2008 California-Pacific Annual Conference
June 18-22, Redlands, Calif.
More than 1,800 laity and clergy from across Southern California, Hawaii, Guam, and Saipan gathered at the University of Redlands for the 2008 California-Pacific Annual Conference. This year's theme was "To Be The Cup Overflowing With Joy!" Bishop Mary Ann Swenson opened worship proclaiming, "Joy comes as a gift that cannot be manufactured!"
This was the 24th annual session of the conference that was created out of the merger of the Pacific and Southwest annual conferences. This session marks the 157th session since the organization of The Pacific Conference in 1851, the oldest of the merging annual conferences.
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward of the Mississippi Annual Conference led Bible study. She examined the Book of Ruth and said, "We're all midwives to one another as we give birth and bring new life to the world!" She also examined the "Parable of the Sower" and asked the question, "How do we live between the planting and the harvest?" Conference members gathered in Wesley Circles following the morning Bible studies for discussion and prayer.
The conference continued a new pattern of welcoming a lay person to preach during the annual session. Lewis "Bob" Crownover, a lay member of First United Methodist Church Redondo Beach, was selected through an audition process, and spoke during a special service of baptism about his faith journey, which included coming back from homelessness.
In legislative action, the conference responded in several ways to recent actions of the California Supreme Court. In early May, the court struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage in a broadly worded decision that would invalidate virtually any law that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation. The 4-3 ruling declared that the state Constitution protects a fundamental "right to marry" that extends equally to same-sex couples.
The conference passed three resolutions surrounding the issue of same-sex marriage in California.
One of the resolutions focused on a pastoral response to the legality of same gender marriage in California. It read in part, "while we recognize that we are governed by the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, we support those pastors who conscientiously respond to the needs of their parishes by celebrating same gender marriages, and we envision compassion and understanding in any resulting disciplinary actions."
The second resolution entitled "Affirmation of Marriage Equality in California" calls on the California-Pacific Annual Conference to celebrate the Supreme Court decision regarding marriage equality. It reads in part, "Be it further resolved that the California-Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church support same-gender couples who enter into the marriage covenant and encourage both congregations and pastors to welcome, embrace, and provide spiritual nurture and pastoral care for these families."
A third resolution was in response to an initiative on the California state ballot this coming November. The "California Marriage Protection Act" would amend the state constitution to define marriage as a union "between a man and a woman" and undo the ruling which found that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was unconstitutional.
The conference resolution entitled "Protecting Marriage Equality In California," was passed in opposition to the state initiative. It reads in part, "we call upon the laity and clergy of our churches in the California-Pacific Annual Conference to answer the call of General Conference by providing a witness against heterosexism and any discrimination based on sexual orientation, and in so doing, to be actively involved in protecting the civil rights of all Californians as they pertain to the right to civil marriage, working through correspondence with elected officials, through public venues such as newspapers, periodicals, radio and television, and the venues offered by the internet, and through other opportunities as they arise."
Prior to closing worship, the Rev. Mark Ulrickson, Santa Ana district superintendent and dean of the cabinet, read a statement in response to inquiries regarding same gender marriages. Ulrickson said, "Neither our actions nor the actions of the State of California change the present Discipline of The United Methodist Church." He further stated, "Despite our diverse individual perspectives, we are obligated to process complaints arising from breaches of these provisions in a manner appropriate to the circumstances." He further stated, "As we seek to remain in compassionate solidarity with our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, this may be a time to promote ecumenical partnerships and a variety of engaging ministries."
Members adopted a 2009 budget of $12,906,072 representing an increase of .77 percent increase.
More than 225 youth participated in the annual Youth Day and raised funds for 1,000 bed nets for the "Nothing But Nets" campaign.
In other business, conference members:
- Collected offerings: Domestic Disaster Response $4,200; Nothing But Nets $9,500; Global Disaster Response $3,300; Conference Youth Endowment Fund $3,400; and Bishop's Designation for Children $3,000;
- Raised $905 in the annual clergy basketball game for charity to benefit Nothing But Nets; and
- Adopted a resolution encouraging all churches in the conference to calculate their carbon footprint on a biennial basis and become carbon neutral by the year 2020.
During the conference session:
- Bishop Swenson ordained seven elders in full connection; received one candidate into full connection; commissioned four as probationary elders, and commissioned one as a probationary deacon;
- Celebrated the retirement of 25 active clergy representing more than 656 years of active ministry; and
- Endorsed the Rev. Grant Hagiya, executive director, of the conference's new Center of Leadership Excellence, for the episcopacy.
Membership stands at 84,812 down 2,265 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 51,227, up 411 from the previous year. Church school attendance stands at 12,814, down 613 from the previous year.
-Larry Hygh Jr.
* SeeCalifornia-Pacific Annual Conference Web site(http://www.cal-pac.org/con_News_Conference.cfm?c=1001682&v=3) for full text of pastoral response, affirmation of marriage equality and cabinet response.