22 answer mystery of God's call

6/14/2006

Ordination service caps busy day at AC

By Woody Woodrick
Advocate Editor

Taking the vows of ordination is an action that comes from the heart, not the head, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward told the 22 newest pastors in the Mississippi Conference on Tuesday night.

“You don’t come down this aisle without being something of a heart dweller,” Ward said at the Service of Ordination, held at Christ United Methodist Church as part of the 18th session of the Mississippi Annual Conference.

Using the story of Nicodemus visiting Jesus as her text, Ward talked about how God’s actions are a mystery much like the wind. “We feel it wash over us and we hear it, but we can’t know from where it came,” she said.

The call to ministry is similar. Answering God’s call to ministry is not a decision made with the head but with the heart, Ward said.

“We stand windswept by this mystery of God. It moves us along and it surprises us,” she said. “It’s a great thing our God is so big. Must is us, and mystery is our great God.

“How glad we are that God has swept over your lives. It’s not a must; it’s a great, great mystery.”

The Annual Conference began its final day at 8:30 a.m. today with a love feast. That will be followed by a plenary session featuring reports and a vote on the proposed 2007 conference budget of $18.6 million, which represents no increase over last year.

A catfish lunch and the pastoral appointments covenanting service will round out the day.

Tuesday’s morning plenary featured nine workshops pertaining to the five initiatives – health and wellness, racial reconciliation, mission, small-membership churches and congregational development.

Faye Barham of Flowood attended the Sharehouse workshop, led by Ray Buchannan of Stop Hunger Now, and came away impressed. “I was very interested in our responding to the needs of our brothers and sisters around the world,” she said. “We might think we don’t have much in Mississippi, but we don’t know what hunger is in comparison to starving children.”

Barham said she learned how easy it is to provide food for the hungry. Buchanan showed those who attended how to put together a fortified rice-soy meal that can provide six servings at a cost of $1.20.

Tracy Peters of Foxworth attended a workshop about Zimbabwe because she said she wants her church’s youth group to find ways to help others. She said she was impressed by the large number of United Methodists in Zimbabwe.

Most of Tuesday was given over to matters pertaining to clergy. A service celebrated 50 years of clergy rights for women in The United Methodist Church, and that was followed by the retirement service honoring 24 pastors who are retiring.

The day also saw 12 candidates commissioned for probationary membership.

Business included a presentation of changes in the conference medical benefits package, which was approved with minimal discussion. The changes allow for the creation of a plan with a medical savings account and high-deductible. In addition, the projected rates as of May 31 will be presented with the option to adjust rates Oct. 1 if medical costs or utilization of the plan warrants a reduction. The proposed rates will go into effect Jan. 1.

Moving through the agenda at a rapid pace, the conference was able to consider resolutions a day early.

One resolution prompted a lengthy discussion. The original measure called for the Lake Junaluska Assembly to not make its facilities available to groups that promote homosexuality. The measure came out of a Labor Day seminar sponsored by Reconciling Congregations that many claimed promoted homosexuality.

The conference Resolutions Committee recommended concurrence with an amended version of the measure. However, members became confused over the wording of the resolution and it was tabled until today when printed copies of the amended resolution could be distributed. The amended resolution reads:

Regarding Use of Southeastern Jurisdiction Property to Promote Homosexuality
WHEREAS, Lake Junaluska, a Southeastern Jurisdiction ministry and property of The United Methodist Church, rented its facilities to the Reconciling Ministries Network to host the "Hearts on Fire Conference" event on September 2-5, 2005; and

WHEREAS, the Discipline of The United Methodist Church for over a quarter of a century has stated that it does not condone the practice of homosexuality and declared this practice "incompatible with Christian teaching" (Paragraph 161);

AND WHEREAS, homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth. All persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggle for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self.

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:

1. The Mississippi Conference urges that no such future event which seeks to promote the acceptance and the practice of homosexuality should be held at Lake Junaluska; and

2. A copy of this resolution be mailed to the director of Lake Junaluska and to all the bishops of the Southeastern Jurisdiction.

Resolutions adopted with little or no discussion included:

A measure calling for naming the Mississippi Conference endowed scholarship at Africa University “The Henry C. Clay-Merlin D. Conoway-Wendell Taylor Scholarship.”

A resolution calling for Gov. Haley Barbour to issue an apology and a pardon for Clyde Kennard, who attempted to become the first African-American student at the University of Southern Mississippi. Before he could enroll, Kennard was convicted of robbery. He died of cancer after serving time in prison. However, recently the key witness against Kennard admitted that he lied under pressure from state officials. Over the past several months, many people in the state called for Kennard to be pardoned.

A call to observe Pastoral Care Week the last full week of October each year. The week would honor those who serve in chaplain ministry.

A resolution calling on the General Board of Pensions to revoked a 2003 action that affected the pensions of clergy in a certain group. The petitioners contend the plan reduces their pension benefits and calls for the Board of Pensions to restore those lost earnings.

 A resolution calling for the conference to adopt policies and procedures to protect children, youth and vulnerable adults from abuse and staff from unwarranted allegations of abuse.