2017 Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference
“Do this and you will live!” These words, taken from Luke 10:26-28, formed the theme for the 49th Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Session. In an historic first, the Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences met together in shared session June 14-17. The conferences met in both individual and shared plenaries over the days, allowing them to do conference business, and also share in the celebration of inter-conference ministries for church and leadership development.
A delegation from the Alaska Conference joined for the Installation of Bishop JW Stanovsky as Presiding Bishop of the Greater Northwest Area, the largest geographic episcopal area in North America. Stanovsky has held a series of “Threshold Events” in the conferences since her arrival in September to learn and connect with the area, but her official installation was held at this gathering. She is the first female bishop to preside over the area.
Recognizing the rich cultural heritage of the meeting site along the Columbia River, the conference began with a welcome from Native American tribal members, and each day began with a native blessing. One of the last events of the conference was a “River Witness” held along the banks of the Columbia to bear witness to the suffering of God’s creation, and to offer thanks for the lifegiving power of the river and all creation.
In conference actions the body voted to become an “Abundant Health Annual Conference” and participate in the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries Abundant Health Initiative [www.umcabundanthealth.org], renewed standing resolutions on planetary stewardship and open membership, and approved a realignment of the ministry leadership team. The conference approved a proposal from the Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits to modify the health insurance plan for clergy and lay staff in 2018. The new plan, managed by HealthFlex, is designed to offer increased financial stability for churches and the conference, while providing more plan choices for participants. The conference also adjusted its rules to clarify that the delegation elected to the 2016 General Conference will serve for the full quadrennium and represent the conference at the 2019 Called General Conference Session.
In a shared laity session, the Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Lay Leaders, Jan Nelson and Nancy Tam Davis, guided the conference laity through presentations on several ministries that demonstrate the abundance in our churches and how that abundance can be shared with communities. Groups gathered at tables were also able to share their own stories of abundance and outreach to communities, fostering innovative ideas to carry back to ministry settings.
The conference commissioned two new elders and two new deacons (average age 37) and ordained one deacon. There were 11 in the retiring class.
Oregon-Idaho Conference membership stands at 24,634 down 674 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 12,193 down 143. Professions and reaffirmations of faith stand at 410, down 62 from 2015. Adult and young adults in small groups decreased by 45 to 7,704, while worshipers engaged in mission increased by 3,859 to 11,397 marking a second year of increase in mission engagement around the conference.
—Greg Nelson, Oregon-Idaho Conference, director of communication