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2016 California-Pacific Annual Conference

Opening worship on June 16, 2016, ushered in the Spirit of God to warm the hearts of almost 1,200 gathered, and many others via livestream, as Resident Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño called to order the 32nd Annual Session of the California-Pacific Conference of The United Methodist Church.

With the theme of, “Therefore, go,” (#there4go) the 32nd Annual Session carried forward the focus of General Conference 2016 to proclaim the gospel, lead persons to God, nurture persons in Christian living and send disciples of Jesus Christ into the world.

Bishop Gabriel Unda of the East Congo Conference, who had been itinerating in the California-Pacific Conference since General Conference 2016, shared with those gathered his experience of the great hospitality from throughout the California-Pacific Conference. In particular, he mentioned a challenge from Los Altos United Methodist Church to drink an ounce of pure lemon juice, known as the #lemonface challenge, in order to raise funds for Imagine No Malaria. As Bishop Unda had lost both his wife and one of his daughters to the deadly disease of malaria, he was deeply moved by the efforts of the California-Pacific Conference in the Imagine No Malaria Initiative.

In his sermon, Bishop Unda preached to those gathered that God knows each disciple by name and that this very fact ought to encourage all disciples of Jesus Christ. He preached about how God embraces all, that there are no borders for God, and that all persons belong to God. He also shared his experience of being captured by a commander who somehow recognized that Bishop Unda used to be his school teacher and decided to release him. And, he emphasized to those gathered that the California-Pacific Conference is fortunate to have a Bishop, “that knows how to Bish!” Bishop Unda received a standing ovation after his sermon and, later in the day, was sent with the love of the California-Pacific Conference back to the East Congo Conference.

Resident Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, in her Episcopal Address, began by acknowledging the California-Pacific Conference’s General Conference Delegation and their hard work. She also acknowledged Judy Lewis, chair of our Disaster Response Task Force, who organized volunteers for General Conference, Bishop Gabriel Unda (East Congo Conference) as special guest to the 32nd Session, and Dave and Donna Johnson, Rev. David Farley, and Connee and Phil Freeman who coordinated Bishop Unda’s itineration. Bishop Carcaño also shared her hope that the California-Pacific Conference would establish a partnership with the East Congo Conference which is the youngest Conference in The United Methodist Church.

Reporting on General Conference, Bishop Carcaño shared with those gathered that the Council of Bishops is taking seriously the General Conference’s request for a special commission on the matter of the inclusion of the LGBTQ community.  Under consideration is the membership of the commission.  The Council of Bishops has a strong commitment to assuring that the special commission reflects the worldwide nature of the church, those directly affected by the decision of the commission, and younger persons. In addition, a special general conference before General Conference 2020 might be called to receive a report and recommendation of the special commission. Bishop Carcaño recognized Rev. Lui Tran as a newly elected member of the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church and Rev. Preston Price who has been invited to serve as the clerk to the Judicial Council.

Sharing about the state of the annual conference Bishop Carcaño reported that in 2015 the California-Pacific Conference experienced an increase in the number of young adults in Christian formation groups, persons in small groups of all ages, persons in mission, and participants in vacation bible school.  She encouraged our congregations to continue serving in these fruitful ways.  Of concern was the decrease in our conference membership.  Our conference ended 2015 with a membership of 68,426, down from 70,891 at the end of 2014.  Bishop Carcaño expressed particular concern for the decline in the membership of men in our local congregations.  She encouraged those gathered to think about ways by which our ministries with men could grow, and committed to leading the effort to attend to the spiritual needs of men in our area.  Also in her prayers has been Claremont School of Theology.  Bishop Carcaño challenged our conference to strengthen our support of Claremont as it prepares leaders for the church in the world.

