Reports from Annual Conference
Below you will find reports from our Pastor Jeff Wells and
our Lay Delegates to Annual Conference.
Petitions submitted to the Annual Conference can
be found at the bottom of this page.
Pastor's General Report 2017
Historic Progress at 2017 NY
Annual Conference session
Pastor Jeff Wells, The Church of the Village
I felt excited to represent The Church of the Village along with Katie Reimer and Micah Gary-Fryer at the 2017 session of the New York Annual Conference. I was also a bit anxious participating in conference deliberations as a leader of Methodists in New Directions given what we were trying to achieve. This session was historic in many ways:
• Bishop Thomas Bickerton clearly and forcefully declared that the gifts and calling to ministry of LGBTQI persons are just as valid and as much from God as those of anyone else.
• For the first time, an invitation was extended by the bishop of the NYAC to an out gay clergy person to be our conference preacher. Rev. Jay Williams proclaimed that “the church does harm each time it favors law over grace” and that “One day the church will repent for the harm it has committed against the oppressed, the marginalized, and the disinherited. One day the church will celebrate 'Acts of Repentance and Reconciliation' for its discrimination against LGBT folk."
• For the first time, members of the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus (UMQCC) presented a petition (“One in Christ for the Transformation of the World”) and advocated on their own behalf.
• Following the collaborative efforts of MIND and the Queer Clergy Caucus, the annual conference, the annual conference voted overwhelmingly to hold a new delegate election for a special General Conference, opening a way for an expanded presence of LGBTQI persons in the discussion that will focus on their humanity, their callings, the lives and loves, and their place in the UMC. The election will happen next June.
We advocated and will work for a majority LGBTQI delegation for the special General Conference in February 2019 – so that those most affected by the unjust and discriminatory laws and language of the UMC might be in the room and in the debates in a powerful way.
In his sermon, Rev. Jay Williams both thanked and challenged Bishop Bickerton and the Annual Conference:
"You inspire me, Bishop. Your episcopal ministry and vision have blessed so many. And my prayer now is that God will unsettle you in such a way so as to lead the people called Methodists of New York and Connecticut with holy boldness and humble grace, indeed leading us in getting down to business…
When a black gay elder in full connection gets to preach at a United Methodist annual conference during LGBTQ Pride Month, well…I am learning each day the meaning of that song my Granny used to sing, “Amazing Grace...how sweet the sound.”
Leaders of MIND, UMQCC, Methodist Federation for Social Action and others gave powerful speeches motivating the amended rules and special election. Rev. Vicki Flippin motivated this proposal by asking the plenary session to “make a way for our NY Annual Conference to continue to provide leadership to our denomination” and “to model just and principled representation of those most harmed by the particular laws that will be at stake at the special session of General Conference.”
Rev. Lydia Lebrón, chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry, declared, “For this special General Conference, that is addressing the lives of LGBTQI people, they need to be represented. They themselves are diverse group and offer rich diversity of skills. If we are true to our call, we will not be afraid to be represented by people who have such significant gifts and graces.”
Dorlimar Lebrón Malavé, a lay member of the current delegation, asserted that the UMC has a long history of deciding to exclude or include the “other” [women, African Americans] without the “other” being powerful present. “Adopting this,” she said, “affords us the opportunity to take a principled stand in responding to this historic moment in the life of the church.”
In addition to the petition from the UM Queer Clergy Caucus, two MIND petitions (“Begin to Heal Injustice against Gay Clergy in the NYAC” and “A Way Forward Together”) were affirmed by more than 95 percent of those voting in legislative sections. The meeting space for the MIND Lunch on Friday was packed, with many standing at the back. Bishop Bickerton and Sally Bickerton came briefly to bring greetings to our gathering. The featured speaker, out gay UM pastor Rev. Will Green, celebrated our achievements but also warned that we have much work ahead of us. While expressing a very pessimistic view of the future of the UMC given its deeply entrenched institutional homophobia, he expressed great hope in our movement and our cause. MIND’s armband witness at the commissioning ceremony on Friday and the ordination ceremony on Saturday shifted this year from blue to rainbow armbands to signify the reality of LGBTQI inclusion being lived out at many levels of the NY Annual Conference.
It was thrilling to be a part of these historic and powerful events and all of the careful and thoughtful organizing work that lay behind them. This conference session truly bore the fruits of more than a decade of committed, hard work by Methodists in New Directions, our allies, and the hundreds of delegates who have continued to witness to their desire for a fully inclusive church by following our leadership and voting for each new step toward justice.
View photos from Annual Conference 2017 here.
For more Annual Conference news click here.
CoTV Lay Delegates Report 2017
submitted by Lay Delegate Micah Gary-Fryer
The Calm Before the Storm, reflections of NYAC 2017
I must admit that I was not looking forward to the drive out to Hofstra University, but whoever is looking optimistic to going to Long Island? The traffic was not too bad, but the journey was longer when my phone died and it would not hold the charge, thus not having the navigation system that I needed it to get me off the correct exit and into the University. But, “God is good, all the time” and I made it there around 6:30 pm, Wednesday evening on June 7, 2017. This was my second Annual Conference representing the COTV as a lay delegate. Last year was filled with wonderment and anxiety after the experience of a very contiguous General Conference held in Portland, Oregon. I knew the process this year, despite getting lost, my emotions were at ease, even though I had not met our new Bishop and I had some curiosity.
