and raised the question of whether his fast-growing church, The Gathering, should stay in The United Methodist Church.

Miofsky told his St. Louis congregation over the weekend after General Conference that he doesn’t yet have the answer.

“I want to wait for the dust to settle,” he said.

One week after the 2019 General Conference, the dust was still swirling. United Methodists of all perspectives on the question of how accepting the denomination should be of homosexuality continue to process what happened and what should come next.

Much of the thinking has been done out loud—through sermons, special church meetings, social media messages, blog posts and other written statements. Protests of the traditionalist direction of the General Conference have been widespread, as have been apologies to LGBTQIA people inside and outside the church.

Rev. Joe DiPaolo, pastor of First UMC in Lancaster, Penn., is part of the Wesleyan Covenant Association that successfully championed retaining and strengthening the denomination’s restrictions against ordination of gay clergy and same-sex unions.

But DiPaolo’s church is not all of one mind.

“I think I will lose some folks who are more progressive,” said DiPaolo, who issued a statement about the General Conference and held a church meeting to discuss the outcome. “Things are kind of raw.”

The Feb. 23–26 legislative gathering in St. Louis, called by bishops to deal with longstanding division over homosexuality, included passage of the Traditional Plan that retains restrictive language and policies. Defeated was the One Church Plan, backed by most bishops, that would have allowed U.S. churches and conferences flexibility to decide on same-sex unions and ordination of gay clergy.

The votes were close, and the results were muddied by the Judicial Council, the denomination’s high court, declaring some Traditional Plan provisions unconstitutional. The council will review the plan again next month.

But the split within the denomination—along with rancorous debate and political maneuvering—was clearly on display in a General Conference that received national media attention.

Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr., of the Great Plains Conference, was among those lamenting how the conference went.

“In our hands was the opportunity and authority to amplify and deepen our communion with each other and our mission in the world by helping each other realize our hopes while uniting with each other,” he said in a letter to his conference.

“Instead, we used our opportunity and authority to further constrain, abuse, and cut each other off. We used our speeches as flaming arrows against one another, our voting ballots as bullets. We failed to reach a compromise as Christ’s followers and United Methodists.”

Protests of the General Conference actions have taken various forms.

In Dallas, Northaven UMC and Grace UMC covered “United Methodist” on their signs with rainbow-colored material. Locally, Mary Taylor Memorial UMC in Milford, Conn., posted signs in the church yard to welcome and voice support of the LGBTQIA community.

In at least three states, local churches or United Methodists groups bought newspaper advertisements to affirm their commitment to the LGBTQIA community. One was Allendale United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg, Florida, which took out space in the Tampa Bay Times on March 2.

“The immediate impact is the harm done to LGBTQIA people, especially children and youth, who are being sent the message that God doesn’t love them, that they aren’t needed in the church,” said the Rev. Andy Oliver, the church’s pastor. “So we placed this full-page ad to send a clear message of love and support.”

Some who opposed the One Church Plan, such as the Rev. David F. Watson, expressed sorrow over the divisions within the church, including the toll on friendships.

“There are many progressive and centrist United Methodists that I care about a great deal,” said Watson, a professor and dean at United Theological Seminary, in a blog post. “It hurts to be estranged from them. Some of these relationships are likely unrecoverable except by a miracle of God.”

 

Reaction extended to the non-U.S. central conferences. Doreen Kallay, president of the women’s group at King Memorial UMC in Freetown, Sierra Leone, was pleased that the One Church Plan was defeated, believing that the Bible supports the denomination’s restrictions against homosexuality.

While aware that there will be fallout from the General Conference, including a potential decline in financial support for United Methodist work in Africa, she said that, “with God by our side, all will be well. … We will forge ahead successfully in Jesus’ name.”

Rev. Lea Matthews, a member of the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus, spoke at New York’s St. Paul and St. Andrew UMC about her experience as an observer in St. Louis. She referred to “the pain inflicted with bureaucratic and spiritual violence” but also offered a word of hope.

