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2008 Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference

June 18-22, 2008, Salem, Ore.

The 2008 annual conference session of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference began on a high note Wednesday evening at Willamette University. The Memorial/Communion Service included inspiring music, a touching memorial to those who have died since last year, and a life-affirming, energizing sermon by Bishop Robert T. Hoshibata. Candles lit for the "saints" burned during worship throughout the five-day conference.

The Commissioning/Licensing/Retirement Service featured Marimbanda from a Salem inner-city school, South Elementary, and a praise group from Corvallis United Methodist Church, Ore. The powerful, rapid-fire sermon was brought by Heather Wilson, interim coordinator of Western Jurisdiction United Methodist Volunteers in Mission.

The Ordination Service changed the mood to classical with the singing, by Kevin Helppie, of Handel's "Behold I Tell You a Mystery" and "The Trumpet Shall Sound," accompanied by the Rev. Don Frueh, organist, and Joan Haaland Paddock, trumpet. Two people were ordained elders, one a deacon.

For the first time ever, annual conference included a rock concert for youth. Saturday evening, Jars of Clay, an award-winning Christian rock group, presented a throbbing, explosive and exciting three hours of spiritually grounded music at the Pavilion, Oregon State Fairgrounds. There were after-concert parties, one for youth and one for young adults.

An estimated 5,000 people attended the concert. During a break in the music, the bishop issued an altar call. He and two others witnessed to their faith and offered immediate prayer and talk with clergy as well as contact information for United Methodist churches. The concert was supported by the attendance of many somewhat-more-than-youthful members of annual conference.

Bishop Hoshibata garnered contributions from groups and individuals to fund the event outside the conference budget. This free concert, open to the public, was his dream of affirming the presence of The United Methodist Church in the community and demonstrating its care for youth and young adults. A donation of two non-perishable food items was suggested, resulting in 5,900 pounds of food going to the Marion Polk Food Bank in accordance with Bishop Hoshibata's "Initiative to Eliminate Hunger in Oregon and Idaho."

A strong affirmative vote established a $5 million major funds campaign expanding and strengthening Oregon-Idaho's Camp and Retreat Ministries and the Oregon-Idaho United Methodist Foundation, as well as Gulfside Assembly in Mississippi and a partner camp in Guatemala.

Two candidates for bishop were endorsed: The Rev. Bob Flaherty, Eastern District superintendent, and the Rev. Donna Pritchard, Southern District superintendent and dean of the appointive cabinet. Two bishops will be elected at the Western Jurisdiction Conference in Portland in July.

The Rev. Bill Mullette-Bauer was elected to the new position of director of stewardship and finance to replace retiring treasurer Robert Meyers. Mullette-Bauer comes to Oregon from the Yellowstone Annual Conference, where he served as director of connectional ministries. At his retirement, Meyers was the longest-serving treasurer of any conference in the United States. He comes by his longevity naturally; his father served as treasurer of the California-Pacific Annual Conference for 36 years.

Conference members recognized the Rev. Ron Whitlatch, recently hired director of the Hispanic Ministries Training Institute. Whitlatch's mandate is to strengthen Hispanic ministries in the conference's two states.

Legislative requests included a Safe Sanctuaries policy for the annual conference and a template for local ministry settings based on that policy. The item passed by a large majority.

Membership stands at 31,941, down 1,123 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 15,956, down 613. Church school attendance stands at 4,745, up 117.

-Linda Sullivan