Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Save the Date for Summer Camps and Retreats

Click on the graphic to see an enlarged version. Weblinks are provided below each graphic. Registration is open now at susumcamps.org


Bishops response to “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation”

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, 
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” - Jeremiah 29:11

Dear Laity and Clergy of the Susquehanna Annual Conference,
Grace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, Healer of Our Brokenness, and Hope of the World!

I am writing this pastoral letter to our people of the Susquehanna Conference regarding the groundbreaking announcement that was made on Friday, January 3, 2020.

Earlier today, the Mediation Team representing the Council of Bishops and representatives from diverse United Methodist advocacy groups released a document entitled, “Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation”. This document represents a historic agreement on a negotiated plan for a denominational way forward beyond the current impasse over human sexuality. It presents the over-arching concept of what reconciliation and grace through separation would look like. It will allow each part of the church to remain true to its theological understanding, while recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity and respect of every person. The entire work can be found by going to http://bit.ly/protocoldoc. As you follow the link to the protocol, you will also see the names of persons who all agreed to support and work for the passage of this way forward. The signers of this protocol represent diverse groups with different theological perspectives throughout our church.

This is not a finished document. It is a road map for General Conference to consider among a number of others. You will not find all the specifics of the plan outlined. The specifics are currently being developed so that the total plan can be presented to the delegates of the 2020 General Conference.

As people of faith and hope, it is not easy to acknowledge that we need to consider separation. This way forward has an element of sadness. However, beyond the sadness, this possibility can move United Methodists beyond the hurt and continual harming of each other over human sexuality to a new season where our church can fully focus on the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

The people and congregations of the Susquehanna Conference have demonstrated remarkable faithfulness and have remained steadfast during this time of uncertainty. I give thanks to God for each of you.

As we look to the future of our church, let’s continue to stay committed to the Susquehanna Conference’s mission to:

Grow spiritual transformational leaders, equip vital congregations and create new places for new people, and connect with each other and the world so that alive in Christ together, the Susquehanna Conference will embody the beloved community of disciple making congregations.

I would ask that beginning this Sunday and continuing through General Conference in May, a time in every worship service be set aside to be in prayer for the United Methodist Church, for the delegates to General Conference and for God’s spirit to work in and through our beloved church. Trusting that God has plans to give us hope and a future, our prayers for our beloved church are to be intensified for such a time as this.

With You in Christ,
Jeremiah Park

United Methodist Traditionalists, Centrists, Progressives & Bishops sign agreement aimed at separation

A diverse group of representatives from United Methodist advocacy groups with contrasting views and bishops from around the world has collaborated on a proposed agreement for the separation of The United Methodist Church (UMC) that has the unanimous support of all the parties involved.

The agreement, the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation, was achieved on December 17, 2019, and announced January 3, 2020.

The action comes amid heightened tensions in the church over conflicting views related to human sexuality after the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference failed to resolve differences among church members.

Legislation to implement the Protocol statement — an eight-page document detailing the terms of a split of the 13+ million-member denomination — is expected to come before the United Methodist General Conference for a vote at their legislative meeting in Minneapolis, Minn. in May 2020.

The 16-member group came together as an outgrowth of a consultation initiated by bishops from Central Conferences located outside the United States.  The parties sought assistance from prominent attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who specializes in mediation and alternative dispute resolution. Feinberg, who served as Special Master of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and administrator of the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund, along with a number of other complex matters, agreed to provide his services pro bono.

Meeting over several months, the unofficial group reached an agreement by signatories associated with all of the constituencies within the UMC for a mutually supported pathway for separation, bridging differences among other plans to be considered by the General Conference.  “The undersigned propose restructuring The United Methodist Church by separation as the best means to resolve our differences, allowing each part of the Church to remain true to its theological understanding, while recognizing the dignity, equality, integrity, and respect of every person,” says the Protocol Statement.

The document’s signers include representatives from Europe, Africa, the Philippines, and the United States, and include persons representing UMCNext; Mainstream UMC; Uniting Methodists; The Confessing Movement; Good News; The Institute on Religion & Democracy; the Wesleyan Covenant Association; Affirmation; Methodist Federation for Social Action; Reconciling Ministries Network; and the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus; as well as bishops from the United States and across the world.  The representatives have pledged to work together to support the proposal and develop legislation to implement it.