“I testify today to the church being alive and well,” said Matthews, who is associate pastor at St. Paul and St. Andrew. “No matter what they say and no matter what they do. For we know all are children of God.”

Many local churches are holding meetings to explain the results of General Conference and to gauge opinions on what should come next.

The New York Conference will meet on March 16 at Purchase College in a special called session of annual conference. The Greater New Jersey Conference will meet on the same day. The Alabama-West Florida Conference had scheduled a series of meetings with Bishop David Graves that began at the end of last week.

Bishops of the Western Jurisdiction affirmed their commitment to full inclusion and announced plans for a range of short-term meetings.

“We have committed ourselves to working in coalition with others to find a way to live our faith with integrity in the wake of the recent devastating General Conference,” California-Nevada Conference Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño said.

Some who had long opposed a denominational breakup acknowledge their perspective has changed after St. Louis.

“It is obvious to me that we are a denomination deeply divided over this issue and that our best efforts to find a way to keep the denomination together over the past 40 years have not been successful,” said the Rev. Kent Millard, president of United Theological Seminary, in a statement.

Millard suggested “it may be time” for church leaders to find a way for the denomination to divide formally.

Rev. Rob Kaylor, pastor of Tri-Lakes UMC in Monument, Colorado, and a WCA council member, agreed. He said the denomination has reached a “Paul and Barnabas moment.”

“They had a sharp disagreement, and the disagreement was sharp enough that they needed to go their separate ways for the sake of the mission,” Kaylor said. “We need to have a coalition from different sides to come together and discuss how we separate in a way that honors one another.”

Kaylor is pointing toward the 2020 General Conference for some resolution and promised his traditionalist-leaning church would continue to pay its apportionments in the interim.

Others, such as the Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli of Foundry UMC in Washington, D.C., made clear that they have no intention of leaving the denomination. 

“We are committed to sacred resistance, committed to full inclusion, committed to radical hospitality,” she said. “God is moving. God is going to do something good.”

Reflections from NYAC Delegation Chairs
Above, members of the NYAC delegation after a breakfast meeting on the first day of General ConferencE in St. Louis; below right, Jorge Lockward and Rev. Beth Ann Cook of the Indiana Conference embrace on the stage during the closing moments of the conference. The two had previously spoken on opposite sides of possible exit plans for churches wishing to leave the denomination.

Editor’s note: The two elected co-chairs of the New York Conference delegation—Rev. Kristina Hansen and Jorge Lockward—were asked to reflect on General Conference a week after it ended. Excerpts of their email responses are below. The New York Conference is the only one that elected a new slate of delegates for the 2019 assembly in order to add more LGBTQIA voices to the discussion.

What was your initial reaction to the GC2019 decisions? And what are you feeling/thinking now?

Lockward: I experienced an unexpected Aldersgate moment after the prioritization vote. I was not surprised by it, in fact, I expected the Traditional Plan to receive close to 60%. Still, given the ways I believe it does not reflect Wesleyan values, and advocates and mandates punishment for acts of conscience, the decision stung. And then, from deep inside, I felt a sense of peace—a deep conviction that regardless of what was happening, God was at work and that, even in things meant for harm, God was already turning into creating goodness and life. 

As the votes continued, this “blessed assurance” persisted. It continues even to this day. Still surprises me.

Hansen: The prioritization of business was a bit of a shock.  But it also told a story about what the gathered felt was important to understand, and it was not a faithful way forward.  That saddened me, because I could see that The Way Forward holy conferencing was likely not to show up in our deliberations.  So, when the vote came down, it broke my heart, but did not truly surprise me. At that same time, and now, it is clear to me that—in order to discern God’s will—“order” as we knew it, needed to be disrupted and what was in the dark needed to be revealed.

What gives you hope right now?

Hansen: My hope is always in the New Thing God is doing. I know it. I can feel it. My hope is also in that the Holy Spirit is now moving. It felt like our UMC process came to a halt in 2016.

