Month: June 2016

Western North Carolina Conference Summary Report

(this was submitted to the United Methodist News Service to include in their collection of reports from across the denomination)


AC-Graphic-lgThe Western North Carolina Conference gathered at Lake Junaluska Conference & Retreat Center in Lake Junaluska, N. C. from June 15-19, 2016.  The theme for this conference was “Go Light Your World” (Matthew 5:14).

Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster was the officiating bishop.

Guest speakers for the event included Rev. Dr. William McClain, the Mary Elizabeth McGehee Joyce Professor Emeritus of Preaching and Worship, Wesley Theological Seminary. He preached at the opening service and at the commissioning service. During the opening service he challenged the conference to consider “if we love Jesus more than these.”  He looked at the violence in our nation and asked, “What is the judgment on our nation that continues to allow assault weapons to be bought and sold to brutalize and murder our people?  Those who love Jesus more than these should speak out and act or the rocks will cry out. I used to hear Martin Luther King say: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.”  It is time for the church to speak out boldly and clearly less we betray that young and fearless prophet of ancient Galilee who continues to ask: Do you love me more than these?”

Rev. Dr. Bryan Collier, from the Orchard United Methodist congregation in Tupelo, Miss., preached at the evening service on Thursday of conference.  He called on those gathered to be witnesses of Jesus: “We are invited to tell others about Jesus: as those who know him best and because of this call–we cannot be a church distracted by what we want, wish, hope or prefer that Jesus do or say.  We cannot be a church that tells others about him as those who knew him or heard of him or met him once. Your church and my church and our church (The United Methodist Church) must recapture the priority of an ongoing vibrant relationship with Jesus or there will be no fruit—because apart from him we can do nothing.”

Bishop Cynthia Harvey of the Louisiana Annual Conference, preached at the ordination service. Speaking to the ordinands, and to all who are called because of their baptisms: “Once you meet Jesus – once you see, and hear and taste and smell life in Jesus, you don’t see things the same way ever again. It is risky business to enter into conversation with Jesus.  Who knows where it might take you.  Sometimes it just takes two words.  Follow me!”

Bishop-G-1000Main actions of the conference

  • Elected leadership for all of the conference committees and commissions for the 2016-2020 quadrennium.
  • Introduced the new CEO of The Children’s Home who reported on the partnership between The Children’s Home and The Crossnore School to reach out to children in need in the region.
  • Heard reports from various groups and work areas within the conference, including the amazing work with missional networks and churches with children in schools.
  • Heard a report from General Conference from the heads of the delegation, and during that report the conference endorsed Dr. James Howell of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte as the episcopal nominee at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference in July.
  • Passed a budget for 2017 of $16,404,655 dollars, a slight decrease from the 2016 budget.
  • Welcomed Dr. Mark King as the new Conference Treasurer who begins his work in July.
  • Amy Coles and others laid out the vision and structure for the next conference year including welcoming Dr. John Boggs as the new Director for Vital Discipleship and Caroline Wood as the new Director of Missional Engagement and Connectional Relationships. The conference was also introduced to the expanded Church Vitality Team.
  • Lyn Sorrells was introduced as the new Director of the Church Legacy Initiative that will be a new project funded by the Duke Endowment and in partnerships with the United Methodist Foundation of Western North Carolina.
  • Heard reports from the laity of the conference and especially from United Methodist Men and United Methodist Women. Our conference organization of UM Men was recognized as the top group in the country back in March and were recognized before the body.  UM Women continue to lead in the nation- #1 in Mission Giving for 15th consecutive year and #1 in Legacy Giving.
  • Recognized Rev. Luke Edwards of King Street Church in Boone with the Denman Evangelism Award. Preston Davis, chaplain at High Point University, was awarded the Francis Asbury Award for campus ministry.
  • Celebrated the Retirement of Bishop Larry Goodpaster for his eight years of service to Western North Carolina throughout the conference. Friday afternoon and evening of conference included gifts, recognition of family, and presenting of dozens of perennial plants that will be planted around Lake Junaluska to beautify the grounds for years to come.

A complete overview of the entire Annual Conference meeting can be found at:


Four Areas of Focus

Ministry with the Poor– Over the past 4 years, churches across Western North Carolina have created relationships with 548 schools and are involved with everything from providing backpacks of food, to tutoring to running after school programs.  There is special emphasis on doing ministry with the poor and those in need.  We were challenged to grow that number to 1000 by 2017.

Improving Global Health- The Western North Carolina Conference continues to participate in Imagine No Malaria and improving global health.  As a gift in honor of our retiring bishop, there were gifts from across the conference totaling near $70,000 dollars.

New and Renewed Congregations– Our Church Vitality Team has been involved with hundreds of churches across the conference and has helped to create new and expanded congregations.  This year the staff will increase to a Church Vitality Strategist in each district that will work to create more vital churches.

Developing Principled Christian Leaders- Our Conference Leadership Development Team continues to create opportunities for growing clergy and lay professional leaders in the conference.  Over 300 clergy and lay ministry professionals have been through a main workshop titled “Called and Gifted to Lead” that empowers participants to discover and resource individualized plans to increase one’s capacity for leadership.


commission-400Ordinations, Retirements, and Statistics

There were 14 newly commissioned clergy at this Annual Conference with an average age of 38.8.

There were 27 newly ordained clergy at this Annual Conference with an average age of 44.4.  Seven deacons were ordained, making it the largest class ever in WNC.

There were no persons admitted as associate members.

There were 25 clergy who retired this year with a total of 955 years of active service among them.

Membership stands at 282755, down 1033 from the previous year.

Worship attendance stands at 105406 down 5759.

Church school attendance stands at 43935 down 2698.

Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2015 were 3850, down 434.

Adults and young adults in small groups for 2015 were 76040, up 1609,

Worshippers engaged in mission for 2015 were 78663, up 8383.


The 2017 Annual Conference is scheduled for June 23-25, 2017 at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center.


-Michael Rich, Western North Carolina Conference, web & communications manager

Bishop Larry Goodpaster- Closing Worship

BishopGTurn on the Light!
Matthew 5:14-16

Jun 19, 2016
Bishop Larry Goodpaster

Jesus said: “You are the light of the world.” Is there any part of that audacious declaration that you do not understand? Say it with me: you are the light of the world. Now make it personal: pat your heart and repeat after me: I am … light … in … of … for the world. Remember Jesus is addressing a rather large crowd of disciples, believers, seekers, questioners, and hangers-on, and I suspect he waved both arms across the crowd for emphasis on “you.” We are in this together.

In the year 1893, the great World’s Fair captured the imagination of the people of Chicago. The World’s Columbian Exposition, as it was called, was built at Jackson Park near the shores of Lake Michigan, and attracted people from all over the world, in spite of a deepening economic depression at that time. The Chicago fair introduced many new products and some of the latest inventions for what promised to be a marvelous twentieth century that was just around the corner. Some things that were first seen at that 1893 World’s Fair: Cracker Jacks, long-distance telephone service, moving pictures, zippers, all-electric kitchen, Juicy Fruit gum and Shredded Wheat cereal.

Perhaps the most amazing display at the fair was the electric street lights that paved the way through the immense fairgrounds. In his best-selling book, The Devil in the White City, author Erik Larson describes that display this way:

“The lamps that laced every building and walkway produced the most elaborate demonstration of electric illumination ever attempted and the first large-scale test of alternating current. The fair alone consumed three times as much electricity as the entire city of Chicago … what visitors adored was the sheer beauty of seeing so many lights ignited in one place at one time.” (The Devil in the White City, Erik Larson, Crown Publishing, 2003, page 47)

Is it possible to imagine such “sheer beauty” shining forth from the churches of the Western North Carolina Conference? Can you picture the most “elaborate demonstration” of members and disciples letting their light shine? Envision thousands of lights ignited for one purpose: to shine the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and shatter the darkness that surrounds the people of our communities and world. Jesus said: “Let your light shine!”

