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2009 Rocky Mountain Annual Conference

Rocky Mountain Annual Conference
June 17-20, 2009, Grand Junction, Colo.

Over 800 people warmly welcomed new Bishop Elaine J. W. Stanovsky to her first session with the Rocky Mountain Conference, this year meeting on the "Western Slope" of the Rockies.

The conference was full of opportunities to learn, to be challenged, and to respond, with presentations on the ReThink Church campaign, Missions, New Church starts and many workshops.

An opening presentation by the bishop and leaders of the conference gave an overview of who we are, where we have been and where we want to go. Numerous examples of creative ministries of local churches were highlighted. Cheers greeted the news that since annual conference 2008, the annual conference has raised $121,000 for Nothing But Nets in honor of Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr., Stanovsky's predecessor. Comments by Stanovsky included a commitment of this conference to pay 100 percent of the General Church apportionment by 2013. In reviewing the participation by churches in funding the work of the conference through the "tithe plus," she said that there was "no excuse" for any church to pay nothing on the shared tithe plus commitment approved by conference members. It was reported that all churches but one participated in the new Church Tithe program in 2008.

All constitutional amendments were approved, with approval percentages ranging from 67 percent (IX; 306-154) to 77 percent (XV; 355-109). All conference petitions were approved, with considerable discussion around health coverage changes for retirees and setting of leadership salaries. One church voted to close and was affirmed; the Church Tithe Plus Mission was reaffirmed at 13 percent of gross local church revenue; and a policy was approved strongly discouraging historical landmarking of church buildings. Resolutions were approved encouraging knowledge of Native American ministry needs and urging President Obama to continue to assert leadership towards a diplomatic resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a just peace, dignity, and security for all concerned. A budget of $5.25 million was adopted.

In two clergy sessions, 16 were approved for ordination as elders and two as deacons, four for commissioning towards elders and three for deacons, and eight local pastors. In addition, one certified lay minister was recognized at the ordination service.

Two laity sessions heard top executive of the Board of Church and Society Jim Winkler and ReThink Church Architect Ken Sloane of United Methodist Communications and offered 14 workshop choices!

Bishop Melvin E. Wheatley, who served the conference from 1972-1984, the Rev. Seung Do Park, born in North Korea and a founding clergy of the first Korean church in Denver, and the Rev. Rodney E. Wilmoth, retired clergy from the Minnesota Conference and who served Intentional Interims in the conference, were among the 11 lives celebrated at the memorial service. Outgoing Utah/Western Colorado District Superintendent Glenda Ulmer reflected on beginnings at endings and shared her faith beginnings as the daughter of a woman whose life was changed by the welcome she received from a Methodist Church.

Quiet Disciples, United Methodist college students, a rural pastor and rural church, a peacemaker, historic preservation efforts, and local church publications were all celebrated with awards. In addition, the Harry Denman Evangelism Award was given to the Rev. Sione Tukutau, pastor of First United Methodist Church, Rock Springs, Wyo., who has added 49 new members in the first four months of 2009 to the original 122 members of the church. Sione, a Pacific Islander by culture, serves a cross-cultural appointment.

Among the moments celebrated during the session was the singing of Happy Birthday to 78-year-old Bishop Roy Sano, who preached at the ordination service. Sano served the Rocky Mountain Conference from 1984-1992.

The Young Persons Worship was innovative: retirees blessed and laid hands on soon-to-be-commissioned candidates, who in turn blessed and laid hands on young people. Twitter followers in other conferences and even other countries were excited to hear about this service.

The closing session of the conference was an abbreviated training on the ReThink Church Campaign by Larry Hollon, top executive of United Methodist Communications, and Ken Sloane, director of the agency's communications ministry, challenging, inspiring, and resourcing.

Membership stands at 67,317, down 570 from previous year. Worship attendance stands at 30,503, down 104. Church school attendance stands at 9,981, down 237.

-Ben Roe