This year’s theme was: "Pathways & Possibilities, The Journey of Disciple Making.” By the time I got registered and settled in the arena, viewing some housekeeping business, the evening session seemed to be finishing up and the Healing Service. On the main altar was this very tall presence of a man with a southern accent peeking out of his words and jovial grandeur. This was our new Bishop, Thomas J. Bickerton. Wow, I felt that there was such a difference from my brief encounters that I had with Bishop Middleton. This was exciting and stressful at the same time. As I went to check into the hotel and prepare for sleep before a very long Thursday, my mind still pondered, what is going on in the conference, where are we as a church and what is this man of God going to do to lead us through this difficult time?
Thursday morning was a beautiful day and after some interesting breakfast, I headed over to the arena, ready to be the best attentive delegate that I could be, but deep down inside I knew that my heart had a brokenness and needing of healing for my personal struggles and the pain of the LGBTQI clergy members of the past, present and future. The hint of ambiguity was still in the air. The
morning prayer, procedural information and introduction of the new appointments, all seem to go smoothly through the day. More and more, I felt comfortable with the oversight of the Bishop and the planning committee, but the flood gates of sweet and sour emotions confronted me during the excellent sermon from Reverend Jay Williams of Union UMC of Boston MA.
Reverend Williams will be replacing Bishop Karen Oliveto at GLIDE Memorial UMC in San Francisco, CA. What an insightful, authentic and powerful young minister. It was also important that the Word of God was coming through him and to this progressive community of NYAC. This amazing act of remembrance came through a message titled: “Dangerous Disremembering.” This message was profound and rooted in the Word of God. I was inspired and opened to be a renewed vessel as I went to meet with friends and former classmates at the Luncheon of Drew Theological Alumni. It is good to remember and reconnect, lunch was great and Dean Tanya Bennett also inspired us to stay in connection with Drew. The appointments did not have the same energy for me as last year because the queer clergy we not the primary issue of the conference. It was awesome to support many of the persons that I have come to know from Drew and within the conference, like Elizabeth Abel, Michael Barry and Michael Cobb. All seemed calm by some measures of last year’s hullaballoo and provocative stance that the conference was making with its nondiscrimination for openly LGBTQI clergy and members. I attended the Church and Society Dinner, believing that this would be
the best way of representing COTV. It was a joy to connect with Pastor Jeff and Katie Reimer throughout the day. I could feel the presence of MIND and the energy of Alex Souto and his leadership with The LGBTQI Queer Clergy Caucus. These were all reminders of the joy and pain from 2016’s General and Annual conferences.
It was energizing to know that I was going to be a part of the voting process this year, unlike last year’s mistake with registration. Having a Red and Green card, with a badge that gave me privilege to be at the “table” during the legislative sessions felt good and complete. I attended Section #2 Connectional Ministries & Ministries of Nurture. The session was homogeneous and ended with little or no controversy. Pastor Jeff had mentioned that Section #4 was expected to have the most possibilities of conflict because the subject of amending the procedure for the upcoming special meeting of the Bishops and “A way forward,” with the churches stance of Human Sexuality and LGBTQI Clergy and members; even this potential conflict did not have the problems that would be expected from LGBTQI adversaries. The day was long and I found myself retiring back the hotel, with the expectation of Friday being another long day.
Friday morning, came faster than expected and I did not realize that I was about to miss the Deacon Breakfast, but my body requested 30 more minutes of rest. I also knew that we would have plenty of food in a day of luncheons and dinners three hours later. The worship services are so important to this process, and I really feel the Spirit work through the community. The Spirit is the only thing that
makes this conference different from a corporate meeting or the National Educators of America annual meeting, which I have had five years of being a delegate. Bishop Bickerton was during his state of the conference address and he made me chuckle with reference to traffic in the New York area. I was totally hooked into his kindness and prophetic nature. The MIND luncheon, followed by
the MFSA Dinner was filled with food and conversation. We had the harsh reality of Reverend Will Green of the New England Annual Conference and the very dynamic panel led by Reverend Ben McBride, about Black Lives Matters and the community of Ferguson that had historical and systemic discrimination prior to the death of Michael Brown. The entire day had many of the social activism
Christ-like causes that I have come to expect from the ministry at COTV and the NYAC. It was a real joy to spend time with Pastor Vicki, Melissa Hinnen and Jennifer Berry.
The evening was powerful with the service for the Commissioning of Provisional Members and the Laying On of Hand. I am so proud of the new clergy members, I know that my joy for them helps me to reconnect with my calling and the discernment process towards ministry. I was looking forward to Saturday morning’s Ordination Service as I left the arena Friday evening. My needs were truly fulfilled and was thoroughly impressed with Bishop Bickerton, his message and authentic concern and conversational approach to preaching really got through to my jaded soul. I have renewed hope that despite the anxious feelings that this Church that we love called the United Methodist is searching for a way to let God Be God on this journey. Bishop Bickerton message gave me ability to
reflect on Jesus and the Disciples on the water during a storm, Jesus saying, “Peace Be Still” came to me after hearing Bishop Bickerton that we need to have that faith. My reflection of NYAC 2017 is that this may be the calm before the storm, but trusting in God to see us through will be the survival of our Church. 2018 and 2019 will be a test of our faith, but for moment annual conference
strengthen me and I thankful to COTV for giving me the honor a being a delegate.
Driving from Hostra with a fully charged navigation system, this was not just on my phone, but also within my Spirit.
The following petitions were submitted by MIND
and the UM Queer Clergy Caucus from Legislative Section IV:
(to view click a title below)
The powerful sermon preached by Rev. Jay Williams at the memorial service at the 2017 session of the NY Annual Conference. Rev. Williams has been serving as the senior pastor of Union United Methodist Church in Boston, a predominantly African American and inclusive congregation.
He was recently appointed to be the senior pastor at
Glide Memorial UMC in San Francisco.
View this featured sermon from Annual Conference 2017
Memorial Service preached by Rev. Jay Williams
by clicking here