Unfortunately as I have traveled across our conference for the last eight years, and around the connection for the last sixteen, I have heard a disturbing clicking sound. It is not the click of a computer mouse connecting to the internet, nor the clicks of a smart phone accessing information at the touch of your finger. It is the sound of light switches being turned off at our churches.

  • A church says, “we’re just about the right size now” … click, light switch is turned off.
  • Another church says, “what if we attract the wrong kind of people” … click, light switch is turned off.
  • Still another says, “our neighborhood is changing and we are afraid” … click, light switch is turned off.
  • And many continue to say, “we’ve never done it that way before” … click, light switch is turned off.

Yesterday we officially closed five churches and as I have felt every year there is sadness around that action. These were places where people had been baptized and professed their faith, where weddings and funerals had been conducted, where Vacation Bible Schools and revivals had occurred, and now the doors are closed. But I also know that the action yesterday was the result of light switches being turned off years ago.

Some of you may remember an advertising slogan that filled the airwaves during the last decades of the last century. It was actually named one of the Top 100 advertising campaigns of the entire twentieth century. Tom Bodett was the spokesperson for Motel 6 and ended each spot with the words, “we’ll leave the light on for you.” Four years ago Motel 6 changed the wording slightly: “50 years, the light’s still on.” Church: is your light still on?

Jesus said: “You are the light of the world.” Notice that he did not say, “You have to try harder to be a brighter light,” as if somehow we could get spot-light brilliance out of 60-watt members! Neither did he say that you ought to be light, as if we have any choice in the matter. “Let your light shine” he says. How shall we do that? Throughout Matthew’s Gospel I find signs of what that might look like. It is as if Matthew amplifies and illumines this word from Jesus.

One of those signs is recorded in the 18th chapter of Matthew. Jesus says: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” We have all probably waxed eloquently on some required childlike qualities but notice that the word from Jesus begins with “unless you change.” Unless you change you will never glow with the brilliance of God’s grace and mercy and disperse the darkness of this world.

I have always get a good chuckle from all of those amusing sometimes insightful one-liners about changing light bulbs. I especially like the ones about Methodists. You know: how many Methodists does it take to change a light bulb? One answer: “Change! Are you kidding me, my grandfather gave that light bulb!” Or: “We’re not sure, but we will appoint a 12-person study committee to determine the feasibility of instructing the trustees to investigate the cost and benefits of changing that light bulb.”

There is an encounter between Jesus and a seeker that illustrates what Jesus is saying. Nicodemus comes to Jesus by night looking for some light for his soul. Like countless others since, he is puzzled over what he hears – this notion of being born anew, born from above. It’s like turning or changing or starting over again. “You mean,” He says, “I have to become an infant again.” That’s just it, Jesus says – you have to learn to depend on and trust God and the movement of God’s Spirit in your life.

Many act and think as if they need no assistance from anyone, that they can make it on our own and have it their way, or that their ideas and practices are better than others. In a world left to its own devices inhabited by people who believe they are better than everyone else, darkness prevails. As Nicodemus learned no light can fulfill its intended purpose if it is not connected to the power source. If we are going to be light, if we are going to let our light shine we must allow God’s power to flow into and through us.

A second revealing statement is found in the 10th chapter of Matthew where Jesus says: “What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.” That is an echo of “no one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket.” In the 24th of his 52 standard sermons (the 4th one on the Sermon on the Mount), John Wesley wrote: “Whatever religion can be concealed is not Christianity … it is absolutely contrary to the design of the great author of it.” Almost 200 years later Dietrich Bonhoeffer would sound the same theme in Cost of Discipleship. “Any community of Jesus,” he wrote, “which seeks to hide itself has ceased to follow him.” (The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1995 Touchstone Edition, page 118)

Tell it, Jesus says. Proclaim it. Do not keep it to yourselves. We are called to be witnesses to the love, grace, and mercy of God, without which none of us would be here. In this world where a pall of darkness seems to have covered us – from global terrorism to domestic violence, from racist attitudes to irrational fears, from diseases of poverty to human trafficking, from angry shouting matches to mass shootings and senseless gun deaths – the need for bold witnesses for Jesus Christ has never been more necessary or more urgent.

It is my unscientific hunch that we have turned off more light switches in our churches because all of us (lay and clergy, young and old, rich and poor) have stopped telling and modeling the Gospel in compelling and relevant ways. Our talking has tended more toward arguing among ourselves instead of lighting the way for a dark, hurting world. While the world seems to be spinning out of control, we have spent far too much of our energy and burned up far too many light bulbs doing battle over worship styles, music tastes, dress codes and how many visible tattoos the youth director should have. It is time to quit squabbling and bickering over such things and let our light shine. Some of us may be incandescent bulbs and some may be fluorescent, some flashlights and others floodlights, but all of us … wait for it … Jesus says are the light of the world.

Finally, in the 14th chapter of Matthew, surrounded by a crowd of more than 5000 people, Jesus says to his disciples, “You give them something to eat.” The people had been hanging around for hours, hanging on every word Jesus spoke, and now, honestly, they were hungry. The disciples, ever watching out to protect Jesus, come to him saying, “okay, it’s time to shut this thing down for the day; pronounce the benediction and let them go into town and beat the Pharisees and Sadducees to the café. No, Jesus says, you take care of it. You give them something to eat.

Now I think those disciples would have been good church members in the 21st century. You see they were able to volunteer plenty of information and give advice; they were able to analyze the situation, and they surely felt some measure of sympathy for the crowd, but they were not going to do anything about it. Let them fend for themselves they suggest. Or better yet, let someone else take care of it. After all, we have don’t have enough, our resources are scarce, we do not like special offerings, and besides we all left our jobs and are now on fixed incomes.

If we are going to let our light shine we must adopt a missional mindset. Have you heard me say that in the last eight years? We will have to take risks, move out of our comfort zones and into the mission field which starts at the front door of our church building. The theme song we chose for this Annual Conference session is the Chris Rice song “Go Light your World.” Some of those words capture this missional approach:

“Carry your candle, run to the darkness,

…seek out the hopeless, confused and torn;

…seek out the lonely, the tired and worn …

…carry your candle, go light your world.”

You give them something to eat. Light up the world with deeds of compassion and concern. Be missional. Shine your light so all will see AND give glory to God. Not to you; not for a reward you might earn; not for a recognition plaque; not even to increase membership. But so that all will give glory to God.

When we began our journey together in 2008 we had no idea where God would take us, what road we would travel, or how we might more faithfully and fruitfully serve Christ Jesus. We started in the midst of an economic collapse that was deeper and went on longer than any could have imagined. In that dark time we chose to turn on the light of Christ Jesus in new and creative ways. Out of that time has been birthed a missional movement that challenges all of us to get outside the walls of our buildings, hit the streets, and make a difference in our communities for Jesus Christ.

Our missional networks have opened doors and shined the light of Christ in astounding ways across our conference. Welcome tables and open hands projects provide food to those who struggle daily to survive. Children not only return to school with supplies at the beginning of the year, but also get connected with a mentor, a tutor, a relationship with someone who genuinely cares. We heard this week that more than 540 schools are now connected with our churches providing light for thousands of children. Our churches and our networks are shining the light of Christ is other ways as well.

