The Annual Conference 2023 dates are June 15-17, 2023. This post has been updated to reflect the change.
The North Carolina Annual Conference met June 15-18 in Greenville, NC, for the first in-person conference since 2019. 1,104 persons attended the conference, which worshiped around the theme Graceful Justice: Rooted in Our Baptism. Bishop Leonard Fairley presided over his first NC Annual Conference as the episcopal leader.
The conference began with worship and communion as Bishop Fairley preached a message titled “See How They Love Each Other.” He reminded the crowd that the best witness we can give is to live into the words of Jesus – “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” The bishop paused to emphasize that this was not a suggestion from Jesus but a command.
The members were compelled and convicted by the teaching of the Rev. Dr. Janet Wolf, UM clergy and former director at the Children’s Defense Fund. Wolf urged the church to come to the water of life, water that seeks to quench the fires of injustice and water that baptizes people in the knowledge that they are worthy; they are beloved and precious children of God. She challenged the church into “creative, courageous, militant, death-defying, non-violent Kin-dom living here and now. The church is not an escape, a safe haven. It’s not where we go to avoid the problems of the world. It’s the community that empowers us to wade into struggles for justice in Jesus’ name.”
We remembered 26 clergy and 18 spouses at the All Saints Celebration and Memorial Service. In a eulogy, the Rev. Dr. Kenneth Locklear said, “We remember fondly many stories…and the magnitude of wisdom that they had. …We thank God for the colleagues whom we celebrate today for their work and their ministry… [as] ministers of the Gospel to bring hope into a lost and dying world.”
The Rev. Edith Gleaves was recognized and warmly received as the Conference nominee for bishop. Bishop Fairley told Gleaves, “When you have a gift, you share it. So, we are going to share you with the whole church.” The election of bishops will take place at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference in November 2022.
During the presentation of the financial reports, the Conference approved a recommendation to change providers for the active health insurance plan to the HealthFlex Exchange program. The HealthFlex Exchange is administered by Wespath Benefits and Investments and gives participants six options from which to choose with varied costs and services.
Thursday evening included a Diversity Celebration, a time of lament, prayer, and inspiring music. At the conclusion, Bishop Fairley gave a genuine heartfelt message, telling the conference, “We are no longer going to run away from this sin of racism. We’re going to confess it no matter how painful it is. We are going to confess it, and maybe if we begin to confess it, God is faithful and God is just and will forgive us.”
During the Friday morning Celebration of the Connection, Stephen Dunn (clergy), Gayle Tabor (laity), and Jacey Hilburn (youth) were honored as the recipients of the Harry Denman Evangelism Award.
Annual Conference ended with the Ordering of Ministry worship service where 52 persons publicly proclaimed their calling to ministry. Bishop Fairley noted, “You have heard the call of God upon your life for this work, the voice of God saying to you, ‘Look! I have made you for extraordinary purposes.’… Today, we celebrate with joy that each of you have simply replied, ‘Here we are Lord. Send us.’ You have simply answered, ‘Speak Lord for your servant is listening. Here we are, servants of the Lord. Let it be according to your Word.’”
He expounded on the theme of theotókos (God-bearers) like Samuel, Esther, and Mary who said, “Here I am.” Bishop Fairley closed with this challenge, “Please don’t chase an appointment. Please don’t chase a pension. Please don’t chase a salary. Chase the more excellent way. Be God-bearers. Be theotókos.”
The Conference offered many mindful health opportunities, including providing masks and COVID testing kits, a primary care medical van onsite, blood pressure/glucose testing, and free, confidential talk sessions with a therapist.
The Glow in Greenville 5k Run/Walk drew 100 participants early on Friday morning. The Conference celebrated Friday night at an ice cream social while children and adults enjoyed a basketball shooting competition which brought attention to the many Higher Education & Campus Ministries within the conference.
Three special offerings were received: $20,072 for Relief for Ukraine, $8,252 for Tornado Relief for Kentucky and Tennessee, and $9,078 for The Gary Wayne Locklear Mission Endowment.
Data and Statistics:
- Membership for 2021 was 214,320, down 4,662 from 2020.
- The Conference approved a budget of $15,734,449 for 2024, representing a 2.21% increase from the approved 2023 budget. This still represents a 28% reduction over the last six budget years.
- Eight churches closed this conference year. Two new faith communities began this year.
- 36 clergy entered retired status.
- The Conference approved the minimum salary for pastors under full-time appointment as $48,320, an increase of $947 per year. The Conference voted to continue the student pastor status at a salary of 65% of the full-appointment minimum salary.
- Six elders and two deacons were ordained [average age 36], 16 provisional members were commissioned [average age 36], 18 local pastors were licensed [average age 42], nine lay ministers were certified, and one deaconess was commissioned.
- 163 churches will receive new pastors this year.
- A special-called annual conference session will convene on November 19, 2022, to ratify disaffiliation agreements for churches that have met the requirements to disaffiliate under the Disaffiliation Agreement approved and adopted by the Conference Board of Trustees.
- Annual Conference 2023 will be June 15-17, 2023, in Greenville, NC.
Recordings of all business sessions, Bible study, and worship services are available on the NC Conference app or at nccumc.org/ac2022/watch. You can view photos from the four-day conference online in the Annual Conference 2022 album on Flickr. The final PDF of Resolutions is at nccumc.org/ac2022/resolutions. Donations to Special Offerings may be made online at nccumc.org/giving/ac2022 until the end of June or send checks to NC Conference – Raleigh Area, P.O. Box 890202, Charlotte, NC 28289-0202 with the selected offering noted on the Memo line.