The Susquehanna Annual Conference ratified the disaffiliation agreements for 141 churches at their special session in Williamsport on May 17, with Bishops Cynthia Moore-Koikoi and Sandra Steiner Ball presiding. See list.
The disaffiliations were voted on in blocks based on their district, giving voting members the option to pull churches from the block to be voted on separately. A handful of churches were voted on individually, but ultimately all the churches seeking to disaffiliate were affirmed. Churches must fulfill their settlement obligations in order to complete the disaffiliation process.
At the start of the session, Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball acknowledged the difficulty of the evening. “Tonight, this work is not easy,” she said. “And we recognize that we will look differently when everything is over. Yet, in the midst of disaffiliation, God is present and God is faithful.”
Before the voting began, Rev. Barry Robison celebrated the collective mission and ministry of the Susquehanna Annual Conference. He highlighted the millions of prayers, the disaster relief, the money donated, the people fed. He reminded that regardless of affiliation or disaffiliation, “We have been and will continue to be the hands, feet and heart of Jesus Christ. God is not done with us yet.”
Worship was an integral part of this session and each vote was preceded with prayer. Each prayer leader acknowledged the heaviness of the moment, while still giving praise and thanks to God. Deacon Karen Weiss gave voice to the many complex emotions present in the room and acknowledged the changes and unknowns. Tired, nervous, anxious and fearful were a few emotions Weiss named, but also recognized that some were “joyful and looking forward to the future.”
After the final vote, the Bishops addressed the conference. Bishop Steiner Ball shared Psalm 29:11 which reads, “The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace.” She encouraged working together so that more people can know Christ and receive the gift of salvation. “We are called to be the body of Christ,” she reminded. “No matter what affiliation.”
Bishop Moore-Koikoi concluded with a hopeful word. “It is my prayer that we will bless and send - or we will bless and go,” she said. “That is my prayer because we are disciples of Jesus Christ and the world is looking at us to see how we treat one another. Wouldn’t it be nice for the world to say about us, ‘My how they love one another.’ Speak love. It’s a choice we can make.”
The regular session of the 2023 Susquehanna Annual Conference will commence at 9:30 a.m. Thursday morning.
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