The Protocol anticipates the formation of a new traditionalist Methodist denomination. Once formed, the new church would receive $25 million over the next four years and give up further claim to the UMC’s assets. An additional $2 million would be allocated for potential additional new Methodist denominations which may emerge from the UMC. Acknowledging the historical role of the Methodist movement in systematic racial violence, exploitation and discrimination, the Protocol would allocate $39 million to ensure there is no disruption in supporting ministries for communities historically marginalized by racism.

Under the Protocol, conferences and local congregations could vote to separate from The United Methodist Church to affiliate with new Methodist denominations created under the agreement within a certain time frame.  Churches wishing to stay within the UMC would not be required to conduct a vote. Provisions exist for entities that choose to separate to retain their assets and liabilities. All current clergy and lay employees would keep their pensions regardless of the Methodist denomination with which they affiliate.
Under the Protocol, all administrative or judicial processes addressing restrictions in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist related to self-avowed practicing homosexuals or same-sex weddings, as well as actions to close churches, would be held in abeyance until the separation is completed.  The Protocol also references a plan which calls for a special general conference of the post-separation United Methodist Church. The purpose of the Special Session would be to create regional conferences, remove the current prohibitions against LGBTQ persons, and to repeal the Traditional Plan.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Bishop John Yambasu (Sierra Leone) stated, “All of us are servants of the church and realize that we are not the primary decision makers on these matters.  Instead, we humbly offer to the delegates of the 2020 General Conference the work which we have accomplished in the hopes that it will help heal the harms and conflicts within the body of Christ and free us to be more effective witnesses to God’s Kingdom.”

The signatories to the Protocol have provided a FAQ document  to provide additional information about the agreement. Comments and questions may be directed to the signatories at mediationprotocol@outlook.com.

A livestream event will take place on Monday, January 13, to provide further clarity and explanations of the plan by members of the Mediation Team.
This statement is being released by the Council of Bishops Office on behalf of the Mediation Team members.

View the full articles at tinyurl.com/wchfkvf and tinyurl.com/snggdfv 

Discovery Place - Resources for Lenten studies

As we approach Lent, one of the most meaningful seasons of the church year, consider one of these studies for small group or church-wide use.
New to Discovery Place:

The Case for Easter: Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus - In this video Bible study by Lee Strobel, the author reveals what he discovered as he went piece-by-piece through the evidence of the empty tomb. (4 sessions. It is packaged with The Case for Christmas, which can be previewed for use in Advent. Includes 2 DVDs and 2 study guides.)

The Walk: Five Essential Practices of the Christian Life - How do we walk with Christ—daily follow Him, grow in Him, and faithfully serve Him? Join Adam Hamilton to discover five essential spiritual practices rooted in Jesus’ own walk with God. (6 sessions. Includes DVD, leader guide, and book. Children and youth books also available.)

Why Easter Matters: Packaged with Who Needs Christmas - Andy Stanley looks at the lives of several key people in the familiar story of Jesus’ crucifixion. The circumstances they faced are different than ours, but their actions and mistakes are, unfortunately, not different at all. (4 sessions. Includes 2 DVDs and 2 study guides. The Christmas study can be previewed for use in Advent.)

Other resources appropriate for use during Lent include:

Simon Peter: Flawed but Faithful Disciple - Adam Hamilton studies the life of Simon Peter, an ordinary fisherman who heard an extraordinary call. Filmed on location in Israel and Italy, the DVD shows key sites in Simon Peter’s life. (6 sessions. Includes DVD, leader guide, and book. Children and youth books also available.)

What Makes a Hero? The Death-Defying Ministry of Jesus – Looking at pop culture heroes through the lens of faith, author Matt Rawle shows how Jesus turned the concept of hero on its head. (6 sessions. Includes DVD, leader guide, and book. Children and youth books also available.)

Restored: Finding Redemption in Our Mess – Author Tom Berlin encourages us to reflect and meditate on our own brokenness, showing us that it is only when we focus on the cross as a place to surrender control that we can leave our mess and find true redemption. (6 sessions. Includes DVD, leader guide, and book. Youth book also available.)

Final Words from the Cross – Adam Hamilton examines Christ’s dying hours and His final words as seen and heard through the eyes and ears of those who stood near the cross. (6 sessions. Includes DVD, leader guide, and book.)

24 Hours that Changed the World – Travel to the Holy Land with Adam Hamilton, to visit the sites where the earth-shaking events of the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life took place. (7 sessions. Includes DVD, leader guide, book, and 40 Days of Reflection booklet.)

