June 13-16, in Mesa, Arizona
The 35th Session of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference took place on June 13-16, 2019 at the Mesa Convention Center. Bishop Robert T. Hoshibata officiated, and Rev. Jennifer Lambert served as Annual Conference Secretary for the first time.
Guest speakers included a welcome message from Mesa Mayor, John Giles and a presentation of an honorary doctorate for Bishop Hoshibata by Claremont School of Theology president, Dr. Jeffrey Kuan. Throughout the conference, the body was led in creative dialogue work by Alyssa Edmondson, founder of Dialogos Creative Company. At the close of the session, Dr. Luther Smith, Professor Emeritus of Church and Community Candler School of Theology of Emory University, offered a sending forth message that reflected on the Annual Conference theme, saying, “Perhaps to be called anew means to be called again because we are not making a faithful response to being called the first time, or the tenth time, or the hundredth time.”
Six clergy-members retired: The Revs. Beverly Devine, Brian Green, L. Michael Kelley, Jean Newell, David Patterson, and Terry Reid.
Saturday’s Ordination and Commissioning service included commissioning of Jamie Lynn Booth and Timothy Robert Hunsinger for the work of an elder, and Joshua Louis Warner was ordained as a deacon.
Conference archivist Jennifer Barber announced four anniversaries in 2019:
• 10 years of ministry for Grace Fil-Am Ministry in Las Vegas
• 10 years of ministry for First Tongan United Methodist Fellowship in Las Vegas
• 125 years of ministry for First UMC of Glendale, Arizona
• 125 years for First UMC of Safford, Arizona
Her report concluded with an invitation to the body of the Desert Southwest Conference to a yearlong celebration in 2020 of its 150 years of ministry in Arizona and 115 years of ministry in Nevada. During that same year, Prescott and Central United Methodist churches will celebrate their 150th anniversary of mission and ministry.
Throughout the conference, Bishop’s Awards were presented to the outstanding laity listed below:
• Robins Collins of Green Valley United Methodist Church and Barbara Paulsen from Boulder City United Methodist Church were both recognized for their work with Nevadans for the Common Good, which led to the passing of Senate Bill 201 in Nevada to protect consumers from usury payday loan practices.
• Gretchen Helena Lopez of First United Methodist Church in Tucson received this award for her work with The Inn, a shelter in Tucson, Arizona, offering Christian hospitality to families seeking asylum in the United States.
• Betty Keith Mathis for her 25 years of service as executive director of Wesley Community Center and CEO of the Wesley Health Center.
The Courageous Church award was awarded to City Square Church for living into the Desert Southwest Conference vision in a courageous way.
Billie K. Fidlin, Director of Outreach and Justice, reported the dollar amount reflecting the donation amounts for the four Annual Conference mission projects. She reported the total offering amount, $15, 829.32, with more gifts coming in, broken down as follows:
• $4,173.25 supporting hungry/homelessness youth and young people
• $3,339.57 supporting Conference ERT/UMCOR USA disaster relief
• $3,301.75 toward the Huachuca United Methodist Church fire recovery
• $5,014.75 for Asylum Aid Phoenix
This year’s Annual Conference was massive, with numerous legislative items to consider, discuss and vote on as a body. Some of the actions enacted by the conference included:
• A call for a special session of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference in September to consider all remaining legislation as well as additional items submitted in response to the 2019 special session of the General Conference and the future of the Desert Southwest Conference
• Disavowal of the Traditional Plan passed in the 2019 General Conference Special Session
• A petition to the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops for a special session of the Western Jurisdictional Conference to consider and develop a process should separation from The United Methodist Church become inevitable
• The formation of 10 teams to work on various pieces to form a new way forward for the Desert Southwest Conference.
Statements in support or against legislation created a flux of commentary and painful remarks for allies and members of the LGBTQIA+ community as well as those with opposing views of the calling and ordination of members of the LGBTQIA+ community and same-sex gender marriage. In a moment of personal privilege, the Rev. Bob Cutlipp, standing with two others, read a statement on behalf of the Hispanic caucus of the Desert Southwest Conference expressing the biblical incompatibility of same-sex marriage. Several individuals including the chair of the Inter-Ethnic Committee, the Rev. Javier Olivares, responded to the statement, saying, “We were never asked. We were never told … and we don’t have a caucus.” The Rev. Efrain Zavala explained there is a diversity of theology and understanding even within the Hispanic community and to make generalizing statements is incorrect. “I believe that many of our Hispanic clergy and laity actually stand in solidarity with our LGBTQIA siblings.” The Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank, the chair of the Hispanic Committee, added that Hispanics can speak for themselves.
Later, Bishop Hoshibata reminded the body that his hope was that we could model a unique version of Methodism where we could differ in the ways we think but love alike.
Like the rest of the world, there is a multitude of varying opinions regarding LGBTQIA+ persons in the Desert Southwest Conference. Views are not exclusive to any race, creed, age, social or economic status, sex, or geographical region of the Church.
2019 Statistical Reporting
• Membership stands at 27,972, down 4.4% from the previous year.
• Worship attendance stands at 18,361, down 6.0%.
• Church school attendance stands at 3,880, up 4.7%.
• Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2018 were 713, up 12.1%.
• Adults and young adults in small groups for 2018 were 8,687, down 15.9% from 2017.
• Worshippers engaged in mission for 2018 were 11,889, up 2.4% from 2017.
• Click here to access copies of the worship service slides and scripts with rubrics for local church use.
• Click here to access photos of the 2019 Desert Southwest Annual Conference.
• Click here to watch the Honoring the 2019 Retirees video.
• Click here to access the 2019 Mission Project resources and online giving.
• Click here to access the video archives of the 35th session of the Desert Southwest Annual Conference.
• A complete list of the petitions, resolutions, and rule changes passed during the Annual Conference is available at https://dscumc.org/ac.
For your reference the list of delegates elected during the 2019 Annual Conference for the 2020 General Conference and the 2020 Jurisdictional Conference are included below:
Clergy: the Rev. Dan Hurlbert
Laity: Paul Gomez
Alternate Clergy: the Rev. Anthony Tang
Alternate Laity: Julie O’Neal
Western Jurisdictional Conference
1st Clergy Delegate: the Rev. Dan Hurlbert
1st Lay Delegate: Paul Gomez
2nd Clergy Delegate: the Rev. Anthony Tang
2nd Lay Delegate: Julie O’Neal
3rd Lay Delegate: Trinity Donovan
3rd Clergy Delegate: the Rev. Beth Rambikur
4th Lay Delegate: Carla Whitmire
4th Clergy Delegate: the Rev. Dee Dee Azhikakath
5th Lay Delegate: Glenda Hill
5th Clergy Delegate: the Rev. Mary Klaehn
1st Lay Alternate: Jessica Brown
2nd Lay Alternate: Matthew Harris
3rd Lay Alternate: Marjorie Hrabe
1st Clergy Alternate: the Rev. Javier Olivares
2nd Clergy Alternate: the Rev. Gary Kennedy
3rd Clergy Alternate: the Rev. Timote Piukala