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2014 Desert Southwest Annual Conference

June 26-29, 2014 in Glendale, Arizona

The 30th session of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference took place at the Glendale Renaissance Hotel and Spa in Glendale, Arizona on June 26-29, 2014 in the “Imaginarium.”

Last year, Bishop Bob Hoshibata asked the annual conference to “imagine…” and work together to empower leaders who create vital congregations. This year, Bishop Bob emphasized that there is much more we can do. He asked the annual conference to take the next step now and ignite a passion for Christ through relationships with new people, through leadership development, and through worship.

Igniting a passion for relationships with new people

Throughout the conference, multiple speakers, presentations, discussions, and exercises served to spark excitement by offering information and hands on opportunities for outreach and ministry that each church can implement within their own community. People were given multiple outreach options to participate in on Saturday that ranged from handing out water bottles to learning about strategies for church advocacy.

Guest speaker, the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, top executive of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, led a Bible study bringing awareness about those who are on the fringes of society. Henry-Crowe asked for reflection: “What communities can we identify that are in need of care?” She then asked, “How can we as a community care for the world?” Henry-Crowe stated we need to be, as United Methodists, advocates for those on the margins.

Jon Katov, chief executive officer for Open Table and a panel of speakers gave an in-depth presentation about Open Table, a mutual encounter of people who need help with those who can give help. Together they shared how even one small group at a church can impact dramatically the lives of those in their community and how involvement in Open Table has an impact on the church, the individuals involved, and the clients they serve while living out Jesus’ greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Mark 12:31.

The cabinet gave a scripted and musical presentation expressing that igniting new ministry means continuing to do what works while getting rid of the things that don’t work. The book, “Adapt to Thrive,” by the Revs. Karen Vannoy and John Flowers was recommended, and the 10 adaptations detailed in the book were presented.

Igniting a passion for leadership development

The Rev. Jeffrey Kuan, president of Claremont School of Theology also addressed the annual conference, reminding everyone that the Desert Southwest Conference has 25 percent ownership of this school. It is our school of theology. He asked the people of the annual conference to ask themselves two questions: “Is God calling me?” and “Is it time now for me to answer that call?” He invited those who would answer “yes” to come to Claremont. He shared the news of the seminary’s planned renovations, scholarship opportunities and new online class offerings that will be launched soon.

The Rev. Ed Bonneau referred to a video by Simon Sinek, as a starting point in the leadership development presentation. Next,  the Revs. Dan Hurlbert and Beth Rambikur demonstrated mentoring from bad examples to ideal situations. Throughout their presentation time they offered a series of questions for table discussions and at the end Hurlbert shared a quick list resource on mentoring which is available at http://desertsouthwestconference.org/ac-updates .

After the Rev. Dave Summers’ presentation and explanation of the newly revised Strategic Direction in which social holiness is now an essential part of each of the priorities, the Desert Southwest Annual Conference approved the new plan of creating an ongoing culture of leadership development, an ongoing culture of new communities of faith, and an ongoing culture of transformational worship as keys to igniting a passion for church vitality. The new Strategic Direction brochure was designed for the leadership of the churches, district and conference with questions and recommendations on how to use the new brochure. This new document is available in print at the conference office and online at http://desertsouthwestconference.org/ac-updates .

Igniting a passion for transformational worship

The Revs. Dave Devereaux and Angie McCarty shed light on the need for a shift in worship. He said that churches can lose hope, and although the causes can be difficult to identify, the despair isn’t hard to see. McCarty walked through the steps necessary to move from despair to hopefulness in worship. Devereaux shared that although an informal survey among the clergy rating their preaching didn’t leave much room for improvement, clergy must continue to work towards exciting the people during worship. Laity must be in prayer for the pastor and work together to ensure that worship is the most valuable hour of the week. The Rev. Javier Olivares presented the following questions for table discussions:

  1. When, in your church life, have you felt like you were receiving an armload of blessings?
  2. Describe a time in worship when you knew the Spirit of God was present and you felt like every moment was alive with possibility?
  3. Which word best describes the culture of your worship services: hopefulness or despair? (You don’t need to explain your answer.)
  4. What percentage of people in your congregation invites friends to join them in worship? Take your best guess? Why do or don’t your people invite others to attend?
  5. What suggestions do you have to make preaching and worship twice as meaningful as it is already?
  6. What needs to happen in your worship services in order for 90 percent of your members to invite their friends?