The God We Can Know: Exploring the “I Am” Sayings of Jesus – Author Rob Fuquay explores the “I am” statements for Jesus found in the gospel of John, to help us answer the most essential question in the Christian faith: “Who do you say I am?” (7 sessions. Includes DVD and book.)

The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus – Author Adam Hamilton follows in the footsteps of Jesus from His baptism to the temptations to the heart of His ministry. (6 sessions. Includes DVD, leader guide, and book.)

Complete descriptions of these and all our other resources can be found in the online catalog on our website: www.discovery-place.org. You may place an order directly through our online catalog, e-mail discovery@susumc.org, or call 717-766-7968. Our hours of operation are Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with other hours by appointment. We look forward to hearing from you!

Serving Christ with you, Joni Robison

Our Heritage - Celebrating the History of our Faith

Dr. Milton Loyer, Conference Archivist

January – 100 years ago.  

Epworth Manor in Tyrone opened January 1, 1920, as the first Home for Aged of the Central Pennsylvania Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church.  This was the culmination of the work of the Commission on a Home for the Aged that had been formed at the direction of the 1913 annual conference.  Eight hundred Methodists from across the conference gathered to inspect the former S.S. Blair home – which immediately filled to its capacity of 15 residents.

The Commission became the United Methodist Homes for the Aging [UMHA] Inc. and operated Epworth Manor and its daughter facility, Bethany Village in Mechanicsburg.  In 1996 UMHA changed its name to Wesley Affiliated Services [WAS] Inc. and continued to function as an arm of the conference until 2003, when a Covenant of Relationship defined a legal and financial separation.  Asbury Communities Inc., a multi-state, multi-conference provider with whom WAS affiliated in 2000 continues to operate Bethany Village, but Epworth Manor has since been privatized and is now one of 60+ healthcare communities (including the former LaPorte United Methodist Home) operated by Guardian Elder Care in PA, OH and WV.

February – 50 years ago

The February 1970 issue of the Conference’s newspaper was Volume 1, Number 1, of THE LINK – a new publication for a new conference.  Although the Methodist-EUB denominational merger took place in 1968, January 1, 1970, marked the official beginning of the Central Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church – formed by bringing together parts of 5 conferences – 3 former EUB (Eastern, Susquehanna, Western Pennsylvania), and 2 former Methodist (Central Pennsylvania, Philadelphia). 

Associate conference council on ministries director Arthur W. Stambach edited the first five years of THE LINK until becoming a district superintendent in 1975.  Featured in that first issue were descriptions of and summer schedules for the new conference’s eight camp properties: Bethlehem Farm, Camp Penn, Camp Loyalsock, Central Oak Heights, Greene Hills, Mount Asbury, Wesley Forest, and an undeveloped Perry County site off PA route 850 between Drumgold and Alinda.

Hearts Strangely Warmed - Rev. Stephanie Rupert

“While the leader was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” — John Wesley, May 24, 1738

God calls us to tell our story so that others may come to know Jesus Christ. “Hearts Strangely Warmed” was created to share these stories about transformational encounters with the Living God.

Rev. Stephanie Rupert
While I was in confirmation class at Christ Lutheran one of my Sunday School teachers told the class that if we were very quiet and asked God what we should be when we grew up God would tell us. Initially I thought she just wanted us all to be quiet so she could have a moment of peace, and none of us took this seriously. However, I was intrigued by this theory so I went home and tried again. Shockingly to me, I heard God tell me: missionary. But I flatly refused and assumed, morbidly, I would die early before I ever actually needed a job.

After several mission trips to Brazil, Baltimore, Kentucky, and Connecticut I realized my understanding of missionary needed to change. Then I traveled to Thailand. Part of the experience included an internship which I fulfilled at an HIV/AIDs orphanage teaching English. While I was there I met a young man named Bunyalite who changed my life. He was 8 years old; however an infection had stunted his development physically and ostracism from his community stunted him socially, so he was more like a 5 year old. His very first day at the orphanage we became friends; he pulled me all over the grounds to play various games and explore but when it came time for me to leave he burst into tears. After about 20 minutes of trying to sooth the sobbing child, and holding up my peers waiting to leave, one of the other children who spoke both Thai and English told me he was crying for his mother, who was dying in a hospital as I held him.

