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2009 Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference

Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference
June 11-14, 2009, Salem, Ore.

The theme of the 41st session of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference was "Transforming the World;" continuing a series of themes based on the conference mission and vision statement of "Boldly Making Disciples of Jesus Christ: Vitalizing the Church Transforming the world."

This transformational theme was lived out in daily worship experiences with YouTube video clips, music and dancing, and was brought fully to life at children's time during closing worship. Worship leaders had hoped to invite Bob the Builder to greet the children, but instead they had Bishop Bob the Builder. Bishop Robert Hoshibata, dressed in work overalls and a yellow hard hat, encouraged the children (and adults) to be transformers for Christ as he shared the tools in his toolbox with the children. Band-aids, a flashlight and other tools joined the Bible in his toolbox. The familiar song of "Bob the builder, he can do it," became Bob the transformer he can do it, and finally the whole congregations sang, We are transformers, we can do it.

Conference Lay Leader, Cesie Delve Scheuermann, introduced the laity session to the four areas of focus and shared her inspiration found at the quadrennial training event held in Jacksonville, Fla. In her Laity Address, she highlighted areas from around each of the districts where local congregations are reaching out to their communities and those in need. These programs are proving food for hungry children, comfort for young women in prison, and refugee support for families fleeing the tragedy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She reminded the conference that Jesus is calling not calling us to have scarcity thinking, but rather to feed the five thousand, and expect and participate in a miracle.

Bishop Hee-Soo Jung of the Northern Illinois Conference, was the guest speaker for commissioning service on June 12, preaching on the "Call to Transformational Leadership" and encouraging those commissioned, and those present, that it was time to grow and reach out to all people.

Among the four people ordained as elders was Elka Sharma. The Rev. Sharma is the first culturally deaf female ordained elder in the United Methodist connection. Her current appointment is as extension ministry pastor across conference boundaries to the Illinois Great Rivers Conference's Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministry where she has been the pastor of the Jacksonville United Methodist Deaf Faith Community Church and several outreach sites since July of 2006. Those ordained have an average age of 36. Half are under the age of 35.

Seven people were commissioned at this conference session. Among them was Janine DeLaunay. Janine, blind since birth, has been an active lay member for many years in the conference. After hearing a call to pursue ordained service, she attended the Northwest House of Theological Studies in Salem, Ore. and Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado. She is appointed to serve the Metzger United Methodist Church in Tigard, Ore.

Following the example of General Conference, the annual conference received a "Young Peoples Address" from a team of youth and young adults. They also invited youth and young adults onto the floor of the conference for a time of discussion with annual conference members. Then the young people were commissioned to a time of service and over 100 of them went out to do community service in parks, gardens and food panties.

Major actions of the conference included a vote to merge the Oregon-Idaho Conference Foundation with the Pacific Northwest Foundation (subject to the vote of the PNW Annual Conference). The conference its commitment to study and act to abolish the death penalty, and made cost adjustments to health care plans for both retired and active clergy.

The conference members carefully reviewed the 32 constitutional amendments and supported many of them. Amendment One, which changes paragraph 4 was supported by a 95 percent margin. Changing the name "central conference" to "regional conference" was also supported by a wide margin. Only amendments 15 and 17 failed to receive a positive endorsement from the conference.

Conference wide membership stands at 31,086, down 940 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 15,514, down 468. Church school attendance stands at 19,869, down 816.

-Greg Nelson