  • In the Denver area of Catawba Valley a ninety year old woman raising her great-grandchildren now has a well to provide water for her home, and in other houses of that area there are now new roofs and repaired floors … a network turning on lights and making a difference!
  • In central Charlotte immigrant and refugee families receive clothing, household goods, furniture and appliances along with tutoring, work support, healthcare screenings and most important personal relationships. A network turning on lights and making a difference!
  • Two weeks ago at a service in Asheville to bid farewell to one superintendent and welcome another, I met a person who had started coming to one of the “welcome tables” supported by our churches. A good meal and a welcoming spirit provided what she needed. As a result she has now been clean and sober for 2 years, and has made a profession of faith and joined the church. Two years ago she had no idea what a DS was and now here she worshipping with us. Turning on lights and making a difference!

Here, then, is the Jesus Strategy of illuminating the world with the light of the Gospel: be connected to God as our power source; be walking and talking witnesses to the love, mercy, and grace of God; be fully engaged in your community by reaching out to those who are hurting and those most vulnerable. I hope the next clicking sounds we here all over this conference will be lights being turned on and shining brightly. When we do that what a sheer beauty that will be!

Jesus says: “you are the light of the world.” Go … light your world!



Annual Conference 2017


The Western North Carolina Conference has scheduled
the 2017 Annual Conference

Friday, June 23 (noon)- Sunday, June 25 (noon), 2017
[Clergy Session will be Thursday evening, June 22nd]
Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center


For more information in Fall 2016

Bishop Cynthia Harvey- Ordination Sermon

BishopHarveyAnd They Saw and They Went

Bishop Cynthia Harvey

June 18, 2016

John 1:35-46; 1 Samuel 3:1-11


And they went and they saw or is it they saw and they went?

Here is the scene: John is standing by with two of his disciples when Jesus comes along.  John says, “hey you see that guy?  He is the Lamb of God.”  The two heard what John said and they followed Jesus.

In one verse they followed Jesus!  They didn’t ask any questions.  They didn’t ask, “You sure that’s him?  How do you really know John?”  They didn’t ask their spouses and family if it was okay to follow.  They didn’t even call a meeting to be sure they were certified candidates ready to follow.

Then it was like a domino effect.   Andrew, one of the two, went straight to his brother and said, “hey bro we have found the Messiah” and he led him right to Jesus.

The next day it says that Jesus FOUND Philip.  I wonder if he was lost?  Ole Phil, we don’t know much about him but he follows Jesus then Ole Phil FOUND Nathanael (lots of lost and found going on here) Phil said to Nathaniel, we have FOUND the one Moses wrote about.  Nathanael is a bit sarcastic and that’s when we hear his famous line, “can anything good come from Nazareth?”  Then it’s as if Philip double-dog dares him and says, “Come and See.”  See for yourself!

This calling of the disciples comes pretty quickly.  I guess word traveled fast even in Biblical times.

There is a lot of seeing and hearing in this gospel.

The gospel writer employs all the senses which helps me understand why seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling might be important to believing.

Once you meet Jesus – once you see, and hear and taste and smell life in Jesus, you don’t see things the same way ever again. It is risky business to enter into conversation with Jesus.  Who knows where it might take you.  Sometimes it just takes two words.  Follow me!

When we traveled to the Holy Land with the ordinands in 2013, we had a magnificent guide.  Wisam is smart, knows his Bible and knows his history.

He also comes from a long line of olive wood carvers actually they are more than just carvers, they are artists.  His father and grandfather were both artists and now he is following in their footsteps.

On the trip I fell in love with one of his pieces, truly a piece of art, it is Jesus washing the disciple’s feet.  He agreed to carve a special piece for us that would be shipped to us later.

Several weeks passed and a magnificent and I would add huge piece of olive wood art arrived at the episcopal residence.  It is far more than I ever imagined.  We found a perfect place for it in our home and it has become the center of a lot of conversation.

Last year, Wisam came to Baton Rouge for a visit and we invited him and several people that had traveled to the Holy Land for dinner.

Of course the olive wood piece was once again the center of conversation. Friends the carving is so intricate.  Jesus’ hair and eyes are unbelievably detailed. Someone asked Wisam if he had a picture to follow as he carved.  He said, “no that is just how I see Jesus in my minds eye.”  I turned to him and said there is no way.  In order to carve with this kind of attention to detail you have got to not just see Jesus in your mind but you have to see him from the very depth of your soul.

I believe this is the kind of “seeing” going on in this gospel.  People see, they come and see, they saw and they went, they see greater things, you will see the heavens open – this kind of seeing is much deeper.  It is not just visual.  Today’s leaders are called to see with more than just their eyes.

In a Longing for Holiness John Wesley wrote, “where the loving eye of the soul is continually fixed upon God, there can be no darkness at all.  To see with your soul is to see through the heart of God.”

Today we are called to “See” through the heart of God.

There are several times in this gospel when people see and hear with more than just their ears and their eyes.

There is the Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at the well and she cannot contain herself.  A Jewish man talking to a Samaritan woman and at high noon!

She runs back to her village and says, “Come and See this one who knows everything about me and loves me anyway.”

She is so moved by her experience of Jesus and is in such a hurry to tell everyone in her village that she leaves her jar behind. As soon as her friends hear her story they leave the city and are on their way.  I envision that the people were so moved to hear what the woman had to say that they too wanted to experience what she had experienced.  They probably left their soup pot on the stove and forgot to lock the door.

Then there is Mary Magdalene at the tomb.  She didn’t recognize Jesus until she heard her name.

Maybe seeing and hearing is believing.

Are these the kind of experiences that have moved you to say, yes, I am willing to leave my jar behind and maybe even the door unlocked to follow you, Jesus.  Remember it is risky to enter into conversation with Jesus.  It might lead you to places you don’t want to go.

Jesus has a knack for that and for making unlikely choices.  He didn’t stand outside the temple waiting for holy people.  God shows up most of the time when you are minding your own business.

Today, those of you who are to be ordained, reach this point in your ministry and you have made some pretty amazing sacrifices for what is pretty close to a super natural call.

You know that it is not going to be easy but you are people of faith after all who believe that the one that has brought you thus far will carry you through.

This call is a super natural call.  If it was easy, everybody would do it.  It is costly and at the same time it is joyful.

You have a story to tell.  People invest in dreams they are part of.  People want to be a part of your kind of story.

I have this pesky problem when I read a book or watch a movie or a sporting event.  I become a character in the movie or the book.

If I watch a basketball game, I play every minute of the game or every down of a football game.  I even get really nervous on the Food Network cooking competitions like Chopped when they have only minutes to prepare an entree.  I am exhausted when it’s over.  I invest myself in the story.

So much so that sometimes I stay up all night trying to “finish” the story or change the outcome of the game or think “you know if she had only remembered the secret ingredient.”

People want to be a part of a great story.

Do you dream of a love story of ministry filled with the life giving breath of the Spirit?

I know you must, otherwise you would not be here.  And I am speaking to all of you not just the one to be ordained and those to be commissioned!

Clergy are not the only Christians with credentials.  Thanks be to God for that!  By your baptism you too are credentialed, you too are called.

So while you might think you are eaves dropping on this conversation, know that this too is for you.

You have been attentive to the stirring of the Spirit.  You have heard and you have seen with your heart and you believe.

I love Proverbs 20:12 – Ears to hear and eyes to see – the Lord made them both.  Not sure you can just see or just hear but perhaps it takes both to fully grasp the working of the Spirit upon your life.