What are the next steps that you see/are planning?

Lockward:

Keeping my own soul from distraction and temptation to victimhood, meanness, or despair. A charge to keep I have. 

Listening, listening, and more listening. Listening to the Spirit, to the people, to those who have been a part of significant changes in the past. 

Connecting justice seeking movements. The UMC house is on fire. While holding each other accountable is important,

we must do it in a way that strengthens and affirms our common quest for justice. Concerns should not be set aside, but they must also not be allowed to weaken or divide us. The task before us is monumental.

Hansen: We need to really talk about the intersectionality of oppression, and the conversations need to be among diverse groups of LGBTQIA+ folks, people of color, allies, with POC & LGBTQIA+ in leadership of conversations and movements. With, not about.  

What's the most important thing that you/the delegation learned/saw/felt?

Lockward: The faithful, courageous witness in the balcony.

Hansen: There were times when the GC floor was toxic. And then, a faithful affirming voice would speak or a song would be sung, and I could feel the movement of the Holy Spirit. I could always feel the movement of the Holy Spirit from the supportive “gallery.”   It's important that so many people from the NYAC both laity and clergy—were there to witness first hand. That makes so many more ambassadors than just the delegation.

Anything else you want to say?

Hansen: While this has been very painful and, I’m sure it will continue to be, I have what I call “stupid peace” (Paul would call it the peace that passes understanding, Philippians 4:7).

Lockward: A word of thanksgiving to the Annual Conference for entrusting us with this holy task and sustaining us in prayer through the journey.

LGBTQIA voices heard at pre-GC event
Delegates (above) Dorothee Benz, Rev. Gregory Gross, Jen Ihlo, Rev. Dr. Jay Williams, Cedrick Bridgeforth, Rev. Alex da Silva Souto, Karen Prudente, and Randall Miller participate in a pre-conference panel to talk about LGBTQI inclusion; below right, a conversation couch was set up in The Dome to afford delegates a place to chat with LGBTQI persons and allies.

UMNS | As the opening of the 2019 General Conference loomed, a handful of openly gay delegates talked about legislation and more with fellow allies of full inclusion for LGBTQIA people in The United Methodist Church.

Called “Conversation at the Crossroads,” the Feb. 22 town hall event attracted a standing-room-only crowd of about 160 to a St. Louis hotel conference room, with some 4,000 others joining by livestream.

Some attending wore “With, Not About” stickers, underscoring their view that a legislative gathering called to address the denomination’s long, divisive conflict over homosexuality ought to have LGBTQIA United Methodists in the center of the discussion.

The town hall represented a kind of preemptive strike—making sure such voices led the way in at least one forum.

“We want to place in the archives a witness here today, that we’re here in St. Louis, and that we have something to say,” said Rev. Jay Williams, who moderated the panel of delegates.

The 2019 General Conference is to consider three plans referred by the Commission on a Way Forward. Other plans and individual petitions, deemed within the bishops’ “call” for the meeting, also are on the agenda in St. Louis.

The One Church Plan, supported by most bishops, would remove from the Book of Discipline the words that the practice of homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching,” and would allow U.S. conferences and churches to decide whether to ordain “self-avowed practicing” gay clergy and host same-sex unions.

But the One Church Plan took its lumps at the town hall meeting. Some delegates decried its protection of U.S. conferences and churches that would choose not to ordain gay clergy or host same-sex unions.

“I think it hurts in the long run,” said Jen Ihlo, a Baltimore-Washington Conference delegate. “The discrimination that’s codified in the One Church Plan will continue to divide.”

Rev. Alex da Silva Souto, a NYAC delegate, also spoke against allowing conferences and churches to opt out of full inclusion for LGBTQIA people.

“How can I baptize a child knowing that child is still going to run the risk of being harmed by the (United Methodist) church on the other side of town?” he said.

There was support on the panel and elsewhere in the room for the Simple Plan, which would remove wedding and ordination restrictions for U.S. conferences and churches.

But that plan too falls short, some said.

