2017 Yellowstone Annual Conference
The 2017 Yellowstone Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church was held June 8-10 at the Double Tree Hotel in Billings, Montana. This was the first annual conference session for Bishop Karen Oliveto, who oversees the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area. The quadrennial theme for the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area is “Living into Beloved Community.” Bishop Oliveto believes that “Beloved community is the tangible, visible, here and now experience of God’s realm.”
The annual conference focused on the Matthew 25 scripture: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me drink.” Delegates and guests learned about food and water insecurity happening in local communities through an afternoon of missional engagement June 8. The Yellowstone Conference has annually invited attendees to participate in a volunteer afternoon prior to the annual conference session. This was the first year that this time of service was officially incorporated as part of the session. On June 8, about 170 people volunteered at various sites in the Billings area, including the Billings Food Bank, Montana Rescue Mission, Habitat for Humanity Restore, Billings Crisis Center, Headstart and St. John’s Lutheran Home. The Billings Gazette featured a front page article about the work of Yellowstone Conference United Methodists.
Bishop Oliveto gave inspiring sermons at the opening and closing of the 2017 Yellowstone Annual Conference, renewing in the body their call for ministry. “When we love each other deeply with mercy and with grace, others will witness the vibrancy of our faith, the boldness of our love and the richness of our common life and will want to become a part of it,” she said.
More highlights from the 2017 Yellowstone Annual Conference Session:
- Memorial Service: We remembered 17 clergy and clergy spouses. The memorial was followed by Holy Communion. An offering was taken for the East Angola Quessua Agriculture Fund. The total money given was $2,670.
- Retirees: Five retiring clergy and their spouses were honored and celebrated June 9 for their many years of ministry.
- At the Ordination and Commissioning Service, two pastors were licensed, two clergy were commissioned as provisional elders and one elder was ordained. This was the first ordination of a full elder by Bishop Karen Oliveto as the first openly gay bishop in The United Methodist Church. Franklin Brookhart, Episcopal Bishop of Montana, assisted with the ordination. An offering was taken for the Montana Food Bank Network and Food Bank of the Rockies.
- The Yellowstone Conference held its third annual “Tug-o-Love” to raise money for East Angola Pastors and Intermountain Children’s Home. The total money raised was $4,009.99.
- The young people of the Yellowstone Conference were a vital part of the annual session. They led the closing worship on June 10 and assisted in the legislative process.
During the business of annual conference, the following legislation was voted on:
Constitutional Amendments: The Yellowstone Conference heard from the General Conference delegates, who presented the amendments. Results will not be reported until next annual conference.
Two petitions to close two United Methodist Churches –Anaconda and Pendroy – were passed.
Other petitions passed by the entire delegation at the Yellowstone Conference included the 2018 proposed budget, the 2018 general policies, the parsonage standards, pensions, creation of a “Lay Servant Ministries Committee” in place of “Lay Speaking Ministries” and a resolution to affirm and celebrate local church lay servants.
Yellowstone Conference Harvest Time Fund:
At the 2017 Yellowstone Annual Conference, delegates responded prayerfully and robustly to the conference’s financial situation. A campaign called the Harvest Time Fund was set up to re-energize our mission share giving. The nearly 200 delegates and guests in attendance gave about $40,000 in gifts and pledges. The goal is to raise $300,000 by the end of 2018. The campaign is named after “Harvest Time,” a song long associated with Brother Van (William Wesley Van Orsdel), who is the spiritual father of the Yellowstone Conference.
In 2018, the Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone annual conference will hold a joint annual conference session in Ogden, Utah, from June 7-10. Watch the invitation video online.
--Charmaine Robledo, director of communications, Mountain Sky Area