Upper New York Area of The United Methodist Church

(PDF version of the FAQ's available here.)

Our vision: To live the gospel of Jesus Christ and to be God's love with our neighbors in all places.
Our purpose: Growing in our relationship with God, Being the body of Christ within the world, living in accordance with the example of Jesus Christ. 


Our Vision and Purpose

Why are we creating a new conference?

New days call for new ways. For several years, our four annual conferences have been in conversation about organizing for ministry in this place and time. Even before General Conference called for a reduction in the number of Episcopal Areas in each jurisdiction, people from upstate New York, Pennsylvania and New England had already been working, prayerfully and proactively, to discern effective ways to join together in ministry.

Over the last 40 years the four conferences of Upper New York have steadily declined in membership and financial resources.   The General Church has viewed this reality as a sign of missional decline and has challenged us to reorganize ourselves for more effective ministry in our region.

To this end we are committed to live as faithful and fruitful congregations and communities:-living the Way of Jesus-Centered in God -Formed by the Holy Spirit -Moved by compassion -engaged in mission -giving themselves away.

Our Structural and Boundary Changes

Why did the new conference need to become incorporated prior to June 19th?  And what does it mean this was done through a "Special Session" of the new conference?

The new conference needed to be incorporated prior to the Uniting Conference in order to be able to legally  receive the assets of current conferences, sign contracts, pay employees, and (most importantly) be approved by the State Supreme Court.  The Chancellors indicated that for the purposes of NYS the Bishop could act on behalf of the new conference (as its presiding officer) with the 4 chancellors functioning as "place holder" trustees.   In the document the phrase "pursuant to the 2008 Book of Discipline" is a catch all phrase used to nothing was done which knowing violated church law.  The term "Special Session" is use in the sense of the limited purpose of this action.

One way to think of this step is to see it as  akin to a couple getting a wedding license from the county clerk.  What we do June 19th as a Uniting Conference is the wedding.  The former is necessary, but the latter is what brings its to life.

How many Districts will be in the new Conference?

It is proposed that the Embury and Central Lakes Districts be discontinued at the closing sessions.  Following unification there will be 12 Districts in the Upper New York Conference.  The current districts will be:

Superintendent District Superintendent
Adirondack District Henry Frueh Genesee Valley District Ted Anderson
Albany District Jim Fenimore Mohawk District Sung Ho Lee
Binghamton Dave Masland Mountain View District Cathy Hall Stengel
Cornerstone District Larry Baird Niagara Frontier District Natalie Hanson
Crossroads District Darryl Barrow Northern Flow District Beth Benham
Finger Lakes District Richard Barton Oneonta District Jan Rowell
Why is it proposed that we reduce the number of districts from 14 to the 12 listed above?

New ACT was charged by the four conferences to develop a Plan of Union for the structure of the new conference. This necessarily involved examining the appropriate number of districts. As New ACT's Districting Task Force report said, reducing the number of districts is proposed in order to free resources for mission. It takes into account current financial limitations and a comparison of district configurations in comparable annual conferences

Our Ministries and Conference Leadership

Why is the Conference Leadership Team so small? How can it represent all the New Conference - it doesn’t seem representative? Especially if it is to be the Ad- Interim agency of the annual conference...

The Conference Leadership Team (CLT) is designed to be a leadership team rather than a representative body (POU p.27). It will be authorized by the Uniting Conference to uphold the Conference vision of "living the gospel of Jesus Christ and being God's love our neighbors in all places" and, between conference sessions, to make the decisions necessary to enact this vision by defining outcomes and aligning resources. In other words, the CLT will work to turn our dreams into reality.

Though permissible under the Book of Discipline, the CLT will mark a bold change in our structure and practice, replacing the "business-as-usual" model of the large, representational council made up of heads of teams and committees. While such a large body may make a place at the table for various voices and concerns to be shared, it can also struggle to make strategic decisions. This is because, even in the best of times, resources are limited and we can really only hope to do a few things well. Priorities must be established and precious resources (people, time, dollars) allocated. A largegroup of committee heads will tend to come to the table primarily focused on the needs of their particular area. This sets up competition among different groups for resources. The strategic "view from the balcony" gets lost as groups scramble to "protect their turf" and "get a piece of the pie." Even the laudable desire to be "fair" may lead such a large council to divide resources in such a way that no ministry has enough to accomplish its goals. Under such conditions, a clear focus on vision and purpose will suffer.

The design of the CLT seeks to overcome these limitations and provide the Conference with purposeful and visionary leadership. This does not mean the CLT will operate independently of the rest of the Conference. Indeed, under this new model, the CLT's work is to ensure the Conference's work gets done. The CLT will remain wholly accountable to the Conference for that work. It's meetings will be open, its minutes public (except confidential personnel matters), and its members accessible. The CLT will also provide a complete report to the 2011 Annual Conference Session detailing how this model is enabling our new conference to realize its vision.

The Plan of Union also provides for a forum where the various perspectives, hopes and concerns present in the Conference can be represented. This is done through a second body called the Connectional Table (POU pp. 30-31). Unlike the Conference Leadership Team, the Connectional Table will be a large representational group, including:

the Conference Lay Leader (serving as Convener), all chairpersons of Conference mission and ministry committees and teams (including United Methodist Women, United Methodist Men, Council for Connectional Youth Ministries, Young Adult Ministries, Older Adult Ministries, etc.); all chairpersons of support and administrative boards, committees and teams (including Trustees, CFA, Personnel), the Management Team (DCM, Director of Communications, Treasurer/DAS, Benefits Officer, Dean of Cabinet), the Conference Leadership Team, District Lay Leaders, the Director of Transitional Ministries and any other necessary support staff.

