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South Hill UMC Delegate’s Report on the 2023 Virginia Annual Conference

South Hill United Methodist Church

South Hill UMC Delegate’s Report on the 2023 Virginia Annual Conference

South Hill UMC Delegate’s Report on the 2023 Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Held in Roanoke, VA from Thursday, June 15th – Noon, Saturday, June 17th.

Gary Creamer, Delegate, SHUMC to the VA Annual Conference

Annual Conference is the yearly meeting of clergy and laity delegates from all the churches in the Virginia Conference for the purpose of conducting the business of the VA Conference. This year, approximately 1,700 delegates (Lay and Clergy combined) attended this year’s Conference in Roanoke, VA. The Annual Conference is a required meeting mandated by our United Methodist Book of Discipline. The Book of Discipline is the rulebook that defines how the whole, worldwide United Methodist Church is organized and how it ministers to God’s people.

Conference takes about three days to complete. I will touch on three main topics that were dealt with:

  1. Next year’s annual budget of the Virginia Conference was set at a little over $27 million. This amount reflects very little change from this year’s budget. However, some of the revenue used to support next year’s budget comes from churches which are disaffiliating from the UMC denomination. That revenue stream will end in 2024 and the budget for 2025 will be negatively affected. The operating budget of the Virginia Conference is mainly supported by the apportionments paid by the individual churches within the Conference.
  • Disaffiliation. To date, 107 churches have left the denomination by way of disaffiliation. By the end of this year, an additional 90 churches are expected to complete the disaffiliation process which brings the total number of churches leaving the Virginia Conference up to around 200 churches. Before disaffiliation was an option, the Conference had a little over 1,100 churches. By the end of 2023, The Virginia Conference will have about 900 churches. Church membership in the Virginia Conference is expected to drop from 303,000 members to 268,000 members. Our Conference will still be the second or third largest Conference in the worldwide UMC.  The main reason churches are disaffiliating from the UMC is a fundamental difference in beliefs concerning human sexuality, the definition of what is a marriage and the definition of what it is to be a man and to be a woman.
  • The Christmas Covenant: The Christmas Covenant has nothing to do with Christmas but was so named because it was a plan that was put forth during the Christmas season. It is a plan to reorganize the worldwide UMC into semi-autonomous regions. Presently, the UMC is organized as a worldwide group of Conferences, of which the Virginia Conference is one. All of the Conferences are governed by the one Book of Discipline. Every four years, all the Conferences meet at what is called “General Conference”. General Conference is where the global mission and business of the United Methodist Church is set. It is also the only governing body within the church, with the authority to make changes to The Book of Discipline. Presently, The Book of Discipline states, “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” This statement about homosexuality has been the subject of very impassioned debate at many past General Conferences but it has always survived the many votes for it to be changed. Many Conferences in the USA church would like to change The Book of Discipline but there have always been enough conferences, especially from Africa, to block making those changes. The Christmas Covenant would give the various church “Regions” the right to make changes to The Book of Discipline that governs their “Region” without affecting church rules in another “Region”. The Virginia Conference would like to change the wording in the Discipline. At this year’s Virginia Annual Conference, a motion was put forth affirming our General Conference delegates’ decision to support The Christmas Covenant. For the record, I spoke against and voted against The Christmas Covenant but it passed by a comfortable margin.

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