Thursday, March 21, 2019

Upward Basketball Celebration at Paddletown St. Paul’s UMC

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At the culmination of months of planning, hard work, team practices, and basketball games the athletes of Upward Basketball at Paddletown St. Paul’s UMC wrapped up their winter season with worship songs, awards, and a very special guest. 

Pastor Jane Keller Rosborough brought a love for Upward Basketball along with her when she was appointed to Paddletown St. Paul’s in July of 2018. 
“I was fortunate to be director of Upward at my home church in Carlisle.  Wwhen I was appointed to Paddletown, my children and I came to visit in January, 2018, and walked into their beautiful gym.  Both of my kids looked at me and said, ‘This is Upward.’  My first response was, ‘Ok, we can’t push this, we’re new.’  After we arrived, I started going over to the gym and praying, , ‘OK God, here’s this space, where are you leading us?’  So, I proposed it to the administrative council, with the caveat, ‘in a year, I really think we could do this.’”

“’And their response was ‘if we are going to do this, let’s just do it.’”
And so began the task of getting everything ready for the upcoming season. 
Rosborough needed some help in getting St. Paul’s first Upward season off the ground.  She asked the congregation for volunteers, and Michael Cline began thinking about the ways he could support the new ministry.  “She was asking for volunteers,” Cline said, “so I walked in and said, ‘I’d like to volunteer some time.’ She said ‘Well, I really need a director.’  I was a little shocked, so I really prayed about it and realized that it was probably the perfect spot for me to be in.  I took the lead and started putting out flyers, and getting things out to the schools.”

The challenge of starting their first Upward season in 2018, instead of waiting until 2019, added some pressure.

Along with our UPWARD Leadership Team and other church volunteers, we did 6 months of work in about two months to get it up and running,” said Rosborough.

They wondered if all of their hard work would pay off, and if they’d have enough basketball players and cheerleaders to participate in the first season.

Cline knew that something special was in the works.  He said, “You know what, God’s got it in his hands.  We will have enough kids.’  And I was just confident that we’d have enough kids.  When it was all said and done, we had over 60 kids signed up for our first season, which is amazing.”

Special guest Seth Franco get a photo with Upwards kids at Paddletown St. Paul's UMC

All that planning made it all worth it. “Everything went really smoothly, and lots of people from our congregation came to see what it was about.  And we had a lot of volunteers from our congregation, as well as from the community and the kids’ parents.”

Seth Franco shares some basketball tricks with Upward kids at Paddletown St. Paul's UMC

The end of season celebration brought together all of the Upward players and cheerleaders, and featured a special guest, former Harlem Globetrotter, Seth Franco. Franco played for the Harlem Wizards and the Harlem Globetrotters throughout his basketball career.

Seth Franco shares some basketball tricks with the kids at Paddletown St. Paul's UMC

“Today, I had the chance to be at Upward Basketball and to share my story.  I was born with hip dysplasia and had both of my hips replaced.  The big challenge for most of my life hasn’t been basketball, it’s been more of a health issue.”

Seth Franco, former Harlem Globetrotter

Bringing his basketball tricks to Upward made this celebration even more special for the athletes of Paddletown’s first Upward Basketball season. Franco shared an inspiring message, amazed everyone with his tricks, and wanted all of this season’s players to know that they can do anything, as long as they trust in God.
“It’s been a great journey, God’s been a big part of my story.  He is my story, giving me the strength to get up and try again every day.” Franco said.

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Thursday, March 14, 2019

Susquehanna LINK, March 2019

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Thank you to our delegation

Photo by Shawn Gilgore

Thank you to our delegation, our communications staff, and others from the Susquehanna Conference who participated in the 2019 Special Session of General Conference with their presence, their prayers, their faith, their passion, their love for our church, their hard work, and, likely, not much sleep.

Let us, together, continue the work of making disciples for Jesus Christ.