While not a decision-making body, the Connectional Table will be a forum where community among conference leaders is fostered, learning about current and emerging mission and ministry opportunities throughout the Connection is enabled, and the alignment of Annual Conference resources with identified conference outcomes/areas of focus is reviewed.

Our Stewardship of Property

Who will provide our conference wide Worker’s Compensation and Property and Liability Insurance?

Conference wide Workmen’s Compensation and Property and Liability insurance will be covered by Walsh-Duffield. Walsh Insurance Group was founded in 1860 in Buffalo, NY. They maintain four full service independent insurance agencies: Walsh Duffield, Jacob Hauck Agency, Sardinia Associates, LLC and the Garrick Insurance Agency. Walsh Duffield’s partnerships with the strongest insurance carriers in the country allow them to provide the appropriate risk management solutions for their clients. Currently there is an interim policy in place that covers immediate activities. All churches will be covered by a master policy beginning July 1, 2010. A transitional period will be put in place for those churches not currently covered by a mandatory conference wide insurance program. The transitional period will be communicated and guided by the new UNY Conference Trustees.

Our Support of Clergy
(For more FAQ regarding Health Care go to uppernewyork.org , click Resources)

Who will be our Health Care Provider?

New ACT approved HealthFlex as the health care program of the new conference for clergy at local churches, Conference lay and clergy staff, retirees, and surviving spouses. The selection of Health Flex was based on nine key elements for a health care plan. They are: cost – network – retiree benefits – wellness – enrollment flexibility – administration – RX – Mental health – maternity benefits.

What is HealthFlex?

HealthFlex is a managed care health program through the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits that offers a number of benefit choices to more than 27,000 participants and their family members. Currently, 30 United Methodist plan sponsors participate in HealthFlex. HealthFlex uses Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois as its provider network.

Who is eligible for HealthFlex coverage?

Participants must be appointed full time at a local church or within the Conference structure. Transition period for full time clergy in WNY not currently enrolled in Conference plan is six months will need to determine enrollment status by November 1 for Jan. 1, 2011.
Clergy Couples concerns will be addressed on an individual basis in consultation with our Benefits officer, Vicki Putney.

What will happen to part-time pastors currently receiving health care through their annual conference?

There will be a transition period for part time clergy: if they are enrolling in HealthFlex, they will have until July 1, 2011 to secure alternative coverage. If they are remaining enrolled in current conference plans they will need alternative coverage on January 1, 2011.

Our Funding of Ministry and Mission

Will we have a balanced budget?

Yes. Based on our projected receipts from the uniting Conferences our expenses are not expected to exceed our income receipts.

How was the budget developed for 2010?

The Upper New York budget is a compilation of the four conferences involved in the union. Line items were aligned and adjusted to meet our transition needs. You will find changes or modifications to the new Executive Staff positions. (Treasurer/Director of Administrative Services, Benefits Officer, Director of Connectional Ministries, Director of Communications)

Will our apportionments/ministry shares/shared ministries increase July 2010?

No. The asking for each local United Methodist congregation for the second half of 2010 will remain the same as it is for the first half of 2010.

How will apportionments be calculated?

Each of the four Annual Conferences uniting into the upper New York Conference has a different shared ministries formula. At the September 11, 2010 conference session, The Upper New York Conference Council on Finance and Administration will bring a recommendation for a new apportionment formula to fund ministries in 2011.

General Questions

How have decisions been made?

After the 2007 Special Sessions, in anticipation of the Northeastern Jurisdiction’s approval, the Conferences dissolved their Boundary Task Forces, and created a joint New Area/Conference Team (“New ACT”) to lead them forward with the unification process. By July of 2009 the New Act Team had 24 members. New Act then authorized seven Planning Teams to develop enabling legislation for particular ministry areas. They are Communications, Ordained Ministries, Pensions- Joint Distribution, Assets Allocation, Interim Sessions, Interim Leadership Development (nominations) and Interim Personnel. In all, 80 people from across the four Conferences worked to develop appropriate transitional legislation for our June 19 Conference Session.

Simultaneous to the Planning Teams work New Act authorized the Critical Questions Team to encourage the planning teams to explore unconventional, risky and innovative approaches to future challenges of ministry for the Upper New York Area. At least seventy-five people from across the four annual conferences responded to the invitation to join a “Critical Questions” group. The group divided into six smaller groups, Spiritual Formation, Ministry, Discipleship, Local Church, Leadership and Outreach, whose assignment it was to reflect creatively on critical questions that arose from our visions and purpose statement:

  • What is God's story? How do we tell it?
  • How shall we address the moral ambiguities in our communities' lives? How do we expand the grace margins?
  • How shall we model Jesus' ministry of evangelical and prophetic calling: the power, the process, the price, and, the promise of the calling?
  • How shall we expand the existing organizational structure to better connect local churches to their districts?
  • How shall we support leaders who are willing to take risks, be vulnerable, and expand grace margins?
  • What difference shall we make to our neighbors?

On January 23, 2010 more than one-hundred key leaders from the four conferences gathered at Liverpool UMC to broaden the sphere of participation in developing our new annual conference. In February and March our circle of participation increased as we provided District/Information Days on each of the existing districts. Clergy and laity alike were asked to wrestle with prioritizing ten guiding principles/practical concerns. Nearly 1000 people from across the upper New York Area registered their opinion about what our priorities should be.

In all, more than 1000 people to date have helped to shape the Plan of Union you will vote on at Annual Conference June 19, 2010.

What kind of financial help are we getting from Jurisdiction and General church?

The 2008 Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference budgeted $200,000.00 for the re-alignment of the six annual conferences. The General Church has provided in-kind services to assist in the re-alignment of the six conferences by providing staff persons from General Council of Finance and Administration, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, United Methodist Communications Team, General Board of Pension and Health Benefits.