About 50 members of Poland Annual Conference gathered May 31–June 3 at 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 of a potential revision of the “Internal Law.” This relevant church discipline of The UMC in Poland varies significantly from the 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. He also shared that, as a result of this decision, a working group of the Central Conference had been charged to explain the process for becoming an autonomous or affiliated autonomous Methodist Church. To demonstrate the consequences of such a process, Bishop Christian Alsted from the Nordic and Baltic Area gave a lecture on the establishment of a new autonomous united church in Sweden, showing how complicated the process of separation from the worldwide UMC can be. The discussion was very emotional and 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 to enable a decision. 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 UM 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 Poland—thus not only receiving support from the worldwide connection but also giving something back.
The general superintendent announced that he would not run for another term in 2013, after serving almost 25 years. In the closing worship service, two deacons and two elders were ordained. In spite of these ordinations there is still a need of pastors since two pastors are now on voluntary leave and one pastor retired after working three years beyond the official retirement age. The ordination of the first woman deacon in several decades is expected to take place during the 2013 conference.