Seeing and hearing require us to be attentive.  Attentiveness is a gift from God and it causes you to pay attention sometimes to what we don’t want to see.  Think of all the times you haven’t paid attention.  And an accident occurred.  Or you missed the laughter of a child.  The homeless woman.  The hungry child.  The sunrise.

My grandmother lost her sight when I was young.

She lived across the street from us and it became my job to walk her to church, to be her eyes.

She was truly an amazing woman.  She could see better than anyone I knew.  Better than any sighted person!  She saw from the heart.  She saw from the very depth of her soul.  She did not have visual sight but she could see 20/20!

She was attentive to everything around her.  She never missed a thing.  She could even put on her own make-up.  She did it by touch.  She didn’t have to see you, she could smell you coming.  She recognized your walk.

She could see!

How I wish more of us could see like this.  With attentiveness that is open to the movement of God all around us.  The world and the church would be much different.

Let’s flip back to the Old Testament story for a minute.

There is old Eli.  His eyes had grown weak and he was unable to see.  Samuel is lying  down near by and is awakened by a voice.

He says, “I’m here” and he hurries to Eli and says,  “you rang?”

Eli in his old man voice, says, “son, I didn’t call you / go back and lie down.”

A second time Samuel hears a voice and runs to Eli and once again Eli says, this time he has taken out his false teeth and says “sonny boy it ain’t me.  You must be hearing things.  Go and lie down.”

A third time Samuel hears the voice and runs to Eli and the wise old man realizes that it may be the Lord calling Samuel.

Samuel did not know the Lord’s voice – he didn’t have ears to hear.

At this point I am guessing they are both exhausted and maybe a little exasperated with each other.  They just want to get some sleep for heaven’s sake.

The wise old man tells him to go lie down and if he hears the voice yet again, respond, “Speak! Lord! your servant is listening.”

The Lord calls on Samuel a fourth time, “Samuel, Samuel” and Samuel follows the old man’s advice and says Speak Lord, your servant is listening.

The Lord says, I am about to do something in Israel that will make everyone’s ears tingle.

It took four attempts before the Lord got Samuel’s attention. He did not yet have ears to hear.  He didn’t know the Lord therefore did not know the Lord’s voice.

Sometimes God shows up when we are minding our own business.

Each time Samuel hears the voice, without hesitation, he gets up runs to the nearby room where old and almost blind Eli is sleeping – Here I am!  For you called me.  Each time the old man says, “I didn’t call you go back to your room.”

It is Eli, old and almost blind; the one who cannot see with his eyes that perceives or “sees” that it is the Lord calling Samuel.

Even though everyone knew that it was rare that God spoke to people in those days.  It is the feeble old man that understands what is going on.

He gives the young Samuel some very wise counsel, a little coaching from the old man  “GO” and when you hear the voice again say “speak for your servant is LISTENING!”

Often others perceive the call of God on our lives long before we do.

But we are the ones that have to respond, “Speak Lord for your servant it listening.”

Let me stop for a moment and point out that there is a big difference between hearing and listening.

Many years ago, my husband was going in for his annual physical and I suggested he might get his hearing checked.  So, as he sat at the audiologist she asked him if he had problems hearing and he said, not really, but my wife thinks I should have my hearing checked.

She checked his hearing and said Mr. Harvey your hearing is fine perhaps it is your listening that you ought to check. I promise I didn’t even pay her to say that!  To listen requires us to pay attention. Listening is much more than hearing.

Rhodes Logan, of the United Methodist Foundation in Nashville reminded me of a great truth in one of their newsletters.

When children’s television host Mr. Rogers was asked why he talked so slowly, his answer was that the time between speaking and hearing was sacred.  It is in this piece of time that the spirit can take what is said and translate it for the hearer.

This world is in a rush, and we rarely do one task at a time.  We are multi-taskers.  We don’t just drive; we talk on our cellphones and drive and juggle multiple tasks at work.

The Spirit can work within all of our rushing around, however are we as good at noticing the Spirit if we never slow down?

It is not likely that our world will slow down. However, maybe within the rush we can be like Mr. Rogers and create a space for the Spirit to move.

Instead of listening and forming our reply, we can listen first for the Spirit.  Then with fuller knowledge and understanding, we can reply.

Perhaps the space between the first and the fourth time the Lord called Samuel was sacred, the Spirit used it so that he might gain fuller knowledge and understanding and THEN was able to reply, “Speak Lord for your servant is listening.”

Some of us require more space than others.  It took me about 25 years.

Sometimes our hearing and our vision are perfect, we just cannot hear the voice of God or we choose to ignore it.  We only hear and see what we want to hear and see.

It took a blind old man to point out to Samuel that it could be God calling.

What about you?  I sure hope that by now you understand this calling upon your life.  But I also know some others of you have probably heard the same call.

You don’t have to be ordained to respond to God’s call on your life.  By your baptism you too are called, you too are credentialed.

Did it strike you as it did me that the voice of God was unexpected – in the Temple of all places?

Could this have been more of a museum than a place where people encounter the living God?  Like some of our churches?

“Then the Lord said to Samuel See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears tingle.”
I find the use of the word TINGLE odd in scripture.  It is TINGLE in every translation I checked, Tingle just does not sound like a biblical word.

Tingle – Something different is about to happen.  God is going to do a new thing.  It is so new that it will make you tingle.

It might make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.  It will give you chill bumps.

It is an incredibly complicated time to lead the church.

This is not our momma and daddy’s church.  We have got to stand strong and remain in relationship with one another and with God.  This years General Conference talked of schism and division.  There  is a lot of hurt, a lot of trash talking that prevents us from seeing what God has in store for God’s people – you and me.

We get distracted from what we have been called to be and do.  We actually spent more time at General Conference talking about the rules that we di the mission of the church.

God is not finished with us yet and not even General Conference can stop the tingling – I am about to do something new it will make both ears of anyone who hears tingle!  Be ready because nothing can separate us from the love of God not even General Conference!

You get this! You are here because you want to make a difference. You want to do a new thing!  There is a whole world out there that needs to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

You have to share your own experience of the living God.  You have a story to tell.

The same God who called Samuel is calling you.

The same one who called Andrew and Simon Peter and Ole Phil has called you.

I think I must say this every year at ordination – God does not call us once and for all but time and again.

We are called to risk, maybe risk it all so that the world might be changed.

We have to focus on that which will make for a different place for your children, your children’s children and their children.  That they may have a story of faith to tell.

Can you imagine what might happen if we focused – laser like focused – on leading people to Christ that they might be changed people?  Can you imagine living in a changed world?

God is going to use you whether you are ready or not.  You may be like Samuel.

You may not yet have eyes to see or ears to hear.

But I promise even then the Spirit will twist and turn and churn and weave your life into a legacy that will set the world on fire.  It will be more than you could ever imagine.


When Jesus turned and saw them following he asked what are you looking for?

They said Rabbi where are you staying?  He replied, “Come and See.”  So they went and they saw.

Are you ready? Come and See!






Celebration of Life- Dr. Ken Lyon


Things Worth Remembering

Rev. Dr. Kenneth Lyon


[this sermon text was adapted from a transcription. This is not meant to be seen as an exact replica of what was heard in the auditorium]

Bishop Goodpaster, members of the Annual Conference, I thank you for this opportunity and great privilege and you who have gathered here to allow us to share in these moments of memory and hope.

Those that we honor on this day have been our friends, mentors, and have been our colleagues in God’s kingdom work. Each of them individually gifted, uniquely crafted for the work God has called them to do and that served with great measures of faithfulness.