In the Laity Address, Phil and Connee Freeman, conference co-lay leaders, recognized the Lay Persons of the Year, Elizabeth Martinez (Barstow First United Methodist Church) and Stanley Shimotsu (West Los Angeles United Methodist Church). They provided time for district lay leaders to share with those gathered the significant ministries that are taking place in their respective districts. Among such many notes of inspiration were the proclamation of the Word in many languages, scholarships provided for students, meal programs for the homeless and hungry, opportunities for the children and families of incarcerated persons to visit their family member in prison, ministries with immigrant communities, and also with Native-American and other indigenous communities.

Major decisions made at the 32nd Session included the passing of Resolution 16-6, which directs the Conference LGBTQ Task Force to work with leaders in the LGBTQ communities in the California-Pacific region in nurturing environments of care and safety for LGBTQ persons in response to the shooting in Orlando, Florida. The conference passed resolution 16-7, albeit amended for clarity, which calls on local, state, and federal lawmakers to require and enforce gun safety measures including background checks, a ban on assault rifles, and a ban on semi-auto to automatic conversion kits, among other measures.

Also passed was Resolution 16-11, which, “urges the Bishop and Cabinet to state publicly they will not deny appointments based on sexual orientation or gender identity; urges the Board of Ordained Ministry to declare its intention not to consider sexual orientation and gender identity in making decisions in regard to commissioning and ordination; urges trial boards not to convict for chargeable offenses pertaining to being ‘a self-avowed, practicing homosexual,’ as well as for those clergy who officiate at weddings for couples regardless of the gender of the partners, and that these matters would be addressed through ‘Just Resolution.'”

To support our conference ministries, the 32nd Session approved the 2017 Budget of $12.9 million, which is a 1 percent increase from the 2016 Budget. The conference continues to demonstrate growing financial health.  Over the last four years, expenses have not exceeded revenue.  Moreover, 2015 total Apportionment giving increased by 2.7 percent and the California-Pacific Conference was able to contribute 100 percent of its general church apportionment and is moving faithfully toward fulfilling its quadrennial jurisdictional apportionment at 100 percent by the end of this year.

The ministry of 21 clergy persons who moved into the retired status was celebrated. Together, these retiring ministers gave over 648.5 years of active service as United Methodist clergy persons. They gave witness to their commitment to Christ through videos shown throughout the plenary sessions.  A retirement banquet provided an opportunity to say thank you to these faithful servant leaders.

$8,158.75 was received as a special offering collected at the opening worship for the East Congo Conference.  The Memorial Service offering totaled $2,160 and was dedicated to ministries with farmers of the Lumad, the indigenous people of the Philippines in Mindanao.  The Commissioning and Ordination Service offering in the amount of $3,250 was dedicated to the work of the United Methodist Mission in Honduras with the poor and repatriated immigrants.

The annual Memorial Service remembered with thanksgiving the lives of two Bishops, seven bishop’s spouses, 18 clergypersons, and 21 clergy spouses who died since the last annual conference session. The preacher for this service was the Rev. Samuel Chow, a retiring clergy person with 23 years of ministry service.  His insightful sermon was entitled, “Following His Footsteps.”

The Commissioning and Ordination Service was the final service of the 32nd Session. There was great celebration in the commissioning of four on the elder track and three on the deacon track, and the ordination of seven new elders and one new deacon.  The preacher for this service was Bishop Carcaño who testified to the joy and power of going out into the world in Jesus’ name.  She challenged The United Methodist Church’s exclusion of persons because of race, culture, socio-economic status and sexual identity. 

Bishop Carcaño reminded those present of God’s grace at work in the hearts of all people, even those who may be different from us.  She encouraged those gathered to remember the joy of our salvation, welcome all who seek the love of our Lord, go to all who hurt and hope in the world, claim the authority and power of Jesus within us, and most of all, to go forth in Jesus’ mighty name!

It was a fitting reflection in light of the focus of the 32nd Session of the California-Pacific Conference on “Therefore, Go.”  We are called to go forth into the world for its healing and transformation through the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ.  This is the missional spirit of the California-Pacific Conference of The United Methodist Church as it seeks to inspire the world as passionate followers of Jesus Christ so all may experience God’s life-giving love.

James J. Kang, director of communications, California-Pacific Conference.