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Annual Conference approves resolution on gun violence

Annual Conference approves resolution on gun violence

Annual Conference 2022

On the closing day of Annual Conference, members overwhelmingly approved a resolution on gun violence offered by retired Elder James Harnish.

Among other things, it asks Florida United Methodists:

• To offer Christ-shaped compassion, personal prayer, and corporate worship for victims of gun violence.

• Engage in biblical and theological reflection on the nature of violence and Jesus’ vision of the kingdom of God.

• Research the causes of gun violence.

• Call on state and national lawmakers to support reasonable gun safety laws, including universal background checks, red-flag laws, and a ban on assault-style weapons.

Harnish offered a brief but emotional explanation for his motion. 

Retired Elder Jim Harnish

“I would simply offer you the witness of the only pediatrician in Uvalde, Texas who rushed to the hospital,” he said.
(The pediatrician) said, ‘I found the two children whose bodies had been pulverized by bullets fired and were decapitated, whose flesh had been so ripped apart that the only clue to their identities was the blood-soaked cartoon clothing clinging to their bodies. Amen.”

Before the vote was taken, Harnish added, “If you vote for it, please forward it to Senator (Marco) Rubio, Senator (Rick) Scott, Governor (Ron) DeSantis, and, most important, your local representatives in the Florida Legislature.

The Florida House of Representatives.

The Florida Senate.


On the final day of the Annual Conference, Bishop Kenneth Carter drew upon the parable of the sower in Mark 4 to describe the mission of those about to be confirmed as licensed local pastors, ordained deacons, and ordained elders.

“Our calling to share the word of God, to plant seeds, and our corresponding need to hear the word of God, to be receptive to the seeds that will help us to grow beyond where we are now,” he said.

Bishop Carter recounted an experience early in his ministry when he led a Bible Wednesday night study at a small rural church, then tied it to the racially motivated mass killing seven years ago at the predominantly African American Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.

“A small group was gathered on Wednesday evening for Bible study. One was a librarian. One was a government employee, one sang in the choir, one was an admissions counselor in the local college, and one was the pastor,” he said.

They welcomed a White stranger into their church, who listened to their Bible study and then, according to witnesses, pulled out a Glock 45 and fired 70 rounds.

Nine people died that night.

“The young man had become a student of hate. The young man said on his social media that he wanted to start a race war,” Bishop Carter said.

“We return to this same passage with a question made more urgent by what happened in Charleston—the murders of everyone in that Bible study. And it’s echoed in Buffalo and Uvalde, and during my tenure here in Florida, it’s echoed in Sanford, Orlando, and Parkland. It leads to a question: what kind of soil are we? What seeds are we planting? And what
is the seed of the gospel right now that will lead us to life and not death?”

Bishop Carter leads the ordination of new deacons Michele VAn Son Neill (center) and Sharon Surrency.

That’s the challenge the new ministers face.

“To be a follower of Jesus, to be a set-apart leader in this church right now means something very specific. It is to do some hard things, to do hard things Jesus talked about with us,” the Bishop said.

“It is to turn the other cheek. It is to go the extra mile. It is to love our enemies. It is to be receptive to grace, to receive enough grace so that we have some grace to give. This is our path for who God wants us to be: a holy people.”

The following people were licensed as local pastors: Steve DeDea, Tom Emigh, Kolby Golliher, Jeremy Knight, Brian Lawson, Nicholas Lee, Cindy Long, James Bryant Manning, Esther Morey, Staci Plonsky, Richard Anthony Purcell, Inez Robinson, David Schmidt, Chandra Snell, David Toombs, and Lorayne Vallejo Cedeno.
Michele Van Son Neill and Sharon Surrency were ordained as deacons.

Those ordained as elders: Frank Adams, Jana Hall-Perkins, Keith Harcombe, Victoria Harrison, Tamara Isidore, Nicole Logan, Rebecca Rokitowski, Debra Thompson, Eliantus Valmyr, and Caitlin White.

A group of 25 pastors and leaders in the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, representing decades of faithful service, received their official retirement recognition on the first day of the Annual Conference.

“This service traditionally hints at ending some active ministries and beginnings. It says well done, good and faithful servant for those who have concluded a life of set-apart ministry,” Bishop Carter said. “And also (it’s) an acknowledgment that God provides in the next generation.”

Those retiring included Mark Becker, David Branson, Kandace Brooks, Brian Carr, Kirk Dana, Clarence DeSue, H. Clark Edwards, June Edwards, Pam Feeser, Kim Griffith, Howard Grimmenga, Bruce Jones, Larry Lake, Lynn Leonard, Jim Mitchell, Gary Morris, Richard Nussel, Steve Polk, John Quinton, James Renault, Cruz Edwin Santos, Dan Search, Thom Shafer, Walker Walker, and Vic Willis.

Joe Henderson is the News Content Editor for

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