It was a record-making weekend at the 2019 Mountain Sky Annual Conference Session held June 13 to 16 at the Montana Convention Center in Billings, Montana. This was the first official gathering of the Mountain Sky Conference after it voted in 2018 to become one, combing the legacy Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain annual conferences. This year, voting members elected a more diverse delegation to represent the conference at the 2020 General Conference and Western Jurisdictional Conference.
This includes the Rev. Jasper Peters as the first African-American clergyman to be first-elected clergy delegate to the 2020 General Conference for the legacy Rocky Mountain Conference. Harvey Tukutau was elected as the first young adult Tongan lay delegate to General Conference for the legacy Rocky Mountain Conference. In addition to being first-elected, he is also the head of delegation for the legacy Rocky Mountain Conference.
Maryann Hall was elected as the first Blackfeet woman to be a reserve delegate to the Jurisdictional Conference for the legacy Yellowstone Conference. (You can view more ballot results online)
During the "Service of Honoring and Ordering Ministry" on Sunday, June 16, Bishop Karen Oliveto licensed three women: Victoria Lozoya, Olympia Tukutau and Ashley Hawkins. Hawkins, an out lesbian and co-convener of the Global UMC Queer Clergy Caucus, will serve a three-point charge in Montana. Additionally, Bishop Oliveto commissioned a class of 10 people that included Amber Mitts, an out lesbian, who will serve a church in southern Colorado.
For Mitts, "being commissioned and affirmed in my gifts for pastoral ministry is the best feeling ever. Finding a safe place to imagine and explore what it means to follow Christ right now is a sacred gift. I give thanks for this conference and the blessing it is to be sent out to serve."
The diversity of the clergy who were licensed, commissioned, and ordained reflected what the Mountain Sky Conference strives to be: a home for all God's people. This included a varied group of people of color. Below is the full list of the licensed local pastors, commissioned deacons and elders, and ordained deacons and elders.
- Licensed local pastors: John Altland, Candace Boyd, Phillip Gibson, Ashley Hawkins, Victoria Lozoya and Olympia Tukutau
- Elders for Commissioning: Angela Marie Dornisch, Cherie B. Cobb, Roger Buzz King, Peter Jisung Lee, Lauretta Anne Lundquist, Amber Rose Mitts, Michael Dean Paschall and Brenda Mary Torrie
- Deacons for Commissioning: Haley Wynn Andreades and Kelsey Linden Hill
- Elders for Ordination: Yevette Christy, Sherry Ann Ferriman, Byoungwk Jeon, KyeongSu Jung, Emily Carr Kintzel, Dawn Maurer Skerritt and Llewellyn Ashville Ward II
- Deacons for Ordination: Kaitlin Elise Elmore
The service was a joyous one and highlighted the Mountain Sky Conference's commitment to develop leaders "across the broadest expressions of humanity — including sexual orientation, gender identity, race, theological perspective, physical ability, and age," as stated by the Board of Ordained Ministry.
More highlights from the 2019 Mountain Sky Annual Conference Session:
- Guest preachers: Bishop Gregory Palmer of the Ohio West Area preached at the June 14 afternoon service. He also participated in the conference’s annual Tug-o-Love competition and was part of the winning team. The Rev. Junius Dotson, top executive for Discipleship Ministries, was the keynote speaker for the laity session June 13 and preached at the morning service June 15. J.J. Warren from the Upper New York Conference preached at the opening service June 13. (Videos of those worship services are online)
- Memorial Service: We remembered 15 clergy and 13 clergy spouses.
- Retirees: 16 retiring clergy were honored and celebrated for their service, representing a total of 368.25 years of ministry.
- Members of the Mountain Sky Conference continued to exhibit abundant generosity in their response to annual conference offerings (totals as of June 19, 2019):
- Bridge of Love (Abundant Health initiatives): $2,454.25
- Intermountain: $2,664.87
- Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: $2,756.25
- Tug-o-Love (supporting Angola pastors and suicide prevention): $8,515.96
- Laity Scholarships: $1,747.72
- Clergy Covenant Fund: $3,909.25
- Total Collected = $22,048.30
During the business of annual conference, the following legislation was voted on:
The majority of petitions were passed through legislative groups. Those included in the adopted consent calendar were:
- Minimum compensation for clergy
- Compensation for the treasurer and superintendents
- Calculation and payment of General and Jurisdictional apportionments
- Bylaws of Flathead Lake United Methodist Camp
- Permission to sell Camp on the Boulder
- A resolution to be intentionally welcoming and inclusive
One petition that was to be directed to the General Conference for consideration on the organizational restructuring of The United Methodist Church was approved by the majority of the delegates in plenary, but did not garner the threshold to be endorsed by the Mountain Sky Conference. The presenter will still be able to send it on individually without official conference support.
A resolution that was submitted on the floor called for the Western Jurisdictional College of Bishops to call a special session. That was approved by the body. (You can view the full legislative report online)
Mountain Sky Conference statistics:
- Membership stood at 62,576 at the end of 2018, down 2,325 (3.6%) from 64,901 in 2017, while worship attendance was 28,757, down 1,540 (5%) from 30,297 in 2017. Those worshiping on line increased from 1,895 to 5,920 or an increase of over 200%.
- Baptisms were down from 767 in 2017 to 707 in 2018 (8%), with Confirmations Enrollment up from 488 in 2017 to 559 in 2018 (14 %).
- Professions of faith for 2018 were 1,282, exactly the same number as 2017 (0% change).
- Christian Formation Group attendance stands at 37,899 down 912 (2%) from 38,811 in 2017.
- Worshipers engaged in mission for 2018 were at 25,309 or almost exactly the same number of 25,313 in 2017.
The 2020 Mountain Sky Annual Conference will be June 18-21, 2020 in Gillette, Wyoming.
--Charmaine Robledo, director of communications