“The Simple Plan is not a progressive plan,” said the Rev. Gregory Gross, a Northern Illinois Conference delegate. “It

says nothing about homosexuality at all. … A progressive plan would say that we affirm all sexualities.”

Dorothee Benz, a NYAC delegate and organizer of the town hall, described the Simple Plan as a “moral baseline.”

“It would be a mistake and it would be a sin to let our horizon be limited by that,” she said

Ihlo said that while she didn’t expect to live to see it, her dream is for a special General Conference called to apologize to LGBTQIA persons for harm done by the UMC.

Karen Prudente, a NYAC reserve delegate, questioned the whole approach of a General Conference that seeks to solve problems through legislation and parliamentary procedure. She mentioned a discussion she’d had with a central conference delegate.

“He was saying in Africa we would be sitting under a tree all day talking about how we can resolve it,” she said.

Randall Miller, a California-Nevada Conference delegate, affirmed those sentiments but insisted that practical politics, including the likelihood that the number of delegates from socially conservative African conferences will continue to grow, argued for backing the One Church Plan.

He also noted that the UMC as a global denomination has faced a special challenge in dealing with homosexuality, compared to other mainline denominations.

“They did not have to struggle to gather from multiple continents to figure out what their polity was,” he said.

Williams hailed the event.

“We took agency to claim our voice in this space, when there’s been so much talk about us, and not with us. That was a success.”


For a full lineup of events, go to: www.nyac.com/conferencecalendar.

3/16 Special Annual Conference
Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton is calling for a special session of the New York Annual Conference on Saturday, March 16  for the purpose of reviewing and discussing the results of the special called session of the General Conference. All clergy and lay delegates to annual conference are expected to attend the 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. event at the Performing Arts Center at Purchase College, 735 Anderson Hill Rd, Purchase, N.Y. Members and visitors who will attend must register online. Driving directions and public transportation information are available on the college website. More information, including registration, is available on the conference website, and will be updated as needed.

3/30 Hulapaloozas to Come
Churches across the conference are joining in the denomination’s “Abundant Health” initiative by sponsoring health and fitness expos for their communities. Wendy Vencuss, the NYAC’s Abundant Health coordinator, has worked with churches to plan the following “Hulapalooza” gathering:

  • March 30: 1 to 5 p.m. at Huntington-Cold Spring Harbor UMC, 180 West Neck Rd., Huntington, N.Y.

Check the NYAC calendar page for more details, or contact Wendy Vencuss to plan your own event.

4/6 Early Response Team Training
The session runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Tremont UMC, 1951 Washington Ave., Bronx. N.Y.

Lunch and snacks will be provided. Online registration is required. Please bring $10 payment for background check and badging.

4/19 Conference Center Closed
The offices in White Plains will be closed in observance of Good Friday.

4/26–28 “Converge” Youth Retreat
All youth in the Long Island East and West, and the Metropolitan districts are invited to this weekend at Camp Quinipet on Shelter Island. The event starts Friday at 7 p.m. and concludes at noon Sunday. Register through your local church by March 31; details can be found here.

5/4 Missional Community Engagement Forum
Featured speaker, Rev. Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean, is the author of Almost Christian,whichinvestigates why American teenagers are at once so positive about Christianity and at the same time so apathetic about genuine religious practice. The event runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at DoubleTree by Hilton, 455 South Broadway, Tarrytown, N.Y. Cost of $30 includes continental breakfast, lunch buffet, and afternoon snacks are included; please register here.

5/10–11 “Lead Like Jesus Encounter” Workshop
The UMM of the Northeastern Jurisdiction is sponsoring this event led by Rev. Dr. Rick Vance, who joined the General Commission on United Methodist Men as director of the Center for Men’s Ministries in 2016. He leads workshops and conferences focusing on leadership, discipleship and men’s ministry. Contact Ben Nelson at 917-715-9872 for more information about this workshop hosted by First United Methodist Church, 42 Cross Road, Stamford, Conn.