Connecting Ministries - Reflecting on the 2019 General Conference

Rev. Jason Mackey,
Director of Connecting Ministries

I had never been to General Conference before. I’m not sure what I expected, but I think it’s safe to say that this Special Called Session was like nothing anyone has ever experienced before.
Imagine trying to hold a family meeting with 1,000 of your relatives. Then imagine trying to have an intimate, worshipful experience in a space that’s designed to seat 65,000 people. And finally, be sure to include fundamentalist protesters screaming hate through a bull horn from across the street. It really sets the scene for something great, doesn’t it?

Needless to say, the Conference did not produce the kind of finality that our church needs. With pending rulings from Judicial Council, another General Conference only 14 months away, and vows to openly defy our Discipline, the question is anything but settled.

A friend of mine said at the end of the Conference, “I don’t want to hurt people anymore.” That’s so true, and yet, collectively our church is struggling to be faithful to such a heart cry. The current Traditional Plan does not allow room for progressives to live out their theological convictions, but anything less than this plan might be seen as infringing on the theological convictions of some traditionalists.

Personally, I believe change is necessary. I believe our covenant as a connectional system calls us to passionately defend convictions on both sides. We are not defined by our episcopacy or our congregationalism, but rather the network of clergy and congregations connecting in ministry. Our healthy relationships with one another are foundational. Naturally then, I struggle with a call for civil disobedience in order to spark change. While I respect it and appreciate the heart behind it, I personally cannot decide on where the line must be drawn between advocacy and covenantal connection.

What I do know is that the Susquehanna Conference is a cultural enigma in the scope of the General Church. We do not play political games. We do not try to posture or create voting blocs when considering business or resolutions. We consider the merit of every matter on its own and we faithfully ask God’s Spirit to guide our choices. We don’t have a spirit for fighting and I am proud and grateful to be part of a conference that values our relationships over politics. To me, it means that when it comes to the question of same-sex marriage and LGBTQ ordination we see beyond an issue to the actual persons it represents.

I am not positive where our church will land, but I know the values that guide my conversations and the conversations of my brothers and sisters throughout our conference. I know that for each one of us, the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, comes first. I pray that we might soon come to a resolution that can satisfy us all, and in the meantime, I thank you for faithfully and lovingly continuing this conversation together.

Equipping Vital Congregations - The IMPACT! Harrisburg Initiative

Kay L. Kotan, 
Director of Equipping Vital Congregations

Many of the members of the Susquehanna Conference have heard about the initiative of Impact! Harrisburg. Unfortunately, some information has come second or third hand. We thought it might be helpful to offer some clarification for this exciting initiative that we are in the midst of as we speak.
The Vision for the New Faith Community: A dynamic creative city-wide movement to be a multi-site diverse community of believers who meet the physical and spiritual needs of our neighbors, invest in the lives of our neighbors, and offer hope to our neighbors.

The Vision for the Preparation of a New Faith Community: As the current individual congregations of The United Methodist Church, in and around Harrisburg, we will unite in faith, community and collaboration so that we may have a God-sized impact in and around the city of Harrisburg.

Why was IMPACT! Harrisburg launched?

1. As Jesus proclaimed in the Great Commission, our congregations are to go and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Our congregations are struggling to live out this core purpose of the church.
2. Collectively, these ten (now nine as one has closed in the process) congregations are worshiping an average of 359 people. In an area with a population of approximately 50,000, this means the congregations are reaching less than one percent of the population.
3. Overall there has been a continuous decline in worship attendance, professions of faith, baptisms, and small group participation of the nine congregations in this initiative.
4. The demographics of the worshipers no longer match the demographics of the community including, but not limited to, race, age, socioeconomics, and phase of life.
5. The majority of those attending worship are commuting to their church on Sunday, thus adding to the overall disconnect of the churches and the neighborhoods. Most attenders are not “doing life” in the neighborhoods of the church.
6. Because of the loss of active attenders, resources are not available to have full-time clergy serving these congregations. This results in less available leadership and decreased ministry focus.
7. Through a five-month assessment by teams of the clergy and laity, these teams identified that, overall, our churches are struggling to offer vital ministries to reach new people for Christ in their neighborhoods. Yet, many congregants express the desire to reach new people, but feel ill-equipped to do so. These current congregants are critical in making this new vision possible through their historic calling in their faithfulness to be the church.
8. There is duplication of efforts in worship planning, music, bulletins, record keeping, membership rolls, etc. that can be more effectively and efficiently handled through centralization and fewer human resources leaving more resources (time, energy, and dollars) for ministry.
9. To reach more, younger, and diverse members of these communities, we will need to offer Jesus in new and innovative methods. The congregations have very limited resources to offer such.
10. Due to the decreasing availability of financial resources, most of the facilities have long-standing deferred maintenance issues, which now result in issues such as safety, accessibility, and liability concerns.