The diversity of the places they serve, circumstances in which they found themselves, whether it be in the Parish, classroom or other avenues of Bible ministry beyond the local church, they have been living examples and witnesses of God’s grace in their lives and have faithfully proclaimed the gospel both in word and in deed.

As the bishop said, I am one of those newly minted retirees and we had a gathering of us in this graduating class and were given a minute to speak about ministry and we all expressed gratitude, but it was unique that several people mentioned how surprised they were when they moved from the view in the pew to the view from the chapel, people tend to look at families and ministry a bit differently.

That came home to me years ago when we were serving a three‑point charge. when I was a seminary student at Duke. In these three churches they had a parsonage in a rural area, a hard‑surfaced road that went by with a long gravel drive way. Across the field one other house, across the road, one house, then no houses for the longest way until it intersected with another hard surfaced road and another one in the opposite direction.

My wife Lydia, always a fitness buff, decided to up the physical fitness regimen. She decided she would take up running. I think running is a good idea, if there’s a good sized bear after you. I con fess there were days she came back in looking like a bear had been after her.

But one day she came in gasping not only for air, but from laughing, said she was jogging up this hard‑surfaced road, across the street was the neighbor’s house, the neighbor boy was in the front yard with another young boy we surmised must have been his cousin.

As Lydia jogged by the neighbor punched that neighbor boy and said look at that woman running, the neighbor boy punched him back and said don’t be funny, that’s not a woman, it’s the preacher’s wife.

It became clear people have a different perspective about ministerial families, the truth is you all have stories. Some I hilarious, some poignant, all speaking to the gift of having shared life together with those you loved so deeply.

I urge you to name those stories. To speak of them often. To find a way to preserve them. For generations yet unborn. To be able to look back and experience the quarry from which they are hewn and know the values not just for the current generation, but values that shaped and molded families for perhaps generations. That’s especially important to me because as I matured I notice I don’t remember as well as a used to. When it comes to names, they don’t come as easily. Have you had the experience of running into somebody you haven’t seen for a while and you can tell anything in the world about them, name their dog, but you can’t call their name?
The name always arrives, usually at 3:00 a.m. in the morning when it’s inappropriate to do much with it. I asked my wife to help me with that name challenge. But she said she won’t do it, she absolutely refuses to wear a name tag.

Friends, there are some things I may forget, but there’s some things I want never to forget. There are things I see in the lives and witness of those we honor this day that need to remain with me as long as I have a mind to remember and any of us are on this Earthly pilgrimage. That passage of scripture read was foundational in their lives, for God so loved the world that he gave his only son that who so ever believes shall have everlasting life. For God did not send his son to condemn the world. It was a ministry restoration.

The folks that we honor this day believed it, received, and they lived it. I invited my congregation, it was a sneaky way to get them to read the scriptures. I was running out of ideas to get them to read scriptures, I said read and come up with the time when Jesus whispered in their ear and said you are fine, don’t need a thing I have to offer. Nobody could and come up with something.

These folks believed that Jesus had something substantial to offer them. In turn, they embraced it, wanted to live it out. There hangs outside my office door, at least for a couple more weeks, a print of John Wesley bidding good‑bye to a small group of missionaries heading to America. These missionaries do not know if they will ever set foot in their homeland again. It’s a journey fraught with uncertainty, some will not even survive, yet John Wesley bids them, “offer them Christ.” That was their mandate, their call. They went forth with great confidence they were in the keeping of the holy one. Because they offered, people came to Christ.

You read the names of all of these folks, all the clergy, all the spouses and you see all the places they have served. Think about check collectively because of their faithful service, thousands of people, men, women, boys, girls have said yes to the invitation to life Jesus offered through them because they were willing to say this is substantial, matters to me, impacted my life and I believe it is worthy of yours.

Because of their witness, those thousands of persons not only came into God’s kingdom family, but relationships were restored, character was redefined, eternal destinies redirected. Powerful change of addiction and destructive behavior was broken.

Because they offered. I think under lying their ministry and lives, both clergy and spouses, was this strong current of urgency. They all recognized however long life it, it is brief We live in a more transient society than we have ever experienced. People come and go, used to be only the occasional schoolteacher and a Methodist preacher, now they are about the only ones that hang around for a little while. We don’t know how long we have to touch, to invite. This sense of urgency says every life is a sacred journey. Every life is holy. And God claims every person to the work of the Christ to be embraced and into the great work.

These folks have done it in season and out of season, worked, made a decision never to withhold.

Remember the story about the sewer that went out, worst farmer on the face of the planet. Through the seed willy‑nilly, he knew there were thorns, hard‑packed dirt, birds would get it, but kept sowing, sowing, in a generous way trusting that some would fall in the right places, that maybe looked inhospitable. And life would spring up.

So it was with the lives of those we honor, willing to reach deep in themselves and offer what they had. There’s Moses reluctant to do what wanted him to do. God says, Moses? What’s in my hand? A staff, it’s a staff, just a shepherd’s staff. But it is the symbol of his identity, livelihood, and God says release it to me. Moses releases it, it is empowered in a way far beyond anything Moses could possibly imagine.

So it is, the folks we honor on this day knew themselves well, they knew their capacities but also knew their call was not to compare themselves with others with different gifts or bring gifts, their call was to offer to God that which they had in their hand, and to say here it is and here I am God, send me, use me, deploy me, let me be your person.

They spent their lives inviting people to the larger family of God. When I was growing up, one thing we did was go to something called the Lyon Family Reunion. How many of you ever went to family reunions? Okay. Ours is like a church potluck on steroids.

The Lyon clan has roots up around the Elkin area, Track Hill, North Carolina. We would go up every first Sunday in June. There was a little place they hollowed out ‑‑ the food was 15 kinds of fried chickens, colonel Sanders would love to have. Biscuits as big as a cat’s head with a pinch of country ham.

Fresh vegetables, banana pudding, black berry cobbler with lattice crust, but one thing I didn’t look forward to.

In my family there were four sisters and they were called the Hayes girls –

Cornelia, my grandmother. The girls were as wide as tall. Folks called them ample women. They were amp women. I knew when I arrived, my dad pulled up on that grassy place that all four of those sisters, two of them my grandmother and a sister married Lyon brothers, the other two showed up anyhow, weren’t Lyons, all sitting on the bench, waiting, in their ampleness, and I knew when I walked up one of them was going to call out to me and say, come here child and let me hug you.”

I would hide behind my mother’s skirt. She would pull me around and one of my ample aunties would step up ‑‑ did I tell you they all did snuff expect my grandmother? Yeah.

She would reach with for me with those fleshy arms and pick me up off the ground and push me into her ampleness. My arms were swaying, legs were swaying, I couldn’t see, I couldn’t breathe, and just when I was about to lose consciousness, she would release me, leaving me breathless with the ampleness of her embrace.

Well, the food would be eaten, the cousins would all play, the sun began to set. We would gather up what food was left, wouldn’t be much, pack up the car, get ready to leave. My dad put the car in reverse, look over the back seat to see where he was backing, I was laying down on the back seat from too much banana pudding. He would pause and a, “Ken, don’t ever forget, these are your people. This is your heritage.”

So it was, the writer of Hebrews may have picked up his pen and he began to write of a community of the people of God who were faces challenges. Some hardships, some maybe even times of loss. Over in chapter 11 he begins to name folks, heroes of faith, men and women, every one of them flawed in some way, he honored them each with different capacities, abilities, all with a willingness to give themselves to the purpose of the holy one. For God’s good kingdom.

