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2017 Desert Southwest Annual Conference


The 33rd Desert Southwest Annual Conference session was held on June 14-17, at the Phoenix Renaissance Glendale Hotel & Spa in Glendale, Arizona.

The officiating bishop was Bishop Robert T. Hoshibata, episcopal leader of the Phoenix Area (Desert Southwest Conference). Moved and touched by the prevalence of gun violence in our nation, Bishop Bob wore an orange stole during the opening of the 2017 Annual Conference session of the Desert Southwest Conference as a symbol of the desire to end gun violence and to bring about sensible ways of making changes not to take away guns but to end gun violence. The stole had a green slash to represent hope.

“It is today my hope that we can do something as a church and as citizens not necessarily to curb our right to bear arms, but to make some decisions that say, some ways of treating one another are not Christ-like. If there is a way we can eliminate the kind of violence we have seen … Let’s find a way to be more sensible about our gun laws.”

Laity enjoyed two guest speakers at this year’s conference. The laity session welcomed Demi Prentiss, author of “Radical Sending – Go to Love and Serve.” She talked about what makes hospitality radical and how it calls for courage. She said, “it opens the door to be all that God would have us be – That We May Be.” She led the laity in discussion and worksheets about the process of recognizing we’re always being called to take another step. Towards: Assimilation – Incorporation – Incarnation [the goal].

Bishop Robert Schnase was the guest speaker for both laity and clergy on Saturday, for a day of learning about his recent book, “Just Say Yes.” He shared that keeping within the expectations of a congregation on a new pastor and not stretching the church beyond the authorized expectations is the guaranteed death of a church. Those expectations maintain the status quo and don’t encourage a church to adapt. Pastors must maintain a balance between the expectations of the congregation and the unmet needs and issues of the community.

The official body of the Annual Conference voted on the following constitutional amendments.

  1. Amendment I: This amendment declares, “men and women are of equal value in the eyes of
  2. Amendment II: Amendment to Paragraph 4 to add gender, ability, age and marital status to the
    list of characteristics that do not bar people from membership
  3. Amendment III: Amendment to Paragraph 34 specifies that elections of delegates to
    General Conference as well as jurisdictional and central conference meetings will include open
    nominations from the floor at annual conference sessions. 
  4. Amendment IV: This amendment to Paragraph 46 states that central conferences are to
    elect bishops at a regular, not an extra, session unless an unexpected vacancy occurs.
  5. Amendment V: This amendment to Paragraph 50 allows General Conference to adopt
    provisions for the Council of Bishops to hold individual bishops accountable. Currently
    complaints against bishops are handled solely within the jurisdictions or central conferences
    where they are elected.

Main actions enacted were:

  • Rule change adding opening and closing motions to the Conference Rules and update outdated referenced publication methods.
  • 1.5 percent increase in minimum pastor salaries for 2018
  • Conference Arrearage Policy
  • Two churches, Metodista Iglesia de Somerton and San Simon UMC, were closed.
  • Passed the recommendations from CF&A:
    • 2018 budget proposal that included a 0.4 percent decrease totaling $6,134,778
    • Special Days and Causes
    • Conference Advance and Benevolence Specials
    • Other Recommendations
  • Rule change of the New Faith Community Endowment with an amendment
  • Passed the recommendations from Pension & Health Benefits:
    • Annuity rate and past service obligation,
    • Relating to rental/housing allowance,
    • Relating to local church funding,
    • Relating to HealthFlex Exchange participation.
  • Passed Personnel Committee recommendations:
    • 1.5 percent increase in 2018 salary ranges for exempt employees,
    • 1.5 percent increase in 2018 salary ranges for non-exempt employees.
  • Rule changes allowing clergy and conference lay employees to take vacation in their first year of ministry.

Resolutions adopted addressed:

  • Protecting the Right to Peacefully Address Injustice Through Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions.
  • Holy Land Travel
  • Fix Dates of General and Jurisdictional Conference Elections (Please note, that the same delegates from the 2016 General Conference will be the delegates for the Special Session of General Conference in 2019.)
  • Clarify Head Delegate Process

Reinforcing the Four Areas of Focus

Bishop Bob introduced the new vision statement for the Desert Southwest Conference:

“A Courageous Church: Loving like Jesus, acting for justice, united in hope.”

Attendees participated in Holy Huddles to engage in conversations about the compelling vision that God calls us to be in the Desert Southwest Conference and how that vision can impact our unique ministries. Six values were identified as foundational to being a courageous church: trust, compassion, relationship, authenticity, boldness, and collaboration. We spent 45 minutes in Holy Huddles dreaming, discussing, and perhaps sowing seeds for new collaborations on the following topics:

  • Values
  • The district superintendent as a missional strategist
  • A courageous church: Loving like Jesus
  • A courageous church: Acting for justice
  • A courageous church: United in hope

Resources used in each Holy Huddle and new items for local church use as they continue the work of prayerfully discerning how this vision may impact their community and church members is available at

Changes in Leadership

The 2017-2018 Conference Committee members were elected. That report is available for download at Appointments in the four districts were set which include the Rev. Mark Conrad as the new South District superintendent. The following people were ordained, commissioned or received into associate membership.

  • Commissioned or ordained as provisional elders:
    • Alma Aguirre-Olivares
    • Kimberly Scott
    • Efrain Zalava
  • Commissioned or ordained as provisional deacon:
    • Joshua Warner
  • Ordained or transferring into the DSC as an elder full member:
    • Maria Antonieta Fernandes
    • Court Fischer
    • Susan Holden
  • Ordained or transferring into the DSC as deacon full member:
    • Patricia Blackwood
    • Brenda Smith
  • Transferring from other denominations as elder full member:
    • Joel Bullock
    • Kristin Hansen

Clergy retiring in 2017 included: Mary Lou Adame, George Cushman, David Devine, Alicia Huertas Elizondo, Bob Gilfert, Dennis Hutson, Janet Keffer, Mark Lansberry, Lenore Renfro, and Nina Yardley.

Other reporting statistics are as follows:

Membership stands at 30,948, down 3.7 percent from the previous year.

Worship attendance stands at 21,141, down 4.9 percent from 2015.

Church school attendance stands at 3,521, down 11.2 percent from 2015.

Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2016 946, down 2.1 percent from 2015.

Adults and young adults in small groups for 2016 10,317, down 10.7 percent from 2015.

Worshippers engaged in mission for 2016 12,745 up 11.2 percent from 2015.


The final item in this report is a homework presented in the final Holy Huddle of annual conference after the body was asked,

“What does it feel like when your church is courageously loving like Jesus and acting for justice? What will it feel like to you, and your church, as this is happening? How do we act in the present? How can you and your church live into the hope together so it can begin to happen, so your church can move in this direction? As you connect with this feeling, let it feed and shape your hope. Share this with others back home. Let it unite you.”

-- Christina Dillabough, director of communications, Desert Southwest Conference