I couldn’t not reconcile the image of a loving, caring God that I treasured with the fact that this 8- year-old beautiful little boy had been born with the illness that would most likely kill him as well as take his mother from him at his tender age. How could God be so cruel that I was born to an upper middle class family in America and he is born to a poor family in rural Thailand?

I was irate at God. We didn’t speak nicely for several months. But after my “Jeremiah moment” I realized that God‘s desires were not for Bunyalite to live and die in poverty. This was why God created me and the church, to care for the poor, the widow, and the orphan, the constant command of the Hebrew Bible.
God expanded my call from the important work of an international missionary to the call of a missionary pastor to the churches in my own backyard. To have the hard conversations of reaching those who don’t know Christ, and by getting the church out of their building to care for the deep needs of those around us. We have been called and blessed to bless others.

Stephanie was ordained as an Elder
at the 2019 Susquehanna Annual Conference.

Continue Your Mission at Albright Care Services

Pictured above are Normandie Ridge residents Ginny Foor, Jane Crowder, Joyce Brown, Janice Sewell, and Fran Wyre. When Janice Sewell moved to Normandie Ridge Senior Living Community in April of 2005, she knew she loved knitting, so she thought it would be fun to get a knitting club organized.  When she started the club, there were just a handful of knitters, but now the group has about a dozen.  

Not only are they knitting beautiful blankets and throws, but they are also giving back to the community.  Each year in November, the Normandie Knitters visit the Lehman Center in York to donate the items they have made.  Aside from blankets, they are also knitting hats and mittens.  This year, about 95 items were donated to the Lehman Center by the Normandie Ridge Knitters.  But, they also decided to collect other needed items such as socks and toiletries.  The ladies donated those items along with their knitted gifts.

Janice is thrilled with how the group has grown and that they are able to support those who may need help. She said, “It feels so good to deliver our items to the Lehman Center.  They are so thankful and gracious and we look forward to it every year.”

Since the group is expanding, so is their collection of supplies.  They were fortunate to find storage space at Normandie Ridge in a storage room.  A resident, Bob Kuhn, built shelving for them to store all of their yarn and other needed supplies.  Most of the yarn has been donated, so they have a variety of colors to work with.

The group hopes to have 100 blankets, hats and mittens to donate next year to the Lehman Center.  They meet once a week to knit as a group, but they also enjoy knitting on their own in their spare time.  Yarn donations are always welcome and new residents are welcome to join the Normandie Knitters!

Janice said, “We just enjoy being together as a group.  It’s nice to sit around and knit with friends and chat about things.  I’m so glad I started this group when I arrived here.  I just love living here and having all of these friends.”

Janice Sewell is a shining example of being called to serve, and Albright Care Services is proud that she is part of our family.  Albright invites you to continue your mission by joining us at one of our six locations.  Visit www.AlbrightCare.org for information on senior living, day programs, giving or volunteering.

The Value of a Gift

Douglas Hoy, Disaster Response Coordinator

In his blog about the greatest Christmas gift ever, writer and orthopedic surgeon, Jeremy Statton shares his thoughts about how our stories of the holiday will fill the air at every gathering we attend for the foreseeable future. The Christmas spirit will live on long after the tree is taken down, the lights are stored away for another year, and the music of the season has faded as quickly as our New Year’s resolution. And, as we continue to share those stories “family, food, and friends” and “gifts: both given and received,” do we really understand the value of those stories; stories filled with love, faith, and hope.

I generally do not spend a large amount of time looking back at the past and attempt to concentrate on what lies ahead. But this year, my thoughts seem to be focused on the gifts that were exchanged. More specifically, the value and meaning of those gifts. I wonder how many will remember what gifts we received? Will we remember who gave them to us? Is it possible we will never really know or understand the love and care that was exercised in selecting them?
In much the same way, disaster relief and recovery efforts generate spirit-filled excitement about opportunities to help those in need, who are suffering in the aftermath of a disaster. Similarly, stories abound out of the experiences both given and received in the name of our loving Savior Jesus Christ. But, unlike the holidays, the memories of a disaster can linger much longer. The news media has moved on to the next big story, the multitude of eager volunteers has dwindled, and life returns to a “new normal.” Survivors are left with the reality that a tragedy has occurred, they feel alone, and they are unsure of where to go for help.

