Poland Annual Conference: Changes and Challenges

About 50 members of Poland Annual Conference gathered from May 31 to June 3, 2012, in the rooms of the former Theological Seminary in Klarysew (near Warsaw). The theme of the conference was «Invited! Changed... Changing?»

A special focus was laid on the discussion on a potential revision of the «Internal Law». This relevant church discipline of the UMC in Poland varies significantly from the worldwide Book of Discipline of the UMC, particularly with regard to the understanding of the role of a bishop. The efforts of a team of the Executive Committee of Central and Southern Europe Central Conference to harmonize the «Internal Law» with the Book of Discipline of the UMC were suspended in March 2012 after they had not led to a helpful solution. Bishop Patrick Streiff explained this decision and distributed several documents of the Executive Committee of the Central Conference. He also told that, as a result of this decision, a working group of the Central Conference had been charged to explain the process how to become an autonomous or affiliated autonomous Methodist Church – and to demonstrate the consequences of such a process. Bishop Christian Alsted from the Nordic and Baltic Area, who had been invited as official guest, had previously shown in a lecture on the establishment of a new autonomous united church in Sweden how complicated the process of separation from the worldwide UMC can be. The emotional discussion of the Conference members focused on the use of the title «bishop» by the General Superintendent of the UMC in Poland. There were arguments in favor and against a harmonization of the «Internal Law» with the Book of Discipline. The members agreed that they would need more information for a helpful decision. They commissioned an ad-hoc-committee to work on this issue and to present its results to Annual Conference 2013 in order to enable a decision on the future way. Until then the results of the discussions of the Central Conference will also be available.

The financial situation of the UMC in Poland is very difficult; more than 40% of the budget is covered by reserves, which had been accumulated thanks to the former profit of the United Methodist language schools in Poland. The donations from Connexio, the network for mission and service of the UMC Switzerland-France, amount to 25% of the overall income. Because of this situation the motion to appoint a youth worker was defeated. However, another motion was carried: In months with five Sundays, the offering of the last Sunday shall be used for serving and faith sharing ministries outside of Poland – thus not only receiving support from Connexio, the network for mission and service of the UMC Switzerland-France, but also supporting projects abroad through this organization and strengthening the ties with it.

The General Superintendent announced that he would not run for another term in 2013 – after almost 25 years in this office it would be time for a change.

In the closing worship service on Sunday Krzysztof Kłusek and Ryszard Zimoń were ordained deacon (in Poland there is still the old system with the transitional order). Sebastian Niedźwiedziński and Dariusz Zuber were ordained elders. In spite of these ordinations there is still a need of pastors since two pastors are now on voluntary leave and one pastor finally retired after having worked three years beyond the official retirement age. The ordination as a deacon of the first woman after several decades is expected to take place during the next meeting of the Annual Conference in June 2013.

Source: Urs Schweizer, Assistant to Bishop Patrick Streiff, Zurich (based on a German report of Jörg Niederer, Frauenfeld)
Date: June 12, 2012