The Process

IMPACT! Harrisburg started in August with a letter to the congregations from Rev Barry Robison, Harrisburg District Superintendent. Each church was asked to form a prayer team and conduct prayer walks in their neighborhoods. Surrounding churches were asked to pray for the churches participating in IMPACT! Harrisburg. A diverse group of leaders of both laity and clergy were equipped and sent out as a Resource Team to meet with the pastor and laity from each church. The process was launched with a city-wide worship experience on September 9, 2018 at Camp Curtin Memorial Mitchell. In the months of September and October a thorough assessment of each congregation was conducted onsite at each church. In addition to the assessment, each church was asked how they could be a part of reaching more people in Harrisburg and the surrounding areas. While there was the hope of finding pockets of vitality to build upon, instead the Resource Team found that for the most part, the churches were struggling individually and collectively to reach their neighborhoods for Jesus Christ. When the Resource Team gathered to review all the assessments on November 7, 2018, the Team then discerned and recommended a vital merger into a new faith community. The plan for the vital merger was then created by members of the Resource Team. The Bishop and Cabinet were presented the recommendation and approved the plan on November 28, 2018. During another city-wide worship experience on December 8, 2018, the vision and strategic plan were shared. During December and January, the Resource Team has conducted at least one Town Hall Meeting at each church to answer questions and receive feedback. The Bishop, District Superintendent, and various conference personnel have been meeting routinely with the pastors for feedback and equipping opportunities. Church conferences will be held on March 17, 2019 to vote on the vital merger. For those churches who choose to come along with the merger, the first combined worship experience will be on April 28, 2019 allowing each church to have Easter at their respective facilities.

Our Prayer

We are fully aware that change is difficult. Leaving the church building where one has been baptized, confirmed, married, and developed many memories is painful. People transition through change at different paces. We continue to be in prayer for each congregant and each pastor during this time of discernment and transition. Many people inside and outside our churches are very excited about what is yet to come and can see so much potential in the God-sized vision that has been discerned. We still firmly believe God is calling The United Methodist Church to do a new thing to reach new people. Our prayer is that the 359 people attending the churches involved in IMPACT! Harrisburg will be able to catch the vision and help this new faith community live into God’s preferred future.

The Vision Becoming Reality

The first steps in the vision of IMPACT! Harrisburg becoming reality are already happening. Two of the three clergy have been named for the new faith community (see page 15). Pastors Kris Sledge and Deb Port have completed extensive church planting assessments and have been involved in special equipping opportunities to prepare them for this new appointment. Interviews have been taking place for the new leadership team/board. Folks are already talking about a combined choir. More than thirty women are coming together from the IMPACT! Harrisburg churches for a retreat. God is certainly moving! May we continue to glorify God for all that is coming together as we seek to be faithful to reach more people!

GC2019 - 2019 Special Session of the General Conference Opens with a Day of Prayer

United Methodist Bishops in Prayer at the 2019 Special Session of General Conference.
Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

Janelle Walker, Asst. Director of Communications, SUSUMC

Saturday, February 23 — The day began with a sense of humility. The Dome at America’s Center, a former NFL football stadium, was filled with prayerful thoughts, thanksgiving, and unity, even with the knowledge that what laid ahead for the assembled delegates would be difficult and would test their spirit.

