June 12-15, in Eugene, Oregon
The Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference celebrated 50 years of gathering since the merger of the Oregon and Idaho conferences. With a history reaching back to the 1849 organization of the Oregon-California Mission Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the conference also recognized the 200 years of mission for The United Methodist Church.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky presided over the conference, held June 12-15, 2019 in Eugene, Oregon. This marks 64 years since the conference has met in Eugene.
Building on a quadrennial theme of “Do This and You Shall Live!” the conference sub-theme of “Love Like This” captured the frustration and disappointment shared by most attendees about the actions of the 2019 special General Conference. The conference met in small groups for “Table Talks” that were the fourth generation of conversations that have been happening around the Greater Northwest area for two years. A town hall conversation session and interactive polling also allowed attendees to express their informal opinion on current church events. No clear results came from the polling with respondents interested in both untying the United Methodist connection and staying united and resisting the changes represented by the actions of the 2019 General Conference.
Recognizing the breadth and diversity of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area, conference preachers were the Rev. Kathleen Weber, a district superintendent from the Pacific Northwest Conference, the Rev. Carlo Rapanut, conference superintendent of the Alaska Conference, and the Rev. Lowell Greathouse, retiring mission and ministry coordinator of the Oregon-Idaho Conference. The three traveled to all three conferences to share their message.
In key legislative actions, the conference voted to petition the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops to convene a special jurisdictional conference for the purpose of “… continuing to be a home for all people …” and “to consider and develop a process for creative separation from The United Methodist Church …” Other petitions stated disagreement with the actions of the 2019 General Conference and called for full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ persons in the life of the church.
Four people were commissioned for ministry and one elder and one deacon were ordained. The group, with an average age of 38, asked for time to speak at their ordination and commissioning service. The six stood as Taylor Gould, an openly queer pastor, read a portion of a statement they had shared disapproving of the harmful actions caused by the 2019 General Conference, specifically to LGBTQ+ individuals who are also children of God. While choosing to go forward with ordination, commissioning and answering the historic questions about upholding the Book of Discipline, they also stated that the church's current position on LGBTQ+ inclusion goes against their baptismal vows to “resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever form it presents itself.”
At one point the statement says, “We want the Oregon-Idaho Conference to know that it is not just their most senior leadership who cannot in conscience support these policies. It is also their least senior leaders who denounce structures that target, exclude and stigmatize LGBTQIA+ people. Though we do not have the experience that comes with years of leadership we do represent the future of this denomination, and in that humble capacity we are announcing our dissent from the Traditional Plan and its reinforcement by recent Judicial Council rulings.”
The conference elected delegates for the 2020 General and Jurisdictional conferences. The Rev. Wendy Woodworth, and Jan Nelson, conference lay leader will be the General Conference delegates. The Rev. Anna Cho, Esteban Galan, the Rev. Donna Pritchard, Mark Bateman, the Rev. Jeremy Smith, and Kylie Nelson will be jurisdictional conference delegates and reserves to General Conference. And the Rev. Daryl Blanksma, Lydia Henry, the Rev. Julia Nielsen, and Carter Lybeck will be additional reserves on the delegation.
Membership in the conference stands at 23,031, down 3% from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 10,999, down 4%. Church school attendance stands at 2,640, up 1% from the previous year. Professions or reaffirmations of faith numbered 420, down 17%. Adults and young adults in small groups stands at 6,309, down 1%. And worshippers engaged in mission held steady at 11,088, up 8 persons from the previous year.
—Greg Nelson, director of communications, Oregon-Idaho Conference.