The 36th Desert Southwest Annual Conference session was held online on June 12-13, 2020.
"For Such a Time as This," the theme for this year's session, was relevant as the country's reality of rising racial tension, continued economic and political divides, demoralizing immigration issues, and the isolation from COVID-19 brought justice and equality to the forefront.
Throughout the session video messages from clergy and laity shared informative, contemplative, and prayerful pleas for action and grace. During the opening episcopal message, the officiating bishop, Robert T. Hoshibata, echoed the call to act for justice, asking all those that are willing to do something to record a video message where they proclaimed the following on social media:
"Hello, my name is (your name). I am a United Methodist, and a child of God. I join with United Methodists in the Desert Southwest Conference in remembering the vows I spoke when I dedicated my life to Jesus Christ when I was baptized.
I renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent for my part in supporting systems of racism and oppression.
I accept the freedom and power God gives me to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. I recognize that all persons are children of God and are created in the image of God. I pledge to continue to live my life in this covenant until all persons are treated with equality and justice prevails."
During the Laity Session, Bishop Hoshibata and Conference Lay Leader Laurie Lineberry engaged in a conversation-style interview to empower laity on their part of transforming the world.
Gwen Bortner, Project Manager for the Western Jurisdiction, led an inspiring mix of teachable videos, discussion topics, and idea-generating. The conversation via chat in Zoom was tremendous. But Gwen didn't want people that attended the Laity Session to get energized just for the day. She wanted the laity to come up with a way for them to build relationships with each other so that they could continue to bounce ideas off each other, be in prayer together, learn from each other, and establish accountability. The creation of a Desert Southwest Conference Facebook Group for Laity moments after the idea was shared prompted many to join immediately. The Group URL is https://www.facebook.com/groups/DSCLaity and open for new members from the Desert Southwest Conference.
This year's mission project supported the need for clean water for our siblings on the Navajo reservation. Together, the conference raised $30,400.31 and the people of the Desert Southwest Conference did not stop. Since that report, the total has risen to $70,000 and donations for this project will continue to be received through the end of July. To find out more, visit https://dscumc.org/annual-conference/mission-project/.
Resolutions, recommendations, and legislation were submitted and available for review at https://dscumc.org/ac. The legislation items and the Conference budget were referred to the Covenant Council.
- The following items on the Consent Calendar – PASSED
- CF&A Recommendation No. 2 – Special Days and Causes
- CF&A Recommendation No. 3 – Conference Advance and Benevolence Specials
- CF&A Recommendation No. 4 – Other Recommendations (level 1 exempt compensation, employee expenses, mileage reimbursement rates, and spending within budgets)
- Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits Recommendation No. 1 – Annuity Rate and Past Service Obligation
- Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits Recommendation No. 2 – Resolution Relating to Rental/Housing Allowance for Retired or Disabled Clergy persons of the Desert Southwest Conference
- Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits Recommendation No. 3 – Resolution Relating to Local Church Funding for the Clergy Retirement Security Program in 2021
- The following recommendations were approved as submitted.
- Commission on Equitable Compensation Recommendation – Base Cash Compensation and Housing – 2021
- Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits Recommendation No. 4 – Resolution Relating to HealthFlex Exchange Participant Contribution Levels and Church Payment Rate
- Board of Trustees Recommendation – Master Insurance Program 2021-2024
- Personnel Committee Recommendation No. 1 – Changes to Exempt Salary Levels
- Personnel Committee Recommendation No. 2 – Changes to Non-Exempt Salary Levels
- Conference Nominations Report
- Clergy deaths in the conference: the Revs. Cynthia Langston Kirk, Roger Stressman, Phyllis Ayers Nelson, Sandra Kimbel and Pastors Mavae Koli and Dale Jensen.
- Retirements: The Revs. Michael Bryant, Rula Colvin, Mark Conrad, Valerie Fairchild, Kim Gladding, Lois Hedden, Julius Keller, Billy Martin, Beverly Ritland, Deanna Self-Price, Sherylan Gay Thorson, Jim Wallasky.
- Church Closures/Changes
- Camp Verde United Methodist Church closed
- Youngtown United Methodist Church closed
- Most of the churches of the Desert Southwest Conference adopted online worship and virtual communities of faith or embraced a phone-tree platform to keep their congregation connected.
- Membership stands at 25,990 for 2019, down from 27,972 in 2018.
- Worship attendance stands at 17,795 for 2019, down from 18,616 in 2018.
- Church school attendance stands at 4,030 for 2019, up from 3,880 in 2018.
- Professions or reaffirmations of faith stands at 635 for 2019, down from 713 in 2018.
- Adults and young adults in small groups stands at 8,520 for 2019, down from 8,687 in 2018.
- Worshippers engaged in mission stands at 12,302 for 2019, up from 11,889 in 2018.
Due to time restraints, some of the legislation proposed for the Annual Conference differed to the Covenant Council. The group met on June 25, 2020, via Zoom, and the following actions were decided.
- Juneteenth Legislation – PASSED
- Petition Concerning the Treatment of Asylees and Refugees – APPROVED
- Petition Concerning the Treatment of Immigrants – APPROVED
- Resolution Concerning the Treatment of Asylees and Refugees – APPROVED
- Resolution Concerning the Treatment of Immigrants – APPROVED
- Supplement to Asylees and Refugees Petition – APPROVED
- Resolution to Publish Retired Salaries – PASSED
- Resolution to Address DSC Budget – REFERRED AS AMENDED TO A TASK FORCE
- Black Lives Matter Legislation – (To be considered at next Covenant Council)
- DSC Budget Document – ADOPTED AS AMENDED
Lay Members to Annual Conference may share this report with their church and find the items submitted prior to Annual Conference available at https://dscumc.org/annual-conference/documents/. Resources shared during the session are available at https://dscumc.org/annual-conference/local-church-resources/. A copy of the items submitted for consideration by Covenant Council are available at https://dscumc.org/covenant-council.
— Christina Dillabough, conference communicator.