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2015 Pacific Northwest Conference

The 142nd session of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference took place at the TRAC Center in Pasco, Washington, June 24-27, 2015. Bishop Grant J. Hagiya was the presiding bishop. Retired Bishop Melvin G. Talbert was also on hand to offer support as an honored guest at the plenary table. This was the third time the conference has been held in Pasco.

The sessions began on Wednesday evening with clergy and laity sessions. In addition to the normal business of each, candidates hoping to be elected as delegates to the 2016 General and Western Jurisdictional Conferences were also introduced. The Rev. Neal Christie, Assistant General Secretary for Education and Leadership Formation for the General Board of Church and Society, spoke to the assembled laity about the Social Principles.

The theme of this year’s conference was “Restoring the Sacred Circle.” Throughout conference members took time to welcome and learn from those who are descendants of the First People to inhabit the Northwest. Corporate worship, particularly an Acts of Repentance service which was dedicated to raising awareness and provoking spiritual discernment, gave the body space to imagine what restoration to each other might mean for both Native and non-Native people, and to consider ways to build a living relationship in the future. This special focus of the conference continued a dialog that began at the 2012 General Conference.

The Rev. Glen Chebon Kernell Jr., executive secretary, Native American & Indigenous Ministries for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, was a special guest throughout much of the conference. He added wisdom to the Acts of Repentance service and preached profoundly on ancestors during the Memorial Communion. That service provided an opportunity to remember, and with joy honor, 32 saints who have gone on before us and five churches whose ministries will end, but whose legacies live on.

During the Acts of Repentance service, Kernell asked the conference: “Will you walk with us as we seek to make this world right?” The next day, Joan Holms, during her address to the conference as lay leader, struck a similar chord in reflecting on the critical import of developing relationships across difference to nurture understanding.

On Thursday, members also set aside time for a Change the World event supported by United Methodist Communications. As a part of its kickoff, we recognized the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s 75th anniversary. Participants distributed United Methodist Women-produced quilts for children at risk, engaged in learning and advocacy on topics like the environment, and took part in a prayer walk for peace in Pasco in memory of 35-year-old Antonio Zambrano-Montes who was shot fatally 17 times by police earlier in the year. At an awards banquet following these events, we celebrated many of the churches and people who collectively strengthen our faith, action and connection in the Pacific Northwest Conference.

Throughout the conference session, attention was devoted to the work of those improving disability awareness. This was also a shared value lifted up at the 2012 General Conference and one for which the conference has excellent, local leadership. Those leaders include Lynn Swedberg, a United Methodist Committee on Relief consultant who serves on the denomination’s Disability Ministries Committee. On the final day of conference, Sharon Ryder spoke eloquently to the topic complementing previous spotlights on disability ministries at churches including Bothell and Edmonds United Methodist churches.

The Supreme Court’s ruling on same-gender marriage was released on the second day on conference that led to a request from Bishop Hagiya for a moment of personal privilege. In a thoughtful, pastoral and personal statement, Hagiya reflected on 1 Corinthians 12 sharing that he celebrated with those who found joy in the court’s decision and joined in lament with those who disagreed with it.

Members approved a smaller conference budget than they did in 2014, continuing a trend of fiscal responsibility. They approved a new clergy HealthFlex Exchange, voted to support a petition to General Conference to add fossil fuel investment screens to ¶717 of the Book of Discipline, and supported a renegotiation of a treaty to restore rights to First Nations representatives, and ecological balance, in the management of the Columbia River in Washington State and Canada. They approved petitions to direct the United Methodist Board of Pensions and Health Benefits to divest of Caterpillar stock because of its actions related to human rights, Palestine and Israel.

Members also approved a number of petitions related to the inclusion of people with disability, petitioning the General Conference to amend ¶324.8 to require that a person with disability be a part of the committee determining clergy medical leave and that provisional candidates not be disqualified by a disability. They also forwarded legislation to revise ¶610 of the Book of Discipline so that every effort shall be made to ensure all meetings schedule by the annual conference and its districts, boards and agencies will be held in places that are accessible to all.

The conference elected the following individuals to the 2016 General and Western Jurisdictional Conferences. Clergy: Mary Huycke, General Conference delegate; DJ del Rosario, General Conference alternate; David Nieda, Gloria Kymn, Sharon Moe, Kay Barckley, Monica Corsaro, Western Jurisdictional Conference delegates; Austin Adkinson, Elizabeth Ingram Schindler, Shane C. Moore, Western Jurisdictional Conference reserve delegates. Laity: Marie Kuch-Stanovsky, General Conference delegate; David Reinholz, General Conference alternate; Joan Holms, Tom Robinson, Megan Kilpatrick, Brant Henshaw, Barbara Dadd Shaffer, WJC delegates; Amanda Tobey, Noriko Lao, Karyn Kuan, Western Jurisdictional Conference reserve delegates.

The Rev. John Brewer offered an update on the Pacific Northwest Conference’s Ministry Fund Drive’s efforts to raise funds to support the revitalization of existing and the starting of new faith communities across the region. The body learned that the drive had garnered commitments nearing $1.7 million, as members were encouraged to double down as they approached the homestretch. Positive fruit was celebrated including examples of churches strengthened by training, coaching and new leadership models.

The conference received an exciting update on its final day from Julia Frisbie, the area coordinator for Imagine No Malaria. The conference had raised $328,825 toward a pledge of $500,000, including $25,852 during the 2015 session. A Bug Off 5k was held earlier that morning complemented by a silent auction and a matching gift from the Pacific Northwest Conference Board of Pensions.

On Saturday afternoon conference members concluded with celebration attending a Service of Ordination and Commissioning with Bishop Talbert as the guest preacher. Three individuals were ordained as elders and admitted to full connection, with an average age is 34 1/3. One individual was commissioned in preparation for the order of elder, aged 25.

Membership stands at 42,876, down 1,852 from the previous year.

Worship attendance stands at 18,846, down 720.

Church school attendance stands at 4,178, down 365.

Professions of faith stand at 712, down 3.

Reaffirmations of faith stand at 68, down 7.

Baptisms stand at 476, down 26.

Submitted by Patrick Scriven, director of communications and young people’s ministry, and the  Rev. Shirley DeLarme, conference secretary and pastor of Port Orchard United Methodist Church