Celebrations

Worship was a time for celebration, but celebrations at annual conference were not limited to worship. The Rev. Nancy Cushman served as the new annual conference secretary and as such, she asked those conference members who have been faithfully attending this annual conference and any of its predecessor conferences for 50 years or more to be recognized: Robert Ray (1953), Byron Haines (1952), Larry Hinshaw (1953), Dean Humbert (1955), Travis Kendall (1954), and Bob Stanley (1953). During the Service of Memorial and Communion the following deceased servants of God were remembered:

Pastor James Reid Aitken, Mrs. Fleta Louise Arnold, the Rev. Dr. Marion Daniel Bennett Sr., the Rev. Harold Newman Byrn, the Rev. Dr. Paul L. Daniell, Mrs. Adelyne Douglas, the Rev. Dr. Stewart Leslie Elson, the Rev. Paul Hall, the Rev. Melvin J. Pritts, Mrs. Doris Irene Smith, Bishop Jack Marvin Tuell, Pastor Diana Martha Williams, and the Rev. Ralph Marr Worden.

During the pension and health benefits presentation, the Rev. Dan Turner announced that his latest PET scan revealed no sign of active cancer in his body. The Rev. Dave McPherson shared that two new churches will be starting this coming year. At the Celebration of Ministry banquet Dee Hicks from the North District, Twyla Thompson from the Central East District, and Carolyn Redmore from South District received the Bishop’s Award. The following churches were recipients of the Marshall Lindsay Award: Page United Methodist Church, Crossroads United Methodist Church, and St. Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church. Through a collective effort and fun competition between districts, 43,946 pairs of socks were collected for the annual conference mission project and distributed to various nonprofit organizations in each district. Central West District had the highest number of socks donated. The fundraiser race for Imagine No Malaria called, Imagine 5K raised enough money to save an additional 1,869 lives!

This year’s retirees were honored during the Saturday morning plenary session. A link to the video sharing their collective reflections and aspirations for the future is available at http://desertsouthwestconference.org/ac-updates. The 2014 retired clergy were: Byran Austill, Ed Bonneau, Judy Boroto, Jim Ek, John Flowers, Jon Ierley, Cindy Kristopeit, Billy Still, Karen Vannoy, Peter Vaught, Pam Wagner, David Wilkinson and Monte Baker.

Five people were ordained, commissioned or received into full membership:

Commissioned as Provisional Elders: Janessa Danielle Chastain and Jody Beth Topping

Ordained as Elders: John Robert Cooper Jr. and Ann Lyter Thomas

Received into Full Membership: Camille Danielle Pentsil

Working towards an act of repentance

As a step towards an Act of Repentance toward Healing Relationships with Indigenous Peoples, an action called for by the 2012 General Conference to enter into a journey of conversations with indigenous people, the Rev. Dave McPherson announced that the Bishop has a new task force that will work towards developing a plan to move forward. The plan will include listening, reflection, a response and an action. Dick Spinning, a member of that task force, and Gary Long, chair of the Conference Native American Ministries Committee, both shared personal experiences in regards to the need for this action. Carolyn Redmore reported that next year at annual conference, there will be a specific act of repentance to join together in a journey to learn about the past and current issues, and to respond as disciples of Jesus Christ.

2014 resolutions and statistics

Membership stands at 34,851 — 1,051 down from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 23,996 — 889 down from the previous year. Church school attendance stands at 4,434 — 741 down from the previous year.

There were 214 clergy, 239 laity, and 218 non-voting individuals in attendance at the 2014 annual conference. Those that were eligible to vote passed the following resolutions and are available at http://desertsouthwestconference.org/ac-updates:

10.1 Resolution to Abolish the Death Penalty

10.02 Resolution Concerning Desert Southwest Conference Response to Human Trafficking

10.03 Resolution to Agree to Disagree

10.04 Resolution to Stop Clergy Trials for Conducting Same-Sex Unions

10.05 Resolution to Designate the Sunday Prior to November 20th as Transgender Remembrance Day

Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines!

Remember the wonderfully rich images that come to mind when we define the word ignite: arouse, inflame, kindle, trigger, spark, instigate, excite, provoke, stimulate, animate, stir up, whip up, rally, incite and jumpstart.

At the closing worship service Bishop Bob sparked some excitement asking what would happen if each of us were so passionate about Jesus Christ that our lives would stimulate, excite and provoke others to become a Christ-follower and wouldn't it be absolutely incredible if each one of us were able in the next year, before we meet again, to arouse excitement for starting something new and dynamic and exciting in your congregations that would spark the flame of faith in your congregations and in your neighborhoods?

Later he announced that each congregation in the Desert Southwest Conference would receive a gift of $2,000 that day to use as seed money to stimulate the creation of a new vital ministry to reach new people. Churches were asked to dream boldly and use their God-given imagination to ignite a passion for Jesus Christ in a new way. His expectation is that like the parable of the talents, this gift will be multiplied because of the imagination and faith of our churches.

After the body of the annual conference was rallied with ideas for new ministries in their communities, the check for $2,000 in their hands was exactly what they needed to jump-start their efforts. Excitement for the 31st annual conference session, which will take place at the Glendale Renaissance Hotel on June 18-21, 2015, has already begun as we wait anxiously and prayerfully to hear what new ministries have been ignited!

— Christina Dillabough, director of communications for the Desert Southwest Conference