2014 Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference
June 11-12, 2014 in Salem, Oregon
“What’s Your Next Act?” was the question resonating through the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference session. That theme caused members to consider their own lives, and the lives of churches as a journey that can resemble the acts of a play or movie. As the conference met June 11-12 in Salem, Oregon, they considered the hero’s journey of the Bible and secular story while pondering the future of the church in the Northwest.
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya presided over the conference (the second of three for him) and preached at both the opening worship and closing commissioning services. He challenged attendees and churches to continue to reach out boldly and try new ways of connecting to the community. He suggested that new connections, new ways of doing ministry, and a new perspective will be necessary to build new disciples. He shared that some of the most creative ideas required a certain amount of risk-taking and rule-breaking to move forward in faith. He reminded the conference that God knows where we are going as we move forward on our journey. And just as Moses did not enter into the Promised Land, we may not see the day of church revival, but we are creating the opportunities for that to happen, saying “what we do now may not come to fruition in our own time of service.”
Special guest speaker for the conference was author, speaker, pastor and theologian Brian McLaren. He talked about lighting a fire of hope to build the church, and that, “the fire of hope starts in your heart.” McLaren held the attention of the 600 people gathered to hear him, pointing out that Christianity was a revolutionary change when it began, and Jesus looked beyond the limitations of the religious rules of his time. Jesus took rules of circumcision, holy days, priesthood and the temple and changed them to baptism, the Holy Spirit and a priesthood of all believers for a community of peace, love and joy.
The annual conference passed six action requests and five standing resolutions. Four of the action items updated conference policies and local church requirements on sexual ethics and providing a safe environment for children and vulnerable adults. Another encourages local churches to study the issues of Palestine and Israel using the document, “Kairos Palestine Response.” The conference also enacted a petition encouraging Idaho United Methodists to support efforts to have the words “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” added to Human Rights Act of Idaho.
The conference held a 5K Run/Walk to raise money for the Imagine No Malaria campaign. The event, co-sponsored by Rethink Church, raised community awareness through radio and billboard advertising and increased church engagement. Through the run, special offerings, and the impromptu auctioning of a hat, the conference raised over $35,500 in gifts and pledges to help eliminate deaths from malaria. The churches of the conference are invited to participate in an area-wide Pancake Feast in September to raise funds across the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area (Oregon-Idaho, Pacific Northwest, and Alaska Conferences).
While the conference moved to close four churches, conference members also heard updates from new ministries that are reaching out to different types of communities; including home churches, neighborhood ministry, and Hispanic ministry. As the Oregon-Idaho Conference learns to reach out to a new generation, new ways of being church are needed. In his opening remarks Bishop Grant Hagiya pointed out to the conference that the challenges faced here in the Northwest will move across the country and be faced by the whole church.
The conference celebrated the conclusion of its Time to Grow capital campaign for Camp & Retreat Ministries. While gifts are still coming in and pledges being fulfilled, the campaign appears to have raised over $3 million for enhancements to the six camp and retreat sites across the conference.
In other business, Belinda Denicola was elected as the new conference treasurer. Denicola has been the assistant treasurer in the Louisiana Conference. Conference attendees were invited to mark their calendar and plan to be volunteers for the 2016 General Conference that will be held in Portland, Oregon. The local host committee is working to show extravagant hospitality to the conference visitors from across the globe when they come to visit the Northwest. More information is available at www.gc2016pdx.org.
The conference commissioned one new deacon (age 39) and added one licensed local pastor. There were 15 in the retiring class, and 17 Saints of the Church were remembered at the memorial service.
Conference membership stands at 26,997, down 847 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 13,201 down 459. Church school attendance stands at 3,060, down 480. Professions of faith stand at 534, down 5 and baptisms stand at 347, down 32 for the year 2013.
— Greg Nelson, Oregon-Idaho Conference director of communications