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2011 Alaska Missionary Conference

Alaska United Methodist Conference, June 3-5, Homer, Alaska

The Alaska United Methodist Conference, one of our denomination's missionary conferences, convened in beautiful Homer, Alaska, nestled on the shore of Katchemak Bay off Cook Inlet. The conference was called to order at 1:30 p.m. on Friday and completed business by 5:25 p.m. on Saturday, with five minutes to spare.

The theme for this year's conference was "Come to the Edge," as we explored what ministry and mission is like at the edges of our communities, most of which sit near the edge of the Pacific Ocean or one of Alaska's many rivers. This is a movement for us to think missionally in the world as we participate in the great mission of God. We are called to go to the edges of society, to find the barriers that separate us from those around us and to cross over in ministry.

Here are top 10 highlights of annual conference 2011:

  1. Annual conference began with three special events. On Wednesday, Heather Wilson, the Western Jurisdiction United Methodist Volunteers in Mission coordinator, led UMVIM training. On Thursday, Bishop Mike Lowry, resident bishop of the Central Texas Conference, led us in a workshop designed to help United Methodists face our future while not losing the great aspects of our Methodist identity. On Friday morning, we had a workshop on ministering to those with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, a growing problem in Alaska.

  2. The singing of "And Are We Yet Alive."

  3. Much of our annual conference business dealt with facing the economic realities of our time. We continue trying to do more ministry with fewer resources and collectively "tightening our belts" as we move toward an organizational restructuring. We're "rethinking church" - to use a good United Methodist phrase.

  4. We considered 23 petitions to General Conference. Almost all were passed and will be considered by the larger church.

  5. We adopted two missional priorities for the years 2011-13: A Clean Water Initiative for Haiti and Education and Ministry for those with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and their families in Alaska.

  6. With natural disasters affecting communities around the United States and a regular occurrence in Alaska, we spent time on disaster-preparedness procedures and were pleased to have a report from the Rev. Brian Diggs from UMCOR Depot West in Salt Lake City.

  7. The rising costs of property insurance have been an issue for our congregations. We spent some time looking at grouping our insurance together as a cost-saving measure. As we enter into this, we are learning from other United Methodist conferences in the United States.

  8. We introduced a new conference website at We hope this will be a well-used tool for connecting us in ministry and interpreting the work of our conference to the larger church. You can go to the website and see pictures of our time together in Homer.

  9. The preaching and reports from Seattle Area Bishop Grant Hagiya and Superintendent, the Rev. David Beckett, were inspiring. Our bishop led us in our memorial service and reminded us of the great hope of resurrection we share. Beckett, in his report, talked about "the doldrums" and the need to lead our churches into areas where the Spirit is blowing.

  10. The hospitality of the Homer United Methodist Church, its pastors and host families, was extravagant. Few conferences in our connection can have their annual meeting in a small local church and house many of the delegates and clergy in area homes. Because we are a very small conference, when we get together, it's a family affair. We were blessed with the sounds of children laughing and playing as we conducted business. It is a joy to get together and share life with each other.

Lay delegate elected to General Conference: Jo Anne Hayden (Juneau, Alaska). Clergy delegate: Jon Disburg (Anchorage, Alaska). Jo Ann Hayden will head the delegation.

Lay delegate elected to Jurisdictional Conference: Lonnie Brooks (Anchorage, Alaska). Clergy delegate: Peter Perry (Anchorage, Alaska).

Alternate lay delegates: Nora Ortiz Fredrick, Lori Staats. Alternate clergy delegates: Evelyn Erbele, James Doepken.

Membership stands at 3,733, down 132 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 1,389, down 76. Church school attendance stands at 863, down 10.

--The Rev. Jim Doepken, director of communications, Alaska United Methodist Conference