From the US, to Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Philippines; the prayers remained a consistent surrender to God’s will, an embrace of the Lord’s everlasting love and grace, and thankfulness for one another.

“Today has been an amazing day where we have gathered with delegates and bishops from around the world, to be in prayer thanking God for the many ways that God continues to use the United Methodist Church here in the United States, and globally as well.” Said Rev. Larry Leland, Clergy Delegate and Lewisburg District superintendent.

The 2019 General Conference was opened by Bishops Al Gwinn (retired), Robert T. Hoshibata (Phoenix), and Debra Wallace-Padgett (Birmingham) sharing prayers of humility, unity, and surrender to God’s Sovereignty; setting the tone for the Day of Prayer.

Bishops Eduard Khegay (Moscow) and Harald Ruckert (Germany) led the delegates of General Conference through prayerful worship with and for Europe and Eurasia. Highlighting the complexities of UMC congregations throughout the Europe and Eurasian regions - worshiping in 16 countries, in 20 languages, and 310 local churches - serving tens of thousands of people. They gave thanks for the diverse family of God, the richness of mission work and cultures; and for unity in Christ Jesus. Praying for struggling economies, political differences, displaced people, and restrictions on religious freedom. They ended with a time of experiential prayer at stations throughout the main concourse and within the main bar of the General Conference.

Praying continued, with Bishops Mande Muyombo (North Katanga) and John Yambasu (Sierra Leone) leading prayers with and for Africa. They began with giving thanks to God for spirituality, diversity, church vitality, and mission. Transitioning to prayer for the many missional challenges the continent faces: health, education, leadership development, women’s empowerment, and agriculture. Ending with an offering of prayer for the 2019 General Conference and the important work the General Conference had before it, followed by group prayer between delegates and their neighboring tables.

Layne Miller, one of the lay delegates from the Susquehanna Conference said, “There were so many great elements, praying silently and individually, praying with the people from our delegation, around the table, and praying with strangers that we don’t know. There were communion elements, an element of asking for forgiveness, which was very meaningful to me. Especially as we face tomorrow, we don’t know what is to come, but this day set a great tone for everything that’s going to be coming.”

Bishops Minerva CarcaƱo (San Francisco) and Leonard Fairley (Louisville) led prayer with and for the USA. Offering thanksgiving prayers for New Church Development, UMCOR Mission Teams, and Ministries with Young People. Then asking heartfelt prayers for those living in poverty, those living as migrants, those affected by gun violence, and those living in modern-day slavery. Ending their time with a blessing for the Prayer Room and Prayer Volunteers by Bishops Bob Farr (Missouri) and Frank Beard (Illinois). The delegates were then dismissed for self-guided prayer.

The afternoon began with a time of prayer with and for the Philippines and Southeast Asia led by Bishops Ciriaco Francisco (Manila), Rudy Juan (Davao), and Pedro Torio (Baguio). They started in song celebrating God’s thriving work and joyfully thanking God for many blessings. Asking prayer for the many struggles they face: an increase in poverty, climate change, human rights violations, violence against women, children, and indigenous people; displacement and migration, extra-judicial killings, and overseas Filipino workers. Their time ended with all Bishops joining hands on stage in a powerful moment of prayer in each of their native languages.

Bishop Gary Mueller (Arkansas) offered some closing remarks of courage, “When it comes to difficult times, when comes to deep pain, when it comes to challenges, it takes every ounce of courage you have to overcome it.”

The day closed with Communion served by all the Bishops to the delegations on the floor, and to visitors throughout the concourses of the building.

GC2019 - Day 2 - General Conference Begins Legislative Business

Janelle Walker, Asst. Director of Communications, SUSUMC 

Sunday, February 24 — The morning session was opened by Bishop Robert T. Hoshibata (Phoenix Episcopal Area) who welcomed all in attendance and called everyone to worship. The Council of Bishops then entered in processional to “Lift High the Cross”. Worship concluded with a unifying message from Council of Bishop President Kenneth Carter of the Florida Episcopal Area ( Bishop Carter spoke of telling his story, our stories, and God’s story. “Your story is not the only story. So, we sit in these places, these privileged places, to share our stories and to listen to the stories of others. The good news is that God has a story too”, said Bishop Carter. He went on to talk about what divides us and breaking down those divisions through Christ. “Could it be that Jesus has already broken down the dividing wall of hostility that is between us and made peace through the blood of the cross?”, Bishop Carter reminded the delegates to remember that God is able to heal divisions and separations.

