Methodists meet in annual conference
BY ROBERT L. BAKER
United Methodists representing 934 churches across northeastern and centralPennsylvania(including 19 inSusquehannaCounty) passed a resolution affirming Rev. Mark Webb as their choice for the next Bishop of the Susquehanna Conference.
Webb serves as Dean of the Conference Cabinet and may be in line to replace retiring Bishop Jane Middleton, who steps down June 30.
The Council of Bishops in theUMC’s Northeast U.S. Jurisdiction is expected to name a Bishop July 17-20 when it meets inCharleston,W.Va.
The new bishop could be assigned to the Susquehanna Conference, or a present bishop might be moved there with the new one going elsewhere within the jurisdiction.
During last week’s 3-day conference atMessiahCollegein Grentham, just belowHarrisburg, attended by upwards of 1,400 United Methodists about evenly divided between clergy and laity, the body also supported a new vision document for the next quadrenium which will guide the denomination.
In 2011, the body had approved reducing the number of geographical districts which meant that two former cabinet level positions would be freed up to serve in the capacity of spurring new church development and outreach across all districts.
Although Rev. Ed Zeiders, pastor ofSt. Paul’sUMCinState Collegewas not speaking against the new visioning framework, he did address the body concerned about a child advocacy resolution.
Among Zeiders’ church members are accused former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky as well as alleged victims of Sandusky.
Zeiders said he hoped the child advocacy issue would be taken with the serious attention it deserved and not relegated to some task force.
Rev. Mike Bealla, director of connectional ministries for the Susquehanna Conference said not all details had been worked out with the visioning framework, and he shared Zeiders’ concern.
The new alignments of the Susquehanna Conference means that 134 northeastern Pennsylvania United Methodist Churches formerly in the Wyoming Conference are in a newly aligned Scranton Wilkes-Barre District, now headed by District Superintendent Rev. John Buxton, sho was previously in charge of the Wilkes-Barre District.
Rev. Beth Jones, who had been serving as Scranton District Superintendent has been reassigned to the Williamsport District, beginning July 1.
Celebrations also occurred last week in honor of 35 retiring clergy and in memory of those deceased in the past year.
In Bishop Middleton’s opening remarks Thursday, she acknowledged that the denomination had lost two percent of its membership – about 4,000 – over the previous 12 months, but had gained 12,000 constituents in persons served by the conference’s churches even though they are not members.
She told the body “we have to have a willingness to go where we haven’t gone before.”
Bishop Middleton reminded those attending that they could strategize all they wanted, but if what is done is not bathed and grounded in prayer, it would fail.
“It is still personal discipleship that will change lives for Jesus Christ,” she said. “We have to be willing to take risks, do the untried, and go where God leads.”
Among the last acts of the conference that stretches from theMarylandborder belowYorkto theNew Yorkborder just aboveGreat Bendwas an ordination service Saturday.
Pastor Debra Daily, who formerly served Susquehanna County churches and is presently at Lakeview in Wayne County, along with Lake Winola/Falls Pastor Joan Dodson, were ordained as associate members; 10 others were ordained as full elders, and 10 more persons were commissioned as provisional members of the conference.
It is clear that mostSusquehannaCountyUnitedMethodistChurchpastors were returned to their posts for another year, beginning July 1.
Pastors included among the returnees are Lloyd Canfield (Thompson); Anita Jordan (Forest City, East Ararat), Margaret Knapich (Clifford, Lenoxville); Donald Littleton (Great Bend); Philip Richardson (Hop Bottom, Brooklyn and Kingsley); Richard Spering (Fairdale, East Rush, Rush and Retta); Patricia Newhart (South Auburn); and Cecily Eisley (Springville and Dimock).
Rev. Jane Pykus will be leaving Montrose and accept an appointment atNew Milfordas well as keep her present appointment at South Montrose.
Pastor Sara Kolenda who is at Franklin Forks will become the new pastor at Montrose.
Pastor Daniel Lincoln will be taking a new appointment at Gibson and South Gibson, and pastor Leanne Campbell will be taking a new appointment at Susquehanna andNorth Jackson.
All of theSusquehannaCountychurches are in the Scranton Wilkes-Barre District with the exception ofSouth Auburnwhich is on a charge with Silvara,BradfordCounty, in the Williamsport District.
The Union Dale church is yet to be supplied.