Meeting of the Annual Conference in Austria

The members of Austria Provisional Annual Conference met from May 19-22, 2011, in Steinbach am Attersee under the theme: «With heart, mouth and hands – believing, communicating and acting together.»

Opening Worship Service
In his sermon on 1 Cor 12, Superintendent Lothar Pöll emphasized that the church will not be the body of Christ someday, but that it already is now. And since Paul wrote that «God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the part with less honor», it might be necessary for the church to particularly honor those who do not hold posts of honor – and to highlight those who accomplish the tasks that do not bring honor and recognition, which are often overlooked and which nobody wants to take on.

Report of the Superintendent
Supt. Pöll drew attention to two centenaries: In 1911 the Mission Conference Austria-Hungary was established. This was an important step towards the self-sustainability of the Methodist work in this area, although a few years later this Mission Conference was divided up into an Austrian, a Hungarian and a Yugoslavian part as a result of World War I.
Also in 1911, the United Methodist congregation in Graz was established.

In 2012 the leaders of the various ministries and the members of the boards and councils in local churches and in the Annual Conference will be elected. Since not only pastors but also lay people are called by God to lead the church, Supt. Pöll recommended that we honor the value of the ministry of lay leaders. In addition he suggested that local churches should work more with job descriptions in order to make it easier to take on a new task, and that it should not be a taboo to elect new people to lead various ministries or serve on various boards, to introduce a moderate rotation strategy, or to recruit young people for leadership positions.

Clergy Members of the Annual Conference
- Martin Siegrist was commissioned as probationary pastor.
- Rev. Laura Trent will, after seven years, conclude her service at Vienna English-speaking UMC in June 2011 and will move to the USA again. Her successor, Rev. Kathy Young, will start her ministry in Vienna in July 2011.
- Rev. Markus Fellinger has applied for a position as prison chaplain in Krems. Because of an agreement between the UMC, the Lutheran Church and the Reformed Church, he can serve in this position as a United Methodist pastor and he thus remains a member of Austria Provisional Conference.
- Linda Holmes-Ulrich will serve as part-time pastoral assistant at Linz UMC as of July 1, 2011.

Finances and Church Properties
Since Church leaders economized on the Church finances, the budgeted deficit for 2010 was avoided. For 2011, all local churches have promised to increase their apportionments by 5% – which will actually be necessary in order to have a balanced budget.

Work with Children and Youth
As a result of several recent cases of abuse in church- or state-run institutions, the Children’s and Youth Department has developed guidelines for work with children and youth, as well as an emergency plan, entitled «Child Abuse - Violence – Prevention of Violence». These documents were approved by the Annual Conference and will be shared with the local churches in the upcoming weeks.

UM Social Work Organization Zentrum Spattstrasse
Dr. Merl, medical director of the United Methodist Diakonie social work agency Zentrum Spattstrasse, reported on projects which had been implemented within the last 12 months: «Camino» (a residential community for male youth), KAYA (a residential community for girls and young women with eating disorders), NIDO (an integrative playgroup for babies and toddlers), and a kindergarten focusing on physical activities. A new special clinic will be built and will probably open in Spring 2012.

Closing Worship
The Annual Conference was concluded with a joyful worship service at Salzburg UMC. In his sermon on 1 Peter 4:10, Bishop Patrick Streiff emphasized the importance of a good stewardship in the church in many regards. It will not work in the long run to have higher expenditures than income, and there is a need for solidarity between the weaker and the stronger. But this is not only true in financial matters; this is also part of our ecological and social task. And it is true in regards to our faith: we cannot give more than we are ready to receive from God.

Source: Rev. Stefan Schröckenfuchs, Vienna (Austria)
Date, May 23, 2011