“Bishop Carter’s sermon this morning was powerful and reminded us of our task as delegates as we look for a way forward”, said Rev. Dr. Tom Salsgiver, Clergy Delegate, Assistant to the Bishop.

Following the message from Bishop Carter; Gary Graves, Secretary of the General Conference, named Bishop Christian Alsted from the Northern Europe and Eurasia Central Conference as presiding bishop for the morning. The session quickly moved into business, completing roll call and establishing the bar of the conference. The Committee on Agenda and Calendar presented their report, which was adopted. Next, the Committee on Reference presented their report. Finally, the Plan of Organization and Rules of Order for sustaining votes received a ‘yes’ vote.

The morning continued with a presentation from the Commission on a Way Forward. Moderators for the Commission, Bishops Ken Carter (Florida), Sandra Steiner Ball (West Virginia), and David Yemba (Congo) introduced the commission with a brief overview. Rev. Dr. Tom Salsgiver was joined by Rev. Julie Hager Love to introduce the commission’s members. Rev. Jasmine Smothers presented the One Church Plan, followed by Mazvita Machinga who presented the Connectional Conference Plan. And lastly, Rev. Jessica LaGrone, gave an overview of the Traditional Plan.

The morning closed with members of the commission conveying their experience working together. They spoke of the tremendous love and respect they have for one another, the difficulties of coming from so many diverse backgrounds and agreeing to disagree on viewpoints; and avoiding approaching each other with judgment or anger but with mutual understanding, admiration, and love.

The afternoon began with the business of prioritizing the petitions. Delegates voted on all petitions as either a ‘High or “Low’ priority. The results below are all petitions, ranked in order of priority, as decided by the general conference body.

After prioritization, the general conference moved into electing the legislative committee. Rev. Joe Harris (Communications Director, Oklahoma Conference) was elected Chair; Rev. Betty Kazadi Musau (Secretary, Central Congo Conference) was elected Vice-Chair, and Carlene Fogle-Miller (Pastor, North Georgia Conference) was elected Secretary. Following the vote, petitions were open for discussion with the legislative committee. First was the petition that addressed Wespath pension liabilities of departing churches and the accrued benefits of departing clergy. In the legislative committee’s first vote, delegates passed Wespath’s petition 768 to 44, which moved it on to the plenary session. Concerns about being so close to scheduled adjournment led delegates to vote to adjourn early and begin Monday with discussion of the Traditional Plan.

Prayer was the foundation of the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference.
Photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMNS

GC2019 - Day 3 - Legislative Committee

Janelle Walker, Asst. Director of Communications, SUSUMC 

Monday, February 25 — The 2019 Special Session of the General Conference opened with the discussion of petitions that made up the Traditional Plan. David Livingston of the Great Plains Conference asked to postpone discussion to the end of the day. Livingston talked about how his children frequently don’t hear about “the ‘love’ part of Christ, but only the ‘judgment’ part.”

After debate between delegates, it was decided to continue with discussion. Traditional Plan petitions and amendments moved to the floor for debate. The Legislative Committee voted to approve the Traditional Plan as amended by a vote of 461 to 359. Which moved it to the plenary session on Tuesday. The balance of the morning was spent on two more petitions, numbered 90066 and 90059, both dealing with disaffiliation, which were both approved.

United Methodist Bishops confer over legislative issues at the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

The afternoon opened with of discussion of the One Church Plan petitions. A number of close votes for amendments to petitions ensued, including one tied vote. The tied vote resulted in defeat due to majority rule, the One Church Plan would not move to the Tuesday plenary after a vote of No- 436 (53.04%) to Yes- 386 (46.96%).