6/6–9 New York Annual Conference
The four-day event runs from Thursday to Sunday. More details to come as the date draws closer.

7/10–14 Youth 2019 Registration
“Love Well,” the national gathering for United Methodist youth and their leaders in Kansas City, promises four days of discipleship, worship, Bible study, big-name musical artists, service opportunities and life-changing fun. YOUTH 2019 is for youth grades 6–12 and their leaders. For more information, go to http://youth2019.com or @youth2019 on all social media platforms.

Vision Deadlines for 2019
The Vision is a monthly online publication of the New York Conference. Deadlines are always the first Friday of the month, with posting to the web site about 10 days later. The deadlines for 2019 are April 5, May 3, June 7, July 5, August 2, September 6, October 4, November 1, and December 6. Please send any stories, photos, ideas, or questions directly to vision@nyac.com.


Mission Needs: Work Teams, Missionary Hosts

NEJ Mission Academy

The NYAC Missions office is looking to sponsor a representative from each of the six districts to attend the Northeastern Jurisdiction Mission Academy, “When Helping . . . Helps,” from April 1–4 in North Andover, Mass. Workshops include tracks for global missions and disaster response ministries as well as plenary sessions.

Interested persons must be endorsed by their district superintendent and agree to serve with the NYAC Missions and Disaster Response ministry. Email Tom Vencuss for more information.

Dental Personnel for Haiti Team

An additional dentist and hygienist are needed for a NYAC Mountains of Hope for Haiti team going to the mountain village of Furcy from March 24 to 31. We are looking for an additional dentist and hygienist. The estimated cost is $900 for airfare and in-country expenses. Assistance with the cost is available. For more information, email contact Wendy Vencuss.

Host a Missionary

Michael Arteen is a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries serving as chaplain and director of spiritual life at Bethlehem Bible College (BBC) in Palestine/Israel. He is currently in the United States awaiting a visa to return to his work there. So this is an opportunity for churches to hear updates from Palestine. Arteen will be in the New York Conference March 19–24.

Arteen was born into a Christian family in Egypt and earned his bachelor’s degree there before migrating to the United States, where he became a citizen.

Hosting a missionary can encompass an endless amount of options. It’s up to the host. Churches have invited missionaries to worship, a special event highlighting their work, or a small group. Sometimes hosting may include transportation,

and assistance with lodging arrangements. It is unique with each itinerating missionary.

Other missionaries expected to itinerate in the conference this year include:

  • January–March: Belinda Forbes, Nicaragua
  • April–June: John Nday, Mozambique
  • July–September: Sun Lae Kim,  Mongolia
  • October–December: John Calhoun, Ukraine

If your church would like to host Arteen or any of the other missionaries, please contact Jill Wilson by email or at 860-690-1853.

Puerto Rico Recovery Teams

April 4–11: Openings available for NYAC team. Leader is Craig Fitzsimmons; cost is $650. Email the NYAC Missions office for more information and application

June 22–29: Applications being taken for Connecticut District team, led by Superintendent Alpher Sylvester. Cost is $650. Email Jill Wilson for information and applications.

Youth Ambassadors to Ecuador

July 20–27: Youth Ambassadors is an outreach of the New York Conference for persons age 15 to 19. Prior YAMS are welcome to join the team. The $2,000 cost is shared by the youth ambassador, his or her family, the local church and the district. Our host will be Sara Flores, a missionary with the General Board of Global Missions.

Candidates are accepted on a “first-application and deposit” basis. A priority will be given to first-time YAMs. Deadlines for applications and $200 deposit is March 15. The program is limited to 15 youth. Updates will be available on the NYAC website, or contact Tom Vencuss by email for more information.


Latest New Appointments

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton intends to make the following appointments, effective July 1, 2019.

For more information about each pastor and their new appointment, please click here to go to that page on the NYAC website.

