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2012 Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference

2012 Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference
June 14-17, Salem, Ore.

You heard the word "hope" used a lot to describe the 44th Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference session, meeting in Salem, Ore., June 14-17, 2012. Hope for churches that are taking a new look at health and vitality, hope for a new conference structure that focuses on equipping local churches, hope for the people of Africa who struggle to combat malaria, and hope for people seeking full recognition by The United Methodist Church.

Hope began with the theme of the conference, Boldly Making Disciples of Jesus Christ: Forward in Faith, Love, and Hope. A theme that, according to presiding Bishop Robert T. Hoshibata, "reminds us first and foremost that our task is to lead others to know Jesus Christ in bold, courageous ways; and that we do so in a time of great change and exciting new possibilities in our annual conference." This was Hoshibata's eighth annual conference session with the Oregon-Idaho Conference.

A spirit of hope, joy and energy came from special conference guest Mark Miller. Miller and his music team used the gift of music to encourage the conference in meeting, worship and training times. A special time was set aside in the conference schedule to learn from Miller about the effective use of music to build community in the church.

The session approved a new leadership structure for the Annual Conference based on "accountable leadership" and streamlining the size of leadership groups. An Annual Conference Oversight Board will provide accountability and feedback to the Bishop and Ministry Leadership Team while the Ministry Leadership Team takes on primary management of conference activity.

The conference's Vital Church Project was celebrated with recognition of the numbers of churches that have participated in Congregational Leadership Development training and other vital church opportunities. In its first year the Healthy Vital Church Initiative trained 269 local church leaders from 37 churches in the Congregational Leadership Training program, held two consultations with churches, and 15 leaders received training through the People Reaching People training for new ministry starts.

Districts were also looking at a new structure. In July the current five districts will reform into a four-district organization. The districts met to select new names and chose to become the Columbia, Cascadia, Crater Lake, and Sage districts.

The conference responded to a call to action from the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops to increase participation in the Imagine No Malaria campaign. $ 2,893 was received for the campaign at the Memorial Service offering, but more importantly churches committed to take Imagine No Malaria information and challenges back to their local churches this year. The College of Bishops have committed to raising $2 million plus seeking major gift donations for the campaign.

At this year's conference two people were commissioned and one ordained as an elder. They have an average age of 49, ranging from 32 to 63. This was in contrast to one of the largest retiring classes in recent history, with 16 clergy retiring.

In conference actions the conference approved items that change the retiree health benefits and passed standing resolutions that support the United Nations, affirm rights for immigrants, and encourage engagement with the Occupy Movement.

Failure to make changes to the church's position on acceptance of homosexuals at General Conference triggered responses at the Annual Conference. In last-minute motions from the floor, the conference approved an action item to encourage local churches to create a statement that specifically welcomes people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in their membership, ministries, and leadership; and a standing resolution that states that the denomination's current stand on homosexuality is "...incompatible with the inclusive gospel of Jesus..."

In a moment of personal privilege, clergy and laity were invited to sign a covenant to "Do No Harm." The covenant states in part that, "The United Methodist Church continues a forty-year violation of John Wesley's first General Rule to 'do no harm.'" The covenant goes on to say, "We, the undersigned, declare that the derogatory language and restrictive laws in the Book of Discipline are immoral and unjust and no longer deserve our loyalty or obedience. We seek to embody the beloved community of hope by openly and joyfully affirming the lives and loves of all United Methodists and all persons regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression."

Conference Membership stands at 27,364, down 1,362 (4.7%) from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 13,699, down 692 (4.8%). Church school attendance stands at 3,595, down 426 (10.6%).

--Greg Nelson Conference director of communications