“Today was a very emotional and difficult day for many of us, and I just want to say how proud I am of our delegation and you should be proud of them too,” said Lisa Bender, Chair of Delegation, and Lay Delegate. “They have worked very hard, they have been faithful and at their table, voting and doing everything that’s required of us. And even though we sometimes don’t have the same opinion, we have been very supportive of each other. We respect one another’s opinions, even though they aren’t the same as ours, and we truly do love each other and we are so grateful for each other and for the opportunity to be here.”

Young delegates address the General Conference.
Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

Following the vote, the petition for Disaffiliation – Ottjes New Par. 2548 – 90058 was defeated. The next motion on the floor was to reject all remaining petitions. An amendment to that motion was approved to exclude the Simple Plan. Following that approval, the delegation voted to reject all remaining petitions. A request was then moved to refer both remaining plans (the Traditional and the Simple) to Judicial Council for a declaratory decision, which means the council would rule on the nature of the constitutionality of each plan. The request was approved with a vote of 437 to 371.

The day ended with a discussion of the Simple Plan. After debate, it was defeated by a vote of 494 to 323. All plans are able to be brought to the plenary floor on Tuesday if enough delegates file for a Minority Report (

“It was a long day, it was a day that had some hurt and some division, it was very difficult to see the church working through that hurt together. At the same time, we also ended with worship, as we always do, in a note of hope, so we will see what tomorrow brings. As far as the results of today, we have the Traditional Plan that we will be working on and perfecting tomorrow, as well as some additional pieces of legislation that we are going to be looking at,” Rev. Beth Jones, Clergy Delegate.

A complete listing of Feb 25 actions:
A complete listing of all the petitions and the remaining plans:

A wall of prayers at the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference.
Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS

GC2019 - Day 4 - The Traditional Plan Passes

The 2019 Special Session of the General Conference. Photo by Shawn Gilgore, SUSUMC

Janelle Walker, Asst. Director of Communications, SUSUMC 

Tuesday, February 26 — The morning started with a spirit-led worship service. Mr. Fred Brewington of the New York Conference delivered a reflection message on courage and assurance. “From Jesus’ viewpoint, fear is counteracted by faith, and the outcome is peace. What do we do when we are afraid? When we face danger? When we face uncertainty? Do we hide? Do we close our eyes? Do we find comfort in someone’s arms? Do we dwell in “worst-case scenarios”? Do we pray? Can we will ourselves to not be afraid? Probably not. But what we can do is have faith: the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. And what we seek is peace, knowing that God holds us by the hand, resting in the assurance of God’s presence with us,” Mr. Brewington said.

Business followed shortly after. First was a vote to approve a timeline for the Central Conferences to adopt the plan which was sustained. Wespath petitions 90016-90017 were adopted with amendments.

Followed by Judicial Council decision 1377 which ruled: Petitions 90032, 90036, 90042, 90043, 90044, 90046, 90047 are constitutional.

Petitions 90033, 90034, 90038 violate paragraphs. 20 and 58 in the Book of Discipline and are unconstitutional.

Petitions 90037, 90038, 90039, 90040 violate the principles of legality and are unconstitutional.

Petition 90045, the second sentence is unconstitutional.

Petition 90059 violates paragraph. 33 and 41 and is unconstitutional.

Petition 90066 violates p. 33 unconstitutional.

The 2019 Special Session of the General Conference. Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMNS.

Next, the One Church Plan was brought forth as a minority report. Rev. Tom Berlin of Virginia presented the plan to the delegation. Very emotional arguments for and against the plan were brought to floor. Followed by a moment of powerful unifying prayer by the delegates in front of the stage. The vote to substitute the Minority Report (One Church Plan) was voted down (449 to 374).
Following the vote, the debate on the Traditional Plan was next. An emotional Shayla Jordan (age 21) of the Great Plains Conference, gathered with many young delegates on the floor to argue against the Traditional Plan. “People speaking here don’t represent the church that will be for years down the road,” she said. The morning ended with a no vote for an amendment to petition 90032.

