I am looking forward to welcoming the clergy and lay members of Annual Conference to our 2014 session at Lake Junaluska, June 18-22. We have some exciting plans made around our theme for this year: Celebrating Generosity. Through Bible studies, worship services, and various reports we will experience another characteristic of what it means to be a “vital church” in the twenty-first century. This year marks the second of our four-year focus on increasing the number of vital churches across Western North Carolina by paying attention to qualities and characteristics of vital churches: missional, generous, evangelical, and hospitable. In the coming weeks, I will be writing a series of brief messages to help all of us prepare and anticipate our Annual Conference gathering.
All of the offerings for the 2014 session will be designated for the Imagine No Malaria initiative of our United Methodist Church. As a part of the denomination-wide Global Health Initiative goal of raising $75 million, our gifts this year will go toward the movement toward providing mosquito nets and health supplies in the on-going battle to eliminate malaria in many parts of the globe.
The Western North Carolina Conference has not kept pace with other annual conferences in this endeavor, so I am challenging us to make a significant gift this year. There are resources and links to the Imagine No Malaria campaign on our web site, and more will be coming in the next few weeks. The very modest goal we have established for our Annual Conference offering this year is $100,000.
I am absolutely convinced that the people and the churches of our conference are most generous when it comes to impacting the lives of children and impacting the diseases of poverty that exist across Africa and other parts of the world. With gratitude, I know that many of you are already engaged in mission outreach to various countries in Africa. I celebrate that – and I celebrate your generosity. Now, I am inviting you to participate in this conference-wide special offering.
Here’s the challenge as we move toward Annual Conference: On one Sunday between now and June 15 each local church across Western North Carolina receive a special offering for Imagine No Malaria and the 2014 Annual Conference Offering. Then, the lay member or the clergy will bring a check from your church to conference and offer it at one of our worship services. I believe that the more than 1100 churches and more than 290,000 faithful disciples in our churches will exceed our goal and make a significant difference around the world.