Then he began in chapter 12, therefore since we are surrounded so great a crowd of witnesses, let us lay aside every sin that clings so closely and run the race with perseverance that has been set before us, looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith. He calls out to that long‑ago church and says, “Look at your forebears, you are not the first to walk the path, but also calls to the mountaintops of challenge and the deepest valleys where the dark shadows look and loss may come.”

God was faithful to them and God will be faithful to you. Take heart, he says to them, and take heart across the centuries he says to each and every one of us.
He says that same God of faithfulness will embrace you as that God of holiness and grace has embraced those who have gone on before. Friends, they are all gone now, Aunt Fannie, Aunt Mamie, Aunt Myrtle, Grandma, they joined that great cloud of witnesses as have these, that we remember this day, but their legacy remains. That legacy calls to us and beckons us and we remember, we will never forget.

These are our people. This is our heritage. Let us then in Jesus name and in theirs, live and love, lead and serve, as they have taught us in such a way, in such a way, that we leave the word breathless with the ampleness of God’s loving embrace of grace, amen?


Saturday Morning- Laity Report & Other Business

UpchurchFollowing the Laity Address, Robert Upchurch, the Conference Lay Leader for the past quadrennium, was recognized by Bishop Goodpaster, and introduced the speakers speakers for the Report of the Laity.

Neil Brown, President of the United Methodist Men of Western North Carolina, led off the speakers.  Bishop Goodpaster interrupted his speech, to recognize the national award that the United Methodist Men received in March. Our Conference organization was recognized as being the top organization in the connection. He reported on upcoming events and opportunities for local churches and United Methodist Men’s groups. PowerPoint Presentation

Tonya Lanier, President of the United Women, gave her address to the congregation.  Here is a link to the text of her address. | Video shown in presentation

Ryan Clark, a youth from Zion United Methodist Church, a recent high school graduate, gave the report of the Conference Council of Youth Ministry. He ended is address with these words: “Everyone needs to be shown the grace and love of God. No matter what our age, it’s up to all of us to ‘make disciples of all nations,” of all people and to ‘teach them to obey’ the words of Christ.  When we do this, we transform the world.  This is what CCYM has set out to do, and this is what we as a church are supposed to do! Today let’s go, and make disciples!”

Robert Upchurch followed with the introduction of Ms. Jane Boatwright Wood, the Executive Director of the Foundation for Evangelism, and the new Conference  Lay Leader for the 2016-2020 quadrennium.

Then the Board of Laity surprised Upchurch with a recognition at the end for his years of service as Lay Leader.

Final Business

The morning session included several other items of business:

The Harry Denman Award, in recognition of exceptional evangelism, was given to Luke Edwards of King Street Church. See Video

PDavisDennis Carroll of Jamestown UMC and Provost at High Point University presented the Francis Asbury Award to Rev. Preston Davis, Chaplain at High Point University.  He mentioned this in his remarks: “Anything we have done has been in partnership with the students in particular…I am grateful to them and ‑‑ raising up leaders in the church today, tomorrow.  Thank you, I share this with you and I am deeply grateful.”

The Call & Vocation Team led by Rev. Sally Queen and Rev. Jim Parsons presented a shorter version of their     report (this report was postponed from Thursday afternoon).  They spoke of their work with persons answering the call to ministry. Queen ended the presentation with these words:  “If we leave Lake Junaluska tomorrow and go back into our communities and places we live and serve, might we live out God’s call to ministry because that truly is what will transform our world.  What ever your name is, you are called.”

They prepared two videos for conference: Short Promo Video | I am called- Jasmine Isaac

The Order of Deacons celebrated their 20th anniversary this year. Rev. Michelle Foster-Beckerleg and Rev. Brad Potter spoke to the success of this work, and the major contribution of deacons to ministry throughout the entire conference. Potter summed up the work of a deacon in this quote:

“The deacon is distinctive in their calling in that we have the privilege of offering servant leadership and ministries of compassion and justice.  The establishment of the order of deacon provide the opportunity for clergy to offer leadership in ways that connect the church in the world.  Essentially operating as a bridge with the privilege of interpreting the concerns and needs of the world to the local church and being able to lead the church ministries of comp passion.  Doing this in a variety of ways within the local church and actually beyond the walls of the church as well.”

A video was prepared for the celebration- view video.

Rev. Amy Coles handled the cabinet resolutions related to the closing of churches found on pages 38-39 in the supplement.  There was one extra church added to the list that did not make the publishing deadline.  Burgess Chapel UMC in the Appalachian District will be officially closed effective July 16, 2016. These five petitions were adopted.

After a few announcements, the business side of conference ended, and we conclude this year’s meeting with the Celebration of Life and the Ordination Service on Saturday, and Closing Worship on Sunday morning.

Laity Address- Sandy Blackburn

Sandy BlackburnOn Saturday morning, the Conference opened with a focus on the laity.

Wade Loftin, from the Board of Laity, introduced Sandy Blackburn, who gave the Laity Address for 2016.

Below is the text of her sermon:

Shine Your Light


Sandy Blackburn

Matthew 5: 16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” 

Run to the Light of Christ!  God made us with a survivor gene….life is terminal and we won’t survive this world but we are survivors in Christ.  So again I say, Run to the Light of Christ and the good news which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Darkness is all around us.  We hear of disasters, terrorists, ISIS, sickness, cancer, death, joblessness, unemployment, rising prices, failing economy, worry, fret, and on and on and on we go into darkness!  But be of good cheer for “God did not give us a spirit of fear,” the Bible tells us in 2 Timothy 1: 7, but, “one of power, love and a sound mind.”  Perfect love casts out fear and He loves us with His perfect love.

As we pick up the newspaper today or turn on the TV or the World News, we’re bombarded with darkness.  We’re bombarded and inundated with event after event of what is happening, might happen, and could happen.  We can lie in our homes at night and hear sirens of impending danger and warnings that times are getting tough and going to get tougher.

Young men will see visions and old men will dream dreams the Bible tells us in Acts 2:17.  This old woman had a bad dream….I dreamed that in the midst of a joyous everyday life, disaster loomed and struck.  Death came, sickness came.  I dreamed that jobs were lost.  I dreamed of eminent danger all around and darkness that overshadowed the light of life.

Fear can grip us around the neck and render us impotent and immobilize us.  It can have us frozen in our tracks and rendered helpless and afraid as a rabbit.  Ever seen a rabbit caught?  It freezes and plays dead.  You’d think for all intents and purposes that it was a goner.  But no, it’s in a state of fear or survival, I’m not sure which…and then all of a sudden it will skedaddle like the scared rabbit that it is!  I’ve seen this first hand and videoed it when we found a baby rabbit in our pool skimmer one year.  I just knew it was dead when all of a sudden it ran like the wind and got away.

Jesus rode into Jerusalem into darkness.  He rode into a not so perfect world knowing full well what lay ahead for Him but He rode on anyway.  He rode into the Light!  We’ve all heard that saying “Run to the light!”  We make jokes about it to always run to the light at the end of the tunnel…or keep away from the light…don’t go toward the light, for it would surely mean that we’ve reached the end of our life.

Well folks, according to the Bible, the Light came into the darkness and the darkness DID NOT overcome it in John 1: 5.  Jesus is that Light that we need to be running toward like never before.  He is that GOOD NEWS that will carry us from this present darkness into the Light that will not be overcome by any darkness.  His word is full of encouragement and good news for us to live our lives to the fullest today in this present darkness.

