2021 Annual Conference Report
by J.R. Pond, Avery UMC Lay Delegate
It was a beautiful annual conference that was condensed into a very short time window. Events kicked off at 7:00 PM on Friday June 18 from Erie, Pennsylvania rather than Grove City. As part of the condensed timeline, Annual Conference was also conducted in a hybrid format with everything streamed for lay delegates to view from home, rather than traveling to the physical event. The overarching message of Annual conference was “Our Labor will Not be in Vain”. A perfect message after the last year of doing God’s work through the difficulties of the pandemic.
The message during the ordination and commissioning service on Friday night was presented by Sharon Gregory, our Conference Lay Leader. Worthy of note is that Pastor Erik’s aunt, Valerie Mize, was ordained as the fifth elder in his immediate family.
Saturday began with at 8:00 AM with a bible study lead by Bishop Moore-Koikoi. We were reminded to do the work and sow the seeds even when we know it will not be easy. In summary, we need to remember that when we plant our gardens we do not know if the seeds will germinate, if an animal or poor weather will thwart our efforts, but we are called to do the work anyway. That is our job as Christians.
The current state of the church was an uplifting presentation with multiple stories of success from around the conference. New programs, new worship services, modified worship that have allowed churches and ministry to succeed locally and globally.
Current events regarding the Western Pennsylvania Conference, and the governance of this Annual Conference, starts with the items to be voted on:
• A motion to suspend the Conference rules requiring in-person voting
• The Budget for 2022, which was discussed during District Conferences
(RS401, beginning on p. 408 of the legislation packet at wpaumc.org/ac).
• A slate of nominees for Conference boards and committees
• Items related to the merger of the United Methodist Stewardship Foundation of the Susquehanna Conference into the United Methodist Foundation of Western PA
(RS707, 708 & 709, beginning on page 448 of the legislation packet).
The vote to merge the Susquehanna Conference Foundation and Western Pennsylvania Conference Foundation will pool the Foundations’ resources to do God’s work. The vote passed with a 96% positive vote from the Susquehanna Conference and is one of the items that will be voted on in the Western Pennsylvania Conference from this Annual Conference. This is not merging the Conferences, just the Foundations.
The voting will be done with paper ballots that members have until June 30 to return to the Conference. Ballots will be accepted via mail, email, or fax. Items that are not voted on by members will be handled by the Connectional Leadership Table, as they have in the past year.
The bishop from the Susquehanna conference is retiring and without General and Jurisdictional Conferences, there is no way to elect new bishops. Starting September 1, we will see increased collaboration between the Western Pennsylvania, Susquehanna, and West Virginia Conferences as Bishop Moore-Koikoi and Bishop Steiner-Ball assume joint responsibility for all three conferences. This is in no way a precursor to merger, but rather a way for us to lean on the strengths and passions of each of the conferences to benefit everyone. The goal is to share skills across borders to grow lay leadership – multiplying God’s work – not streamlining it.
I wanted to reflect on the 5 focuses of the Conference moving forward:
• Creating new and renewed congregations
• Developing principled Christian leaders
• Focusing on dismantling poverty
• How to promote abundant health: Mental, Physical, Financial and Environmental
• Dismantling racism
In budget news, there has been a reduction of about 15% to the Conference budget since 2015. With that said, our Connectional Apportionments will be going up a little for 2022. The Conference has done a lot of work to try and align the connectional apportionments with the church’s ability to contribute successfully. Our 2021 Apportionments are $17,935 which will increase to $19,313 for 2022.
During the memorial service on Saturday, we remembered clergy, clergy
spouses and laity who died within the past two years. Sandy Dran, spouse of
Rev. George Dran and member of Avery UMC, was among those honored
The link to the Conference page has all the legislation available for anyone who is interested in learning more. Please feel free to reach out to me or check out https://www.wpaumc.org/ac to see all the reports, legislation, nominations, and appointments from Annual Conference.
Rev. Valerie Mize, aunt of Pastor Erik, is ordained by Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi on June 18, 2021
Pastor Erik is one of 5 ordained pastors in his family. Left to right: Rev. Erik Hoeke, Rev. John Mize, Rev. Valerie Mize, Rev. Tom Hoeke, Rev. Connie Hoeke
Pastor Erik Returning for an 8th year at Avery UMC
Pastor Erik has officially been reappointed by the Bishop to Avery UMC for July 2021—June 2022. United Methodist Pastors are usually on one year at a time appointments. July 1 will begin the 8th appointment year for Pastor Erik at Avery UMC.