The afternoon began with more debate of the Traditional Plan. Amendment after amendment were brought to the Conference floor. Presiding Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey of Louisiana was challenged on several decisions and was upheld on all of them. At one point, Carlene Fogle-Miller of Florida, who served as Secretary during the previous Legislative Committee, made a motion to refer rumors of bribery to the Committee on Ethics, which was passed.

After passionate arguments for and against, the Traditional Plan was brought to motion to vote. But, Bishop Harvey allowed for several calls of order that challenged the Traditional Plan, including a call for a report from the General Council of Finance and Administration, which was denied. A final vote for the Traditional Plan followed, which was passed by a vote of 438 to 384 (53.28% to 46.72%).

Following the vote, a group LGTBQ allies gathered on the delegation floor singing and show of solidarity. Protests could be heard in the background and one point a sit-in occurred on stage. However, business continued with votes for the disaffiliation Minority Report; to send the Traditional Plan to Judicial Council; and an Omnibus motion to not support petitions 90079 and 90018-90031 were all passed.

Rev. Donna Pritchard of the Oregon-Idaho Conference was the last delegate to speak, stating that the Western Jurisdiction will continue to be “One Church”.
The day ended as it began, with worship. Council of Bishops President Kenneth Carter then made a brief statement and the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference was adjourned.

United Methodist News Service story:

IMPACT! Harrisburg Announces Pastoral Team

IMPACT! Harrisburg is a dynamic city-wide movement that begins with a vital merger of current ministries and then becomes a multi-site diverse community of believers who meet the physical and spiritual needs of our neighbors, invest in the lives of our neighbors, and offer hope to our neighbors. Bishop Jeremiah Park is excited to announce the first step in living into this vision. Pastors Kris Sledge and Deb Port will be two of the pastors of this newly forming faith community.

Pastor Kristopher “Kris” Sledge

Kris who has lived and studied in the city of Harrisburg, will move back to the city effective July 1, to take on this new appointment. His love and passion for urban ministry are self-evident. Kris was recently identified as a high potential church planter and moved into extension ministry to accept an internship at The Gathering in St. Louis, Mo. There he is learning from the pastors and staff of one of the fastest growing urban United Methodist Churches in the US. Kris is humbled and excited to begin serving as the Lead Pastor of this new faith community. He loves to drink coffee, travel, read, and connect with new people. His wife, Hannah, also serves in ministry at St. John’s UMC in Chambersburg.
Most recently, Kris served as pastor of State Line UMC near Greencastle, Pennsylvania. He was born and raised in Selinsgrove, Pa. He attended Messiah College where he graduated with a B.A. in Biblical and Religious Studies. Kris also holds a Masters of Divinity from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington D.C. Before becoming the pastor at State Line, he served as a Pastoral Assistant and Director of Young Adult Ministries at Fishing Creek Salem UMC in Etters, Pa.

Pastor Deborah “Deb” Port

Deb, who currently serves at 29th Street UMC, has already been announced as the Interim Pastor through June 30 and is pleased to continue as part the new leadership team of this new faith community. She has an enthusiasm for urban ministry and wants to have a major impact on the city.

“God is at work and has placed the city of Harrisburg on my heart. I am confident that God will do amazing things and am humbled to be part of it,” said Port.

Living in Paxtang, just blocks from the city limits, Deb is an active leader in the community with many relationships. Like Kris, Deb was also assessed as a church planter with great potential.

Deb grew up in Middletown. Before she became a pastor, she worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant in a residential community and private in-home care. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania where she majored in Jewish Studies in 2010. She later received her Master of Divinity from Evangelical Seminary with awards in biblical studies and systematic theology in 2017. Her first appointment was at Longstown UMC in York.

She has been married to her husband Nic for 14 years. They have four children: Abigail (7), Hannah (6), Elizabeth (3), and Jonathan (2). This year they are also hosting a German exchange student.