It is the responsibility of the local church to provide that assistance and walk beside them during the recovery process. It is the visible presence of the church that is essential to providing an effective ministry of hope and healing to people in times of crisis. It is neighbors helping neighbors. And, the Disaster Response Ministry, in partnership with UMCOR, can help the church make those connections.

The ministry offers several opportunities that help to inform volunteers about the importance of the local church in the community, teach them how to step out into that community before a disaster occurs, and prepare them to respond when it does. The “Connecting Neighbors” program helps equip volunteers to identify and meet the needs of the community, while making a connection with it. Our Early Response Team (ERT) training teaches volunteers specific skills that enable them to meet specific needs in the early days after a disaster. And, we are developing a Spiritual and Emotional Care course that will equip those who feel called to support survivors, volunteers, and first responders as they face the inner emotional and spiritual turmoil and outward physical challenges that result from experiencing a disaster.

As a connectional church, united in our love for Christ and others, we are called to comfort each other and help to relieve the suffering and distress of others. The apostle Paul encourages us to fulfill this calling in his letter to the church in Philippi. “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” (Philippians 2:1-2).

I attended the annual UMCOR Disaster Response Coordinators training academy in November. And, I was reminded that the goal of any United Methodist disaster response should be to provide hope where it may not exist, be a presence in someone’s life, and occasionally, you may need to speak. According to Statton, it is hope that keeps us moving in the right direction, allows us to dream about something bigger and better than what we see and know, and gives us the ability to “take that first step, which can be so, so hard.” And, living out our faith during a disaster can provide that hope and encouragement to so many who feel alone. By being present with them during their time of need, we can be there to assist with that first step and the many that will follow.

John Wesley encouraged growth in our faith by “doing good of every possible sort, and, as far as possible, to all.” The goal was, and still is, to inspire the church and move its people to live out their calling more faithfully through action. What are you doing to heed the calling of scripture and the encouragement of Wesley? Think about the impact you could have by taking a message of hope and healing to a hurting community, not just after a disaster but every day. Imagine how long the Holy Spirit would linger in the hearts and minds of others just because you were present in their lives. Consider the eternal outcome of sharing the greatest story ever told about the greatest gift ever given. Then act, so that others may have an opportunity to share their love, faith, and hope filled stories.

Contact Doug at drc@susumc.org


Since opening in 2002, Mission Central has focused on three key areas:  Disaster Response, Mission Outreach, and Mission Education. We live by our mission: “Connecting God’s Resources with Human Need” and assisted over 2.2 million people with $7 million in resources in 2018.

Each year, we have two big events – the Mission Central Gala and the Mission Central 5K Run-Walk (October 31, 2020). This year, Mission Central’s Gala will be held on March 28, 2020 at the Camp Hill United Methodist Church and is critical to our annual budget. This event boasts 300 attendees and raises a significant percentage of our operating revenue each year. 

We invite Susquehanna Conference United Methodist Churches to participate with us in several ways:

  • Advertising and Sponsorship – Our sponsorship and advertising packages can be found here. These are great opportunities for churches to promote and advertise.
  • Donated Items – We are seeking donated items that can be used in either our silent or live auctions. We invite churches to sign up to make a basket for our raffle. All baskets are due March 13, 2020. Here is the link to sign up and a list of ideas, but we welcome your own basket ideas as well!
  • Tickets – Tickets can be purchased on this link. They are $70 each or $500 for the table (seats 8). This is sure to be a night with fun entertainment and fellowship. We hope to see you there!

If you have any questions, please contact Stephanie Titzel (Director of Development and Communications) by phone (717-766-1533) or email (stitzel@susumc.org). 

Thank you in advance for any consideration that you can give these requests. We wish you a very happy 2020!

Valentine Bags for Shut-ins

By Susie Grubb

In February 2019, the United Methodist Women of Calvary UMC in Harrisburg along with our Youth Fellowship prepared Valentine bags for our shut-ins. The evening started with a shared meal prepared by the UMW. Afterwards the women and youth created cards, designed bags, and filled the bags with items that were donated. The women delivered the bags, which were greatly appreciated, to the shut-ins. Several shut-ins who could not speak or move had their eyes light up when members said the bags were from “their church.” Notes of appreciation were received from family members of shut-ins who received bags. This fellowship showed God’s love across generations.

Susie Grubb is a member, past president, and treasurer of the United Methodist Women of Calvary UMC in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and a cluster leader and secretary of the Harrisburg District UMW.