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2016 Pacific Northwest Annual Conference


The 143rd session of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference took place at the Washington State Fairgrounds in Puyallup, Wash., June 19-22, 2014. Bishop Grant J. Hagiya of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area was the officiating bishop.

This was the second time that Puyallup has been home to an annual conference session; it was last held in the same location in 2014. A theme shared across the area with the Alaska and Oregon-Idaho Conferences, Keeping Sabbath: Resting, Rejoicing, Returning,” was quite fitting for the end of the quadrennium, particularly one which crescendoed with shared hosting responsibilities for the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Oregon a month earlier.

Worship was an essential part of the conference session. Opening Worship on Friday morning featured a vulnerable sermon by Bishop Hagiya where he preached on the theme of Sabbath confessing, “I am Pharaoh,” as he reflected on the need for a slower, deliberate, pace. “It’s time to set a more sustainable schedule. Sabbath is one way.”

The Rev. Kathlyn James delivered the message at the Memorial Service, acknowledging that she was “tired of death” as the church she serves has lost 30 members a year on average over her nine years there. Still, she reminded people in her remarks that, “death and its ever-present possibility makes love, passionate love, more possible.”

At the Ordination and Commissioning Service, retiring Inland District superintendent and cabinet dean, the Rev. Dale Cockrum offered wisdom to his colleagues using the metaphor of clay jars. Cockrum emphasized the need for self-care, collegiality, equipping of the laity and adaptability while encouraging those listening to empty themselves “to make room for the treasures of mission, ministry, and meaning.”

The Pacific Northwest Conference endorsed the Rev. Lyda Pierce, who serves as coordinator of Hispanic/Latino ministries, as a candidate for the episcopal election that will take place at this summer’s Western Jurisdictional Conference. The laity of the conference also elected a new conference lay leader, Nancy Tam Davis, and thanked Joan Holms, outgoing lay leader. Holms was also the recipient of the Bishop’s Award.

Offerings were received during conference for the United Methodist Mission in Honduras, the conference’s ministry with the Jamaa Letu Orphanages in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and a new initiative to reach Native American young people at Wilbur Memorial United Methodist Church. Giving for these items at the conference totaled $2,137.85, $12,859.44, and $2,518.35 respectively. An additional $450.30 was raised through a used-books sale.

Significant plenary time was allocated to hear a report from the Hope for the Children of Africa task force. Claudine Kasongo, a special guest and the first girl from the Jamaa Letu Orphanage to graduate from college, shared her story with the body as the conference also learned about the signing of a new cooperation agreement between the Pacific Northwest and the South Congo/Zambia Episcopal Area.

The conference also received a rousing report on new church starts from the Rev. William Gibson who shared that the Pacific Northwest Conference will begin ten new church development projects in the 2016/2017 appointment season. It also received a thoughtful report and response to General Conference from lay delegate Marie Kuch-Stanovsky and clergy delegate the Rev/ Mary Huycke.

Imagine No Malaria Field Coordinator Julia Frisbie reported the good news of the Greater Northwest Area’s completion of its Imagine No Malaria goal of $1 million. The Pacific Northwest exceeded its conference goal of $500,000 as a part of that total. Ashley Gish, assistant campaign director for Imagine No Malaria, was also on hand to offer thanks.

Kristina Gonzalez, director of leadership development for an inclusive church for the Pacific Northwest Conference, and Marcia Bennett-Reinert, lay member from Snoqualmie United Methodist Church, shared an update on our works of repentance with indigenous people. Resources were recently released to assist congregations in this task. Moscow First United Methodist Church was lifted up as an example of a church that followed through in taking thoughtful action toward relationship building. 

After much debate, legislation, titled “Action of Non-Conformity with The General Conference of The United Methodist Church,” was affirmed with a vote of 315 in favor, 74 against, and six abstentions. It was modeled after similar actions of nonconformity previously taken in the New England, Desert Southwest and California-Pacific annual conferences. The full text is available on the PNW News Blog.

The conference moved support for petitions highlighting issues regarding juvenile detention, signed on to a campaign to raise the minimum wage in Washington to $13.50 by 2020, and supported the full civil and ecclesiastical rights and privileges of all persons including LGBT people. The conference also approved a petition to rejoin the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, support that was withdrawn by the 2016 General Conference.

Together, the conference members approved a “lament” that General Conference 2016 continued to invest in fossil fuels while also resolving to divest from investments of the same by January 1, 2018. They also affirmed their continuing partnership with the South Congo/Zambia Episcopal Area and support of its ministries, especially the Jamaa Letu Orphanages. The conference went on the record opposing the ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade treaty because of its prioritization of corporate profit over human welfare, the environment and the economy. They elected a new conference global mission secretary.

Members approved a smaller conference budget than they did in 2015, reducing it by 1.79 percent to $5,316,227. Apportionment allocations also were reduced for local churches as more churches were honoring their shared commitment. A 1.2 percent increase in minimum salary, changes effecting moving allowances, housing allowances for retired clergy, and a number of other grants and benefits changes were enacted.

Three individuals were ordained as elders and admitted to full connection with an average age is 51.4. Seven individuals were commissioned in preparation for the order of elder and one into the order of deacon with an average age is 39.25. We also celebrated the commissioning of a new deaconess. We recognized the new licenses of seven local pastors, and the retirement of 13 ordained clergy, four local pastors and a Board of Global Ministries missionary.  

And in grief we mourned, and with joy we honored, 35 saints who have gone on before us and four churches whose ministries will end, but whose legacies will live on.

Membership stands at 42,876, down 1,724 from the previous year.

Worship attendance stands at 17,961, down 885.

Church school attendance stands at 3,577, down 601.

Professions or reaffirmations of faith stand at 754, down 23.

Baptisms stand at 398, down 78 from the previous year.

Adults and young adults in small groups for 2015 10,489, down from 2014 130.

Worshippers engaged in mission for 2015 8,369, up from 2014 779.

Source: Patrick Scriven, director of communications and young people’s ministries, with the assistance of Pacific Northwest Annual Conference Sessions Secretary the Rev. Shirley DeLarme