2017 Pacific Northwest Annual Conference
The 144th session of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference took place at the Red Lion on the River — Jantzen Beach in Portland, Oregon, June 14-17. Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area was the officiating bishop.
This was the first time in recent memory that an annual conference session was held outside of the conference bounds, though admittedly the location in Portland, Oregon was just minutes from the border of Washington State. The setting was practical as the venue was shared with the Oregon-Idaho Conference. Significant efforts were made throughout the planning, and during the actual session, to share resources and time between the two conferences while allowing for each to do necessary business separately. A delegation from the Alaska Conference was also present and contributed to the shared work of the body.
Worship was an essential part of the conference session and one of the elements we were blessed to share with Oregon-Idaho. After a welcome from Native American tribal members, the conference began with an Installation Service for Bishop Elaine Stanovsky. During the service the bishop offered an Episcopal Address where she introduced the theme of the conference, “Do This and You Will Live.” Much of her sermon ruminated over the purpose of the Church, our calling to be life bringers, and the need to forge new ways of being. “We declined because we kept doing what we knew how to do,” Bishop Stanovsky said. “We lived that cycle. Now it’s a new season. We can take the treasures from the past with new possibilities of the future.”
The Rev. Shalom Agtarap offered the message at the Memorial Worship. Her sermon, "Rivers of Life" was based on the Scripture passages of Isaiah 44:1-5 and John 7:37-39. Throughout her message, and during the rest of the service, water was used as a symbol of life. Agtarap asked, “What places do we need to be delivered from and ushered into the presence of living water? What brings heartbreak and sorrow today?” These questions and others resonated in a context both reflective and socially aware.
At the Ordination and Commissioning Service, the Rev. Jeremy Smith delivered a sermon titled "Can't Stop the Beat" based on Deuteronomy 6:4-9. His message was often humorous, but the light touch was balanced with one that took seriously the matter of commissioning and ordination; climbing was utilized as an overarching metaphor. “We lift each other up when we stumble; we spur each other on when we succeed,” Smith preached. “We push each other so that when we fall, we fall forward up the mountain together.”
During the final Pacific Northwest plenary session, the Rev. Elizabeth Schindler offered a reflection on the installation of the Greater Northwest Area’s first female bishop. She was moved that her daughter “will never wonder whether God could possibly call her into ministry, whether God could possibly have her do the work of mothering and pastoring at the same time, whether she could be a ‘successful’ leader in the church, even without a booming baritone voice.”
Shared planning teams led by conference lay leaders Nancy Tam Davis (Pacific Northwest) and Jan Nelson (Oregon-Idaho) were responsible for significant portions of the shared schedule including a combined Laity Session, Laity Address, and a Celebration of Abundance Banquet. A spotlight on vital local church ministry and mission opportunities carried throughout each.
During shared plenary, a report was also heard from conference leaders explaining the vision for, and ongoing collaboration of, staff work across the area including new church starts, revitalization, and intercultural competency. Discussion and voting on the five constitutional amendments also took place together while votes were tallied separately
On the final morning of conference, members were invited to participate in workshops on numerous topics as part of a Ministry Alive event. Most of the workshops focused on resourcing churches to engage with their communities in mission and/or solidarity. It culminated with a public witness on the shore of the Columbia River behind the hotel.
Offerings and gifts were received during the week for the Rebuild efforts in Washington State; a new church project in Anchorage, Alaska; our ministry with the Jamaa Letu Orphanages in the Democratic Republic of Congo; a request to help provide desks for school children in the South Congo Episcopal Area and to supply UMCOR Health Kits. Giving for these items at the conference totaled $31,216.43; $3,701.25; $11,379.89; $5,289.95 and $584 respectively.
During Pacific Northwest plenary
A petition to reduce the number of districts in the Pacific Northwest from six to five was approved. Work will take place over the coming months to redraw district lines on the west side of Washington State. Eight church closures were also affirmed with a recognition for them taking place during the Memorial Service. Late breaking petitions affirming LGBTQI Clergy and supporting the Western Jurisdiction’s College of Bishop’s response to the Judicial Council were also affirmed.
Members approved a smaller conference budget than they did in 2016, reducing it by 0.96 percent to $5,275,138. Apportionment allocations were also reduced for local churches as churches collectively honored their commitment at 93 percent, the highest level since the mid-1970s. Members also supported a 1.5 percent increase in minimum salary, changes affecting moving allowances, and a number of other grants and benefits changes. A five-year plan to honor a directive from last year’s conference to divest from fossil fuels was also approved.
Awards recognizing Women in Ministry, Peace with Justice and work in Campus Ministry were among other items allotted plenary time. We also commissioned leaders for a new branch of Project Transformation in Vancouver, Washington.
Conference dates for 2018 were set for June 21-24 and the body received an invitation, from Tacoma District Superintendent Cara Scriven and Lay Leader Megan Kilpatrick, to meet in Puyallup, Washington.
Some data points
For this report we were asked to answer the following question: “Did your clergy session approve any openly gay candidates for ministry? If so, how many?” It is certainly a possibility that our clergy session approved one or more “openly gay candidates” for ministry just as it’s likely that several openly heterosexual candidates may have been recommended. Given that our Board of Ordained Ministry reaffirmed its position to give equal consideration to all ministry candidates irrespective of sexual orientation and gender identity, this is not data we collect.
During a shared Ordination and Commissioning Service, two individuals from the Pacific Northwest Conference were ordained as elders and admitted to full connection with an average age of 28.5. Nine individuals were commissioned in preparation for the order of elder and one into the order of deacon with an average age is 41.3. We recognized the new licenses of four local pastors, and the retirement of 16 pastoral leaders including 13 elders, one deacon, and two local pastors.
Finally at the Memorial Service, in grief we mourned, and with joy we honored, 48 saints who have gone on before us and 10 churches from across the two conferences whose ministries will end, but whose legacies will live on.
- Membership stands at 39,189, down 1,245 from the previous year.
- Worship attendance stands at 17,358, down 603.
- Church school attendance stands at 3,697, up 33.
- Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2016 stand at 562, down 211 from 2015.
- Baptisms stand at 347, down 51 from the previous year.
- Adults and young adults in small groups for 2016 stand at 10,820, up 331 from 2015.
- Worshippers engaged in mission for 2016 9,086, up 466 from 2015.
— Patrick Scriven, Director of Communications & Young People’s Ministries, Pacific Northwest Conference