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2011 Desert Southwest Annual Conference

Desert Southwest Annual Conference
June 23-26, 2011, Glendale, Ariz.

The 27th session of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference opened on Thursday, June 23, with a service of Remembrance and Resurrection. By the time the session closed on Sunday, June 26, the leadership of the conference were better informed, inspired and a little tired. There had also been important decisions made and actions taken.

Following the opening worship service, clergy went into Executive Session and the laity was treated to a learning opportunity put on by conference youth and young adults during the Laity Session. The youth and young adults put on a very entertaining training session about how Millennials make use of social media and other modern communication tools to tell their story. The applications to local church communications were clear but participants were cautioned that all churches must have an overall communications plan that incorporated many different communication channels. This sentiment and the importance of telling the story was repeated over and over again by conference guest Don Nations, conference teacher Gil Rendle and the Desert Southwest Conference's own Communications Commission.

"It is not possible to reach everyone or even a majority of people through one or two lines of communication," said Lynn Bartlow, chair of the Communications Commission. "People expect you to find them where they are. It's a new world, and we can't always count on sharing our story in the same old ways, but with change comes opportunity."

Young people set a tone and provided leadership throughout annual conference this year. On Thursday afternoon Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño announced that a young person would be sitting next to her and helping to provide leadership during all of the Plenary Session. This was a particularly timely announcement as the conference had just viewed a video put together by the conference youth supported by Conference Communications titled "Our Voice Your Ears." Available on the conference YouTube channel at http://youtube.com/DSCCommunication, the video tried to answer an ongoing concern about the need to hear what young people are looking for from the church. The young people continued to be heard at each Plenary Session of this year's annual conference.

A special Thursday night session of annual conference took time to explore the ministry of The Desert Southwest Conference, both within the conference and beyond. Ginny Hildebrand explored the context of ministry in Arizona, particularly around those in the most need. That conversation continued the following day as Frank Pierson explored the Context of Ministry in the areas of Nevada and California served by the Desert Southwest Conference. The exploration of the context of ministry in the Desert Southwest Conference helped in the discernment of where ministry is called to be in the Desert Southwest and the passing of a revised Strategic Direction.

The evening ended with a look at a Desert Southwest Conference ministry taking place far beyond the geographic confines of the conference. Bishop J. Lawrence McCleskey, representing Africa University, brought greetings and a word of thanks for the conference's continued efforts to fund a permanent Chair of Health Science at the university in honor of former Conference Treasurer Joel Huffman. The address ended with the surprise announcement by Bishop Carcaño that the Desert Southwest Conference had, in fact, raised enough funds to fulfill the obligation and presented the check for the final $100,000.

Friday saw the opening of discussion over resolutions. The conference passed five resolutions including: a resolution visioning an AIDS-free world, a resolution concerning youth and mental health, a resolution about energy conservation and the use of renewable energy, a resolution about informing people about the Institute on Religion and Democracy and a resolution on a conference commitment to kindness. There were also nine resolutions passed that were petitions to General Conference concerning discriminatory and unwelcoming wording from the Book of Discipline around human sexuality.

A special celebration took place on Friday afternoon for thirty-five churches that will participate in the Don Nations Transformation-DNA Coaching process. The goal of this process in to increase church vitality by transforming the "DNA" of participating churches. This intensive three-year process will begin in the fall of 2011. Testimonials about the process are also available on the Desert Southwest Conference YouTube channel.

Friday concluded with the Celebration of Ministry and Service Banquet. The ministries of those retiring were celebrated at this time, but there were also special recognitions and awards handed out. Beyond the regular annual awards like the Words that Heal award and the Communications awards, this year saw the introduction of the first annual Marshall Lindsay awards, celebrating church vitality. The winners of this new award, that is a response to the Call to Action, were Community UMC of Williams, Calvary UMC, and First UMC of Tempe. These churches will all be featured in the next issue of Transformation, the ministry magazine of The Desert Southwest Conference. The magazine is also available online at http://www.desertsouthwestconference.org/transformation.

Saturday morning saw the end of voting for clergy and lay delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conference. The delegates elected were: Sharon Lorraine Scobie of Las Vegas, Nev., elected as General Conference lay delegate; James (Jim) Charles Nibbelink of Tucson, Ariz., elected as General Conference lay alternate; the Rev. Dr. Jane Tews of Gilbert, Ariz., elected as General Conference clergy delegate and delegation leader; the Rev. Anthony Tang of Henderson, Nev., elected as General Conference clergy alternate; Gwen Garrett of Peoria, Ariz., elected as Western Jurisdiction lay delegate; Dakota Lee Staren of Glendale, Ariz., elected as Western Jurisdiction lay delegate; the Rev. Robert Glenn Rynders of Tempe, Ariz., elected as Western Jurisdiction clergy delegate; the Rev. Sharon Ragland of Tucson, Ariz., elected as Western Jurisdiction clergy delegate. The monitors from the Committee on the Status and Role of Women and the Commission on Religion and Race that were tracking various elements of inclusivity and diversity stated they were happy to see a delegation that was very diverse in age, gender and racial/ethnic background.

The remainder of the day on Saturday was a time of learning led by Gil Rendle, author of Journey in the Wilderness. In this time the leadership of the conference continued to explore context of ministry and what it means to minister in the world today. There were also practical tools given for raising church vitality and telling the story in a way that the world can hear it.

On Saturday evening, the conference experienced A Service of Retirement, Commissioning and Ordination. The conference saw the ordination of the Rev. Sun Ug (Isaac) Choh as deacon and the Rev. Jerellen Espinosa Wilkerson as elder. The conference also commissioned three individuals: the Rev. Sarai Case, the Rev. Brian Schlemmer and the Rev. Ann Thomas. Finally, there was an Affirmation of the Commissioning of a Deaconess, Marjorie Irene Hrabe.

Following various business matters and the recognition of those churches paying 100 percent of their apportionments, on Sunday morning the Desert Southwest conference drew near its end with a Service of Sending Forth. The final of three offerings designated to Congregational Development in the Northwest Conference of the Methodist Church of Mexico was taken at this service bringing the total to $7,633.51.

Perhaps the greatest moment of joy in the service was the anointing and sending forth of 23 lay missionaries trained through the Lay Missionary Planting Network that will be charged with starting at least six Hispanic/Latino communities of faith throughout the Desert Southwest Conference. The celebration of these lay missionaries resulted in a spontaneous standing ovation and an affirmation of the three priorities of the conference's newly revised Strategic Direction: creating a culture of starting new faith communities, creating a culture of leadership development and creating a culture of social holiness. It was also a clear affirmation of the call from both The United Methodist Church and the Desert Southwest Conference to make disciples of Jesus for the transformation of the world.

Membership stands at 37,951, down 2.6% from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 25,722, down 3.1%. Church school attendance stands at 5,255, down 5.9%.

Stephen J. Hustedt
Director of Communications