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2009 California-Nevada Annual Conference

California-Nevada Annual Conference
June 17-20, 2009, Sacramento, Calif.

Even before Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr. walked through an eight-foot tall red door on a stage at the Sacramento Convention Center, the spotlight of the 161st session of the California-Nevada Annual Conference was on Creating Places for New People through "10,000 doors" - and the other Areas of Focus of The United Methodist Church.

Ministry workshops had been organized to illustrate how the conference's vision, "Passion in Jesus Christ, Compassion for All" is in alignment with the four foci: the commitment to "Passion for the Mind of Christ" finds expression in "Developing Principled Christian Leaders;" "Compassion With the Heart of Christ" gives rise to "Engaging in Ministry With the Poor" and "Stamping out Killer Diseases of Poverty"; and commitment to "Extending Christ's Invitation to a Joyous Life," by natural extension calls for creating "New Places for New People and Renewing Existing Congregations."

The fourth element of the conference's vision, "Celebrating our Diversity and Unity in Christ," finds expression in Wesleyan identity, Living the United Methodist Way.

Last year, the 160th session voted to require each local church to assess its own vitality, using the tools in Dan R. Dick's book, "Vital Signs: A Pathway to Congregational Wholeness"- and to require each member of clergy under appointment to complete the Lewis Pastoral Leadership Inventory (LPLI). It was reported this year that 59 percent of churches in the conference have completed the Vital Signs assessment, with the following finding: 18 percent are vital; 40 percent decaying; 24 percent retrogressive; and 18 percent are dystrophic.

Taking such measurements can help the conference move into greater vitality, Brown said in his State of the Conference Address, as he challenged the body to "Let us be open to the Mind of Christ &ellipsis; let us open the door and meet the world!"

The bishop outlined the clergy circuit system being introduced in July. Newly-appointed circuit leaders will assist district superintendents to serve in an expanded capacity, with an overall goal of building relationships and having conversations in new ways. A conference superintendent will facilitate leader development, discipleship formation, and improved system functionality.

During an evening plenary on June 18, the body approved all of the 32 constitutional amendments passed at General Conference. There were 610 valid ballots collected. Amendment 15 had the smallest number of votes in favor, 407, while Amendment 22 had the greatest number of approving votes, 570.

The conference offering generated $24,345.79 toward purchase of a tractor and other equipment for the sustainable agriculture project in the West Angola Conference, and more than 30 clergy, by the end of conference, pledged to give 1 percent of their salaries to help fund clergy salaries and pensions in West Angola. It was reported that the conference Board of Laity is continuing its practice of the last quadrennium of tithing its budget to West Angola.

The youth delegation collected $3,029.10 in donations during the conference for Nothing But Nets.

A morning worship service was led by students involved in campus ministries, and was warmly received.

The Committee on Hmong Ministry presented the annual conference with a translation of the Local Church section of the Book of Discipline, for use by Hmong congregations. The committee did the work of translation while on a retreat.

Four men and five women, representing four ethnic/cultural groups, were ordained in a moving service of ordination that closed the conference on June 20. Brown washed the feet of the ordinands, whose average age is 47, as they were sent forth to take up the mantle of servant leadership.

Membership stands at 82,229, down 832 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 38,142, down 1,072. Church school attendance stands at 9175, up 340.

-Cate Monaghan