  • Timothy J. Riss to New York-Connecticut district superintendent
  • Karen A. Monk to Catskill Hudson district superintendent
  • Elizabeth Abel to Cornerstone Community Church, Norwalk, NY-CT
  • Lynda Bates-Stepe to Smithtown, LIE
  • Douglas P. Cunningham to Asbury UMC, Croton-on-Hudson, MET
  • HyoungDock Yoo to Riverhead, LIE
  • Melissa Hinnen to Park Slope, Brooklyn, LIW
  • Jody Spiak to Poughkeepsie, NY-CT

Jim StinsonRev. Dr. Karen A. Monk, right, will be appointed as the superintendent of the Catskill Hudson District, replacing Rev. Timothy J. Riss. Rev. Monk has spent most of her pastoral career serving within the bounds of the district, most recently as pastor of the Kaaterskill/East Jewett Charge for the 16 years. She has also served at St. James in Kingston, Olivebridge, and Samsonville.

Monk understands the unique nature of life in rural Appalachia and brings expertise in representing the people

who make up the Catskill Hudson region. She has faithfully served the annual conference on the Commission on Native American Ministries and as a member of the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.

She graduated from Southwestern University and then earned her master of divinity, master of sacred theology, and doctor of philosophy degrees from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

Jim StinsonRev. Timothy J. Riss, right, will be replacing Rev. Elizabeth J. “Betsy” Ott as superintendent for the New York-Connecticut District. Ott is retiring. Rev. Riss has been the district superintendent of the Catskill-Hudson District for the last four years. Given the complexities and significant transitions that are occurring within the district, the appointment of a seasoned superintendent will enable this district to quickly continue its track of creative and strategic work.

Riss has a long record of faithful service through his previous assignments in Fleischmans, & Halcott Center, Franklin, Catskill, Smithtown, Hicksville, and Poughkeepsie. He has served various boards and commissions of the annual Conference and the General Church for more than 39 years. He earned his bachelor of arts degree at the University of Rochester, NY and his master of divinity degree from Colgate-Rochester Divinity School/Bexley Hall/Crozer Theological Seminary.


Discounted Software Available at TechSoup

According to a recent email from NYAC Chief Financial Officer, Ross Williams, churches may purchase computer software at steeply discounted prices through the not-for profit organization, “TechSoup.”

The entire catalog of available software includes more than 375 products from more than 90 companies like Microsoft,

Adobe, Cisco, Intuit, and Symantec. The basic version of Microsoft Office is available for only $29, a savings of hundreds of dollars compared to the cost without the discount.

In order to receive the discounts, your church will need to “qualify” through an online application. In some cases, a letter on the church’s letterhead may be required.


Divest from Animal Products for Planet, Health

BY REV. SUSUMU ANDO

Sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg had an urgent message for leaders gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2019:

“Our house is on fire. I am here to say, our house is on fire.

According to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), we are less than 12 years away from not being able to undo our mistakes. In that time, unprecedented changes in all aspects of society need to have taken place, including a reduction of our CO2 emissions by at least 50 percent.

And please note that those numbers do not include the aspect of equity, which is absolutely necessary to make the Paris agreement work on a global scale. Nor does it include tipping points or feedback loops like the extremely powerful methane gas released from the thawing Arctic permafrost. . .

We are at a time in history where everyone with any insight of the climate crisis that threatens our civilization—and the entire biosphere—must speak out in clear language, no matter how uncomfortable and unprofitable that may be.

We must change almost everything in our current societies. The bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty. The bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility.

Adults keep saying: ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope.’ But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.

I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.” (Read Thunberg’s whole speech and a watch a video here.)

Do we comprehend what Thunberg is saying? Do we see that climate change is not only a real national emergency now, but also an international emergency for all humankind? We have only a 12-year window to avoid an irreversible catastrophe. Do we continue to be inactive like the frog that is slowly being boiled alive in a pan? Can we not see climate change has already caused many human casualties through wildfire, hurricanes, polar vortex, droughts, flood, and heat waves around the world? What will the future of our children and our grandchildren be on an uninhabitable planet before the middle of this century?