Times indeed look bleak.  The jobless rate is increasing and we’re told this is nothing to what it will be in the future.  Gas prices soar up and down whichever way the wind blows and not according to the price of a barrel of oil.  Grocery prices have sky rocketed.  Our culture and “Happy Days” way of life is nothing more than memories and nostalgic TV programs on channel 62 on Time Warner Cable.

What is a person to do in the midst of all this?  We know, don’t we?  The Bible tells us that Jesus did not leave us alone.  We are called to be set apart from this world of darkness.  We are called to be light!  Story after story Jesus gave us on how to live in a not so perfect world.

What man, after lighting a candle, puts it under a bushel basket?  “NO, NO, NO,” I say!  The Bible says he puts in on a lamp stand and lets the world see…Light your candles brothers and sisters.  The world is dark, we are called to be a beacon of light and hope to a dark and hurting world. 

We must light our candle and run to the darkness.  Isn’t that what Jesus did?  He rode full throttle on that donkey into the darkness that awaited Him in Jerusalem that fateful Passover Celebration.  He rode into Jerusalem to be arrested, mocked, beaten, and crucified.  He went straight ahead into the dark heart of humanity at its worst and overcame with the Light that changed darkness forever.

The Light shines and the darkness does not and will not overcome it.  That’s the gospel or good news Of Jesus Christ…we are survivors.  He survived that darkness and rose again to life everlasting.  He defeated even death and the grave that we might have our abundant life here today and for all eternity.

We shouldn’t be found hunkered down, hiding from the darkness that is all around us.  We should be in the midst of the storm shining our lights for the entire world to see His Light in us.  Be of good hope; be of good courage His Word tells us for we are more than conquerors through Christ who strengthens us according to Romans 8: 37.  We can see a thousand fall on our right hand according to Psalm 91…but we will not fear.

I’ve heard somewhere the best acronym for FEAR.  Being a Wordsmith, I love acronyms so much and use them often.  Fear is no more than False Evidence Appearing Real. .. So you see fear is a lie straight from the devil.  Fear is the opposite of faith and we are called to be faithful people.  God’s Word tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God in Hebrews 11:6.  We are to be faithful children of the LIGHT! 

Be of good cheer brothers and sisters.  We are in this world but God’s Word tells us that we’re not of this world.  We can through Christ rise above whatever it is that is going on around us and shine that Light that is in us.  It’s not our Light, it’s His Light….and we know from Scripture that the darkness cannot and will not overcome it.

So, that being said…when the fear comes, and it will, when the trials come, and they will, when the darkness comes and it’s already here, run brothers and sisters….run toward the Light.  Run full into the face of God through Jesus Christ His Son.  We must run the race that is set before us with all the fervor and hope and encouragement that we can muster…for we’re not alone.

Now like never before we must be assured of Whose we are.  He will not leave us nor forsake us; He told us so in His precious Word.  We must get into His word and dig out every promise that is waiting there for us.  There are riches beyond our wildest dreams to get us through these dark times of faltering economy, joblessness, and the shadowy darkness that I’ve mentioned.  There are promises of a future with hope.  There are promises of abundant life here today and now in the midst of whatever storm or trial that we might find ourselves going through at any given moment.

This woman had a bad dream.  I dreamed cancer came to take me out of here…but God’s Word told me that He held the fullness of my days in His Hands according to Psalm 139 and that the devil could not cut them short.  This woman is a 17 year colon cancer survivor!  There is life after a cancer diagnosis!

This woman had a bad dream, I dreamed that our livelihood was stolen, and that life as we knew it was over, but God’s Word told us that He knew the plans that He had for us, not for our destruction or harm but for our good with a future with hope in Jeremiah 29:11.  There were new opportunities that opened up…better opportunities after my husband lost his job at Duracell in 2004.

This woman had a dream.  I dreamed that my family was wiped out by a big wind and that all were killed and I was left without children and a future with joy, but the Word of God told me that the even in the worst crisis in my life, that He would never leave me nor forsake me.  Losing my first child as a young mother and then in 2003 losing three granddaughters, ages 4, 7, and 10, to a horrific automobile accident made me feel like Job.  I even called myself Jobetta.  The Word of God told me that God is FAITHFUL to heal the broken hearted and redeem what is lost.  The hope that is in me in Christ Jesus is that this life is not all there is and that my babies are in my future and not my past.

The Word of God tells us that the devil comes to “kill, steal, and destroy.”  He tried to kill me, steal my joy, and destroy my family, but I ran toward the Light.  I ran into the waiting arms of Jesus.  Run for the Light today….run brothers and sisters and have your wick ready to ignite and burn with His light….only good can overcome evil the Word of God says, and only light can overcome darkness.

Then, run child of God with your lighted candle into the darkness, the song tells us but more than just a song, the Word of the Living God tells us the same thing in so many different ways.  Run, child of God, run with the assurance that eventually this darkness will be overcome by something greater than you and I.  This ever present darkness will eventually be overcome…the Bible tells us so…read the end of the story and be of good cheer.

We must shine our lights.  We must shine His light.  We must dispel the darkness everywhere we go, every day in every way…..and give God all the glory, all the honor, and all the praise.

If we as a church start shining our lights for the world to see, there will be an EXPLOSION right here at Lake Junaluska.  The fireworks will reach out into the darkness and send beautiful sparkles and lights that the world will see and WONDER at the explosive fireworks going on right here in the Western North Carolina Annual Conference.

I love to call myself a Methobapticostal with Jewish Roots whenever I go out to other denominations to speak.  The older I become the more Pentecostal I get.  We forget that the Pentecostals were birthed out of the Methodist church and we can’t let them take the Holy Spirit with them.  We must have the baptism of the Holy Spirit to be God’s church.

God knows my heart and I love me some John Wesley!  My favorite John Wesley quote is his reply whenever he was asked as to why so many people came to open fields to hear his sermons.  He said, “I simply light myself on fire with the Holy Spirit and they come to watch me burn!”

If we’re burning brightly, they…the unchurched, the unsaved, the hungry, the least, the last, and the lost will come to see what’s going on over here…they will hunger for what we have, thirst for righteousness, and that longing to fill that God-sized hole in each and every heart will bring them….Build it and they will come….remember that Movie?  We’ve built it, we’ve anticipated it, and now we must prepare to man it.  We must empower ourselves so that when they come, and they will, it’s already begun, that we’ll be ready to present them with that for which they seek….JESUS the Light!

The world is dark out there folks…no doubt in any of our minds…the darkness will try to creep into our very spirits if we allow it…but the gospel of the good news of Jesus Christ is that He came into this world to overcome the darkness and He did!

It’s time now, to turn full into the face of God and be infilled with His Holy Spirit that will fuel the Light…the Light of Christ that burns inside each believer and child of God.  That light that is reflected from Jesus our Lord and Savior…That Light must shine like never before….that light MUST be put on a lamp stand so that it might shine out as a beacon for those still out there in the darkness.

That’s our purpose CHURCH!  That’s God’s goal for His Church…to be His hands and His feet…to reflect His light and shine…shine children of God…shine….run into the darkness…run to the hurting, the least, the last, and the lost… to your workplace…run to your lost family members….run through your neighborhoods…run child of light and light the darkness where ever you might go! 

“Arise; shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.”  Indeed, God has brought you to this place by the Light of His Word, even as He directed the Magi to the Word Incarnate by the star. The Light of the world shined on you when you were baptized in the name of the Triune God. The glory of the Lord rises upon you each time you attend a divine service, each time your sins are forgiven. The glory of the Lord, the Light of your salvation, shines upon you each time you eat and drink our Lord’s body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. So, “Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.”

