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2012 Desert Southwest Annual Conference

Desert Southwest Annual Conference
July 21-24, 2012, Glendale, Ariz.

The Desert Southwest Annual Conference opened with "The Gathering of The Conference" on Thursday, June 21 and ran through Sunday, June 24. As any annual conference there were great highs and lows, but this year's spirit of mission and ministry was very evident and made for an exceptionally moving experience.

Following the clergy executive session and the lay session, in which Jim Nibbelink was elected to a second four year term as lay leader, the first plenary session established the spirit was not only moving through the conference session but had been moving the Desert Southwest Conference all year long. The strategic direction committee presented a fourth priority, a focus on excellence in joyful, spirited and transformational worship.

The aforementioned spirit of mission and ministry also became evident as those attending took part in a thirty minuet HIV/AIDS training that could also be used in local church settings and were treated to the story of the Desert Southwest Conference's mission trip to Africa University. As the conference looked at next steps following the mission trip, the Rev. Gary Henderson from Imagine No Malaria addressed the conference in what would be a preview of that evening's plenary. In further examining what was happening throughout The United Methodist Church, the conference also heard a report from the General Conference delegation.

Thursday evening provided a unique plenary opportunity with a celebration of The Desert Southwest Conference's initiative to support the general church's Imagine No Malaria efforts. There were balloons, games and a very special song that can be viewed here.

The majority of the evening was filled with a viewing of the documentary "Killer in the Dark," a United Methodist Communications production that explores the crisis being caused by malaria in Africa and what The United Methodist Church and its partners are doing to try to end it. The evening ended with a challenge from Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño and the conference agreeing to take on this life-changing initiative.

Following orders of the day on Friday morning Desert Southwest Conference communications debuted the first of three video segments allowing those ministers retiring to share some final words with the conference. Then the covenant council gave its second report and helped the conference look at Western Jurisdictional matters such as the episcopal area reduction, the new church-planting strategy and the strategy for Hispanic/Latino Ministry.

Following a report looking at what the "DNA Coaching" churches had accomplished, there was an announcement of a major event from the board of evangelism called "Invite, Encounter, Disciple." The event will be held October 12 and will feature Debi Nixon, managing executive director of regional campuses and catalyst ministry for the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., one of the largest United Methodist congregations in the United States.

The mission and ministry spirit of the conference continued in the afternoon with the exciting announcement of the results of the annual conference mission project.

So far more than $26, 000 in gift cards have been collected for the Urban Ministries of The Desert Southwest Conference and the number continues to grow. This is on top of the $10,974.04 given at Annual Conference in three offerings: $2,709.97 for the Global HIV/AIDS (982345), $2,925.38 for Old Mutare Fairfield Children's Home (11713T), and $5,338.69 for Imagine No Malaria (3021190).

The discussion of resolutions also began Friday afternoon. The Desert Southwest Conference passed three resolutions: 21:00 formed a committee to look at the number of districts needed and conference staffing, 21:10 called for conference work towards ending mass incarceration and 21:30 spoke out against non-inclusive language in the Book of Discipline.

During the Friday evening Celebration of Ministry Banquet retirees were honored and awards were handed out including the Town and Country Award, the Brammeier Awards, the Communications Awards, The Harry Denman Evangelism Awards, and the Marshall Lindsay Awards.

On Saturday, the conference once again dedicated an entire day to learning. This year the conference teacher was Rev. Tex Sample, who prepared the conference to undertake a year of transformative social justice. The results of this year of action will be celebrated with the Rev. Walter Brueggemann at the 2013 session of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference.

Before closing worship, the conference celebrated those churches that contributed 100 percent of their apportionments, and took time to thank Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño for her eight years of leadership.

Closing worship asked members of the conference to remember their baptism and let the waters wash them out of the conference and into the world to make a difference. It was a fitting end to the conference and a beautiful way to start a year dedicated to "Transformative Social Justice."

Membership stands at 37,107, down 2 percent from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 25,012, down 2.8 percent. Church school attendance stands at 5,320, up 1.2 percent.

- Stephen J. Hustedt, Desert Southwest Conference director of communications