I am a retired pastor and do not know how much longer I may live. I may or may not see our mistakes or the reverse. But, I still do care for my young neighbors as I do myself. My faith urges me to write this article no matter how uncomfortable I feel. I ask you to join me to reduce our carbon footprint as much as we can. Let us act now because our planet is being destroyed more quickly than what we thought.

Let me talk about the elephant in the living room. It is animal agriculture. For example, a cow releases on average 220 pounds of methane gas per year. The negative effect of methane on the climate is 23 times higher than that of carbon dioxide (CO2). So the release of about 220 pounds of methane per year for each cow is equivalent to about 5,060 pounds of CO2 per year. That equates to driving a car the distance of 7,800 miles per year. (Are cows the cause of global warming?)

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of the total release of greenhouse gases worldwide. It

is more than 13 percent of the whole transportation sector—cars, trucks, jets, and ships—combined. The chief of FAO’s livestock sector analysis, Henning Steinfeld, has said, “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems.”

In 2017, the meat and poultry industry slaughtered 9.4 billion farm animals in the United States alone, according to the North American Meat Institute: 9 billion chickens; 32.2 million cattle and calves; 241.7 million turkeys; 2.2 million sheep and lambs; 121 million hogs.

Every minute, 17,900 innocent farm animals are killed somewhere in the United States. Do you still believe that there is a humane way to kill them? Have you ever watched how they are killed in a slaughter house on Internet videos? Why can we not extend our compassion, love, and mercy to them as we do to our pets? Do we know we can get more than enough protein and calcium from plant-based foods alone? Did the men’s tennis player, Novak Djokovic, who eats a whole food, plant-based diet (vegan) not prove this when he was vying for a record seventh Australian Open title? How about women’s tennis player Serena Williams who is a vegan?

During this season of Lent will you join me and vegan climate activist Thunberg to divest from animal agriculture, and boycott its products: meat, chicken, pork, dairy products, eggs and fish? If you boycott those products for 30 days before Easter, you will save: 33,000 gallons of water; 1,200 pounds of grain; 900 square feet of forest; 600 pounds of CO2; and the lives of 30 animals. What a powerful climate crisis statement we can make just by using our forks and knives every day.

There are other good dividends we can receive from animal agriculture divestment and the boycott of its products. We will be healthier and dramatically lower the risks of heart attacks, stroke, cancer, type-2 diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. We will be able to spare sentient beings who feel joy, love, pain, and sadness, just like our dogs and cats; cultivate compassion, love, kindness and mercy in our hearts; and experience the peaceable kingdom in this world.

“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the cobra’s den, and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6–9 NRSV)

My friends, we are already in the midst of climate crisis. Our house is indeed, on fire! Let us act for our children and our grandchildren now.

If you have any questions about how to eat a whole food, plant-based diet, please contact me via email.

Ando is a retired elder of New York Conference, and has earned a certificate in plant-based nutrition from eCornell-Cornell University.


OBITUARIES

B. Elizabeth Cady

B. Elizabeth Cady, 99, of Olivebridge, N.Y., passed away peacefully at her home on February 7, 2019. Born June 17, 1919 in Brooklyn, she was the daughter of Chester Arthur and Mabel Stewart Snyder.

Cady was the widow of Rev. Merton S. Cady who died on December 11, 1975. Rev. Cady served the New York Conference for more than 35 years, leading churches in the Catskill Hudson area: West Fulton, Blenheim, and Fairland; Harpersfield and North Harpersfield; Olivebridge, Samsonville and The Vly; Kenoza Lake, Jeffersonville, Fosterdale and Cochecton Center; Coeyman’s Hollow, Dormansville and Lambs Corners; Hensonville, Maplecrest, East Jewett and Eastkill Valley. After his retirement in 1972, he also served Andes, Pleasant Valley, and Rifton, all in New York.