All honor, all glory, and all praise be to our God the FATHER OF LIGHT!


Dr. Mark King – Church Administrator of the Year

Please note that Dr. Mark King was introduced at Annual Conference on Friday afternoon.

Mark King AnnouncementDr. R. Mark King, CCA has been named the recipient of the Maurice Saucedo Award as Church Administrator of the Year by The Church Network.  He will be presented the award at the 60th Annual Conference of The Church Network being held at the Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas.

The Saucedo Award is the highest award given by The Church Network (TCN) to an active church administrator. It is named in honor of Maurice Saucedo, a career chapel management specialist with the United States Air Force and the first executive director of The Church Network (formerly known as the National Association of Church Business Administration). Saucedo, known as “Maury” to his CBA friends and “Spike” to his Air Force colleagues, died suddenly in 1974. He was named a charter member of the Church Management Hall of Fame in 1983.

Mark’s selection was based on his contributions to his church as well as other churches in administrative areas, his service to TCN, his service to his denomination, and his service to the community and other forms of Christian service.

He received his BA from Gardner-Webb College in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, a MDiv from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky; and a DMin from Candler School of Theology, Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2002, he completed a MBA from Pfeiffer University in Charlotte and eventually completed his fifth and final program with a MAcc from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Mark has been ordained as both a Baptist pastor and a United Methodist elder. He has served two Baptist congregations as pastor: First Baptist Church Oakboro and Zion Baptist Church Shelby, both in North Carolina. He entered the world of church business administration at St. Stephen United Methodist Church in Charlotte and has served three additional congregations as CBA and/or executive pastor: University City United Methodist Church in Charlotte, Centenary United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem, and Marble Collegiate Church in New York City. Mark has just recently been named Conference Treasurer/Director of Administrative Services for the Western North Carolina Annual Conference and will be assuming that position in mid-July.

Mark has served in a variety of denominational and volunteer capacities including vice-president, Council on Finance and Administration, Western North Carolina Annual Conference; chair of stewardship committee, former member of Board of Directors, United Methodist Foundation of Western North Carolina Annual Conference; president, Board of Directors, Bethlehem Center, Charlotte; president of the Western North Carolina Conference United Methodist Church Business Administrators; and president, Charlotte-Metro Chapter, The Church Network.

Mark became a member of The Church Network in 1990 and was certified in 1992. He has attended over a dozen national conferences. He has served as president of the United Methodists of TCN. He currently works with The Church Network in developing an Executive Pastor Network that supports and networks executive pastors.

Mark is married to the former Patricia Bradley and together they have three children Joel, Ashley, and Meredith.

The Church Network is a nonprofit association whose purpose to serve the Church by advancing professional excellence in individuals serving Christ through administration in local churches. The association promotes education programs, seminars, workshops, and conferences and serves as a network for leaders in all areas of church administration.

Friday Afternoon Session- Strategic Vision to Budget to Celebration

Goodpasters-400The afternoon was full of business and visioning, and it closed with celebration, tears and surprises.

Strategic Vision

After the lunch break on Friday, Annual Conference business resumed with the Strategic Vision Plan for 2016-2020.

Bishop Goodpaster reviewed his eight years as leader of the conference, the financial challenges of a changing economy and our mission to “Follow Jesus, Make Disciples, and Transform the World.” In the past eight years, the conference has attempted to align resources to keep the mission primary.

Rev. Amy Coles presented the success of the Missional Network emphasis that emerged in the conference over the past four years. The body heard reports of networks across the conference and stories of churches working together to serve Jesus in our schools, communities, and regions.

Persons sharing their stories from the floor included: Cindy Lunsford, George Coates, Lucy Robbins, Paul Brown and Nina Wynn. [PowerPoint Slides]

Coles then introduced the conference to the new leadership team that will begin service in July.  Rev. Kim Ingram will continue as the Director of Ministerial Services, Caroline Wood will add to her current position and become the Director of Missional Engagement and Connectional Relationships. Dr. John Boggs will become the new Director Vital Discipleship.

The new Church Vitality Strategist (CVS) Team was introduced to the gathering.  These persons will have responsibilities in the eight districts and work directly with the superintendent, and within the general work of the conference.  These persons are: Stephanie Hand (Metro), Carroll Harris (Uwharrie), Maria King (Northern Piedmont), Tim Roberts (Appalachian), Sherrie Schork (Smoky Mountain), Kim Shockley (Catawba Valley), and Rene Wilt (Yadkin Valley).

Bishop Goodpaster then gave a further introduction to Dr. John Boggs, who took a few minutes to share his vision of his new role.  He sees himself as a “Dreamer, Cultivator (disturber of the soil), Collaborator, Communicator.”

He reflected on the deep Wesleyan roots of revival that include “gracious accountability” while learning and partnering with visionary groups like Fresh Expressions US, the Missional Wisdom Foundation as well as seminaries and other Annual Conferences.

He said that his vision is to explore the relationship of the Baptismal Covenant and the General Rules of Methodism, stated this way:

To witness to Jesus Christ in the world and to follow his teaching
Through acts of compassion, justice, worship and devotion
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Rev. Coles then introduced Dr. Lynn Sorrells, who will be beginning a new position as the Director of The Vitality Project.  This position is funded through a grant from the Duke Endowment, and will focus on helping churches to become all that they are called to be.  He introduced his associate, Rev. Angie Hollar who will assist with leadership.  They will work together along with other partners to help increase the number of vital churches in the conference.

Rev. Rob Webb was introduced and gave the report of the Duke Endowment. He used the analogy of one of the riskiest plays in baseball- stealing home, to bring home the point that with some risks, come great rewards.  He told the conference that what the Endowment wants to do is focus on making significant impacts, and focusing money on projects that will “steal home plate.”

Financial Concerns

Following his report, Laurie Guy, President of the Council of Finance and Administration brought their report to the conference. (The written reports can be found on pp. 16-22 of the Supplement).  Petition 1 (p. 17-19) was presented to the conference (2017 Conference Funds and Financial Policies).  It was adopted with no debate.

Then the 2017 budget (pp. 20-22 in the Supplement) was brought up for consideration. After some proposed amendments, discussion, and debate, the proposed budget of $16,404.665 dollars (a slight decrease from 2016) was adopted.

After a short break, Laurie Guy introduced Dr. Mark King as the new treasurer for the Western North Carolina Conference.  King will move back to North Carolina and begin the job in July.

Goodpasters-2-400Retirement Celebration

After a short break, the business resumed with a couple of items of business, and greetings from a guest from Cambodia who witnessed to Bishop Goodpaster’s leadership in Southeast Asia, we moved to an order of the day: The Committee on Episcopacy Report.

Rev. Mary John Dye, the chair of the committee led the conference in a celebration of the past eight years of Bishop Goodpaster’s service.  Both he and his wife Deborah were honored with gifts and applause, and we greeted his daughter Amy and her family who came from Atlanta to share in the celebration.  Their daughter Lucy was in Montgomery, AL celebrating through the livestream.

Rev. David Snipes announced that $70,000 dollars had been raised through an appeal for this retirement gift that will go to Imagine No Malaria. (The equivalent of saving 14,000 people from death and disease-many of the children).

Then a litany of thanksgiving, that included dozens of people building a pyramid of plants on stage, with the refrain: “Today we give thanks for Bishop Goodpaster.”

A final prayer over the Goodpaster family ended with a surprise visit by the Junaluska Singers who sang, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand.”

A reception for the Goodpasters is scheduled for 7:30 pm on Friday evening between Stuart Auditorium and the Harrell Center.

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