The 53rd session of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference was held online this year, in connection with our other members of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area — the Alaska Conference and Pacific Northwest Conference, with Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky presiding.
While aspects of the conference were held throughout the month of June — from clergy session to laity sessions and Legislative Assembly — the Oregon-Idaho Conference gathered via Zoom webinar, officially on Monday, June 20, to conduct the business of the conference.
Through our shared Greater Northwest theme “Love Never Ends” based on Paul’s letter in 1 Corinthians 13:12-13, the concept of never-ending love for one another, our communities and our world was woven into each report and each piece of legislation considered by the clergy and lay members of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.
The conference adopted a 2022 budget that stayed the same as 2021 out of an abundance of caution and love for the apportionments coming from local churches. The conference council on finance and administration also honored the fact that even with budget constraints the Oregon-Idaho Conference continued to pay 100 percent of its general-church apportionments in 2020 for love of the global connectionalism of The United Methodist Church.
In love, the conference is also confronting the sin of racism with tangible action taken by the body to work toward being anti-racist and decolonizing the church.
Conference members approved the work of the board of pensions to create a new fund to help underwrite the cost of the health, retirement, and disability benefits of those who serve Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) ministry settings within Oregon-Idaho. As a start in this ongoing effort, over $120,000 has been approved for this year.
The conference approved the continued work of the nominations committee to not just fill vacancies on boards and commissions but empower diverse peoples to assume conference leadership positions.
The conference passed a new Standing Resolution on Confronting Racism and White Supremacy. Standing resolutions provide written proclamation of our values — but where the rubber hits the road as a conference is in actions.
So, the members supported an action request that gives both agency and urgency to annual conference leadership to work together with BIPOC leaders on a racial justice strategy. The commitment is for an action plan to be developed by the end of November, with a full-fledged report to the 2022 annual conference.
Camp & Retreat Ministries reported that $140,000 has been designated from the sale of the Camp McCall property specifically for ministries with communities of color.
In love and appreciation, the conference honored the last five years of lay leadership provided by Jan Nelson, conference lay leader, and Emilie Kroen, conference associate lay leader; while welcoming in Paul Nickell as the new conference lay leader and Sarah Richard as the conference associate lay leader for the remainder of the current quadrennium, at least.
The Oregon-Idaho Conference also voted to support the Alaska Conference becoming a missional district of the Pacific Northwest Conference, while action is still needed at the General Conference level to approve this move.
Speaking of General Conference, members heard reports from delegates and some of the legislation on the table for consideration about the future of the denomination. Though the Oregon-Idaho Conference did approve studying more closely the Christmas Covenant proposal, it voted against supporting the Alaska Omnibus proposal at this time.
With all that business conducted online, it was refreshing to gather in a smaller group setting in person on June 26 in Portland, Oregon, to ordain and commission new deacons and elders in the church. Commissioned that day as provisional elders were the Rev. Fungalei Taufoou, Rev. Kalina Malua Katoa, Rev. Thomas Orquiza-Renardo, Rev. Jayde Rasband, Rev. Gigi Siekkinen, and Rev. MiKyung Mia Park. Ordained that day as elders in full connection were the Rev. Ric Shewell and Rev. Dylan Hyun. Additionally, Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky offered a courtesy ordination to the Rev. Jessica Bridges, a deacon now in full connection with the Tennessee Annual Conference who lives and works in the Portland area.
On Aug. 13 in Boise, Idaho, the Oregon-Idaho Conference will ordain the Rev. Jenny Hirst as a deacon in full connection while also commissioning the Rev. Sean Crews as a provisional deacon within the conference.
A few statistics on the state of the Oregon-Idaho Conference from 2020 vs. 2019 showed some sharp changes, likely due to the constraints of in-person worship, social gatherings and mission opportunities due to the pandemic:
- Average weekly church school attendance was at 2,044, down from 2,654 the year before.
- Professions of faith were at 94 in 2020, down from 373 the year before.
- Young adults in small group ministries increased slightly in 2020 to 446, compared to 429 the year before.
- Other adults in small groups declined, though, from 5,512 in 2019 to 4,868 in 2020.
- Worshippers engaged in mission dropped from 8,061 in 2019 to 6,392 in 2020.
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