Board of Trustees offers updates at Annual Conference
June 18, 2021 / By Tara Barnes
The Upper New York (UNY) Conference Board of Trustees presented its 2021 report at the UNY Annual Conference on June 18. President Pastor Richard Barling shared an overview of the board’s work, which includes the purchasing, sales. and maintenance of Conference properties. The Trustees also manage the Conference’s master insurance program.
Some of properties under purview of the Trustees are closed churches, episcopal and District parsonages, the Conference Center and District offices, and the five UNYCamp & Centers.
“Much of the board’s time and attention goes into caring for these valuable tools and settings for ministry,” Barling said. “Just like our local churches, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to change how we use Conference facilities to safeguard the well-being of staff and those served by staff.”
He shared that the Conference Center has started to reopen for staff and that the camps have been working on capital improvement projects and hosting small groups.
“I’m also looking forward to camp reopening this summer, and each camp being filled with the spirit of children and teens not only having fun but being filled spiritually and growing in their faith,” he said.
Treasurer Kathy King-Griswold offered the board’s unedited 2019 and 2020 financials. The Trustees maintained oversight of nearly 60 properties within the UNY geographic area, some of which were sold or continue to be held for sale, while others are held as long-term assets. The properties include churches, vacant lots, cemeteries, and parsonages.
Since the previous Annual Conference, 15 United Methodist congregations in UNY made the decision to close their churches. The Rev. Mike Weeden on behalf of the Cabinet brought the recommendations on closure of churches before the Conference.
“We balance our reticence to close a church with the recognition that we serve a God who renews and resurrects in Jesus Christ. We honor the legacy of ministry of each of these churches. And as we vote to approve their closures we celebrate that out of their closures, new beginnings will flow,” the Rev. Weeden said.
Via one ballot the recommendation to close all 15 churches was supported.
In answer to a question, Conference Treasurer Bob Flask shared that beginning in 2020, direct bills owed by a local church can be covered by sale of property but not owed Ministry Shares.
The Trustees Report also included an update on the lawsuits brought against the Conference under the Child Victims Act.
The New York State Child Victims Act was signed into law in August 2019 and opened a lookback window for the filing of civil cases by victims of childhood sexual abuse against entities and organizations like schools, churches, and Annual Conferences, explained the Rev. Sara Baron, chair of the Conference Board of Pensions and Health Benefits. The filing provisions are set to expire in August 2021.
To date, 12 cases have been filed against the UNY Conference under this law. Since last fall, leaders of the Conference’s Board of Trustees, Council of Finance and Administration, Board of Pensions and Health Benefits, and the Cabinet, have been meeting to discuss the Conference’s response to these lawsuits. This team will continue to keep the Conference updated on its work for just resolutions.
“We deeply grieve any act of sexual abuse,” UNY Area Resident Bishop Mark J. Webb stated after the report. “We continue to put processes in place to ensure that these kinds of abuses do not happen in the future. This is why the work of our Safe Sanctuary Committee and Safe Sanctuary policies that you’re required to have in your local church are so important. It’s why boundaries training for all of our leaders is critical. We seek justice that leads to healing in all of these situations.”
Barling directed people to the UNY Conference website for resources on insurance, background checks, boiler inspections, and free water sensor program.
The entire Trustees Report was adopted by the Conference.
The Trustees report can be found on pages 86-87 in the Journal Vol. 1; the recommendations of closures of churches can be found on pages 19-32, and the Child Victims Act report and the recommendation on an additional church closure can be find online updates to the Journal Vol. 1. For more information, contact Pastor Barling at firstname.lastname@example.org.