The Cadys were married on September 19, 1943, in the Olivebridge Methodist Church. After his retirement, they made their home in Samsonville, and after his death she continued to reside in the Olivebridge area. She was a member of the Olivebridge UMC, serving as the organist there as well as at Samsonville UMC. She was an accomplished seamstress and quilter, and was well-known for her baking skills.

In addition to her husband, she was predeceased by her children John Stephen Cady and Nancy Jean Cady, and by a sister, Jane Scofield. Surviving are her daughters, Mary Cady (Richard E.) Thickens of Mequon, Wisc.; Ruth Anne (John) Muller of West Shokan, N.Y.; and Elizabeth (Larry) Davis of Yonkers, N.Y. She is also survived by grandchildren, Richard Cady (Jennifer) Thickens, Laura Koehn (Jason) Thurow, and Kelly Elizabeth (Nathan) Isenor and her husband, Nathan; as well as by great-grandchildren, Lizzy, Alexandra, Sawyer and Logan Thickens, and Bennett Isenor.

A service of remembrance was held February 16, 2019, at the Olivebridge UMC. Burial in Tongore Cemetery will be in the spring.

Memorial contributions may be made to Hudson Valley Hospice, 400 Aaron Ct, Kingston, NY 12401, or to the Olivebridge or Samsonville UMCs, at PO Box 1397, Olivebridge, NY 12461.

Rev. Arthur William Bloom

The Reverend Arthur William Bloom, 91, of Groton, Vt., died February 7, 2019, surrounded by his family. He was born on March 16, 1927, in the Bronx, N.Y., the only child of Knut William Bloom and Esther Christianson Bloom. 

Bloom served in the U.S. Army for two years as a sergeant in the military police. He attended Wilkes College in Wilkes-Barre, PA, receiving a degree in criminology. In 1948, he received his license to preach in the Central Pennsylvania Conference. While serving churches, he continued his education at Drew University, earning a master’s of divinity degree and doctor of ministry degree. He became a full member of the New York Conference in 1957. 

Bloom met his future wife, Margaret “Peg” Reed when he was an assistant minister for her father, Rev. William B. Reed. The couple served five United Methodist churches, the YORK UMC in the Central Pennsylvania Conference; and in the New York Conference: Bedford Hills, Ossining, Northport and Patchogue. During his time in Ossining, he served as chaplain at Sing Sing Prison.

After his retirement in 1992, Art continued his ministry, by preaching, performing baptisms, weddings and funerals, and counseling those in need.

The Blooms enjoyed more than 20 years of retirement, splitting their time between their camp on Groton Pond in Vermont and their winter home at Rio Valley Grande Estates in Texas. Bloom enjoyed boating, fishing, swimming. He spent his last several years at the Westview Meadows and Mayo Nursing communities in Vermont.

Bloom shared 60 years together with his wife before her death. He is survived by son, Bryan William Bloom, and daughter, Joyce Margaret (John Michael); grandsons, Anthony William (Cassie Abreau) LaRosa, Joshua Alexander LaRosa; and Luke Taylor Reed (Lynne McConnell) LaRosa; and great-grandchildren Camryn, Kaiulani and Giovanni.

He is also survived by dear friend, Miriam Ward Derivan, and her children, Ted and Peg; and the Reginald and Elaine LaRosa family, including Peter and Elizabeth LaRosa Nicholson and Steven and Barb LaRosa and their families.

A memorial service was held February 10, 2019, at Trinity UMC in Montpelier, Vt. Condolences may be sent to daughter, Joyce LaRosa, 43 W. Coldwater Brook Rd., Groton, VT 05046, or his son, Bryan Bloom, at 715 North Westgate Dr., #142, Weslaco, TX 78596.


The Vision, Newspaper of the NYAC, of the UMC

Bishop: Thomas J. Bickerton

Editor: Joanne Utley

Vision e-mail: vision@nyac.com

Web site: www.nyac.com/vision

New York Conference of The United Methodist Church

20 Soundview Avenue
White Plains, NY 10606

Toll Free: 888-696-6922
Phone: 914-997-1570