Officiating bishop: Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
The 148th session of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference was held online June 20-23, 2021, with clergy and laity sessions preceding it on June 7 and 9, respectively, and with commissioning and ordination following on June 25. Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area officiated. The conference theme was “Love Never Ends,” based on Paul’s evocative description in 1 Corinthians 13.
The conference met as United Methodists across the area were taking cautious steps toward in-person ministry. While COVID-19 continues to be a concern, growing optimism allowed for more creativity and function as conference officers, worship leaders and support staff joined the bishop onsite at Des Moines United Methodist Church, providing something of a hybrid model compared to what was possible in 2020.
It was also possible to share more of the conference sessions as an area. For example, while the typical work of clergy sessions required conferences to gather separately, the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest (PNW) lay leaders collaborated in planning and hosting a shared Greater Northwest Area Laity Session. They invited Micheal Pope, California-Nevada Conference lay leader, as the keynote speaker. She encouraged members to fully step into their role as laity, asking what would happen if they were “empowered to not just sit back and let things happen” but instead took an active part in ministry beyond the administrative.
Opening and closing sessions, permeated with spirit-filled worship, were also shared by all three conferences. Talented PNW musicians offered thoughtful worship led by guests of the conference, worship leader the Rev. Grace Cajiuat and musician/pianist Grace Pugh Hubbard, with planning assistance from leaders across the area.
Bishop Stanovsky offered a sermon and her episcopal address during the opening session. In her address, the bishop emphasized the importance of continuing our anti-racism work even as we navigate through challenges posed by COVID-19 and the changing climate. Reports on the Wallowa land return to the Nez Perce and the GNW Area’s disaster response efforts complemented her words of encouragement.
First elected delegates to General Conference updated the area on their work and what we might anticipate in the months ahead for the denomination, while the Rev. Mary Huycke offered a short report on the work of the Western Jurisdiction’s Committee on Episcopacy.
During a plenary session, members approved a conference budget for 2022 down 12.5% from 2021, a $642,626 reduction, in addition to supporting other annual financial petitions. They also considered a petition requesting a change to background checks, deciding to refer that to a group for more study. Finally, in addition to reports from the conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry and Nominations, members received a moving testimonial report from the Hispanic/Latinx Ministries Committee highlighting the injustice immigrants currently face in the US.
Members also prayed for and received a video report from the 2021 retiree class. One deacon, 11 elders and one part-time local pastor retired this year. In addition, they approved petitions to close six churches, taking time to consider their legacy and offer prayers of gratitude for their good work.
The body overwhelmingly approved a petition from PNW clergy serving in the Alaska Conference calling for both conferences to begin to live into a new relationship with Alaska becoming a Mission District of the PNW even “in advance of the necessary actions of the General and Western Jurisdictional Conferences.” This expected action was celebrated and practiced in a shared Alaska and PNW Conference Session after the PNW concluded its work and just before the GNW Closing Session. Together, the conferences shared in this news and heard appointment readings for each.
Reports from the conference secretaries at the closing session noted some distinctions between the legislative work of each conference while also bringing to light much harmony and shared values. One petition mentioned, approved by each conference individually, established a cross-conference vitality commission, which further enables our cooperative and shared ministry future.
Dates were announced for a shared Greater Northwest Area Annual Conference Session to occur June 10-13, 2022, in Puyallup, Washington. The Rev. Kathleen Weber, Crest to Coast Missional District Superintendent, offered the invitation to meet at the Washington State Fairgrounds.
As a final act, the PNW held a service of commissioning and ordination on Friday, June 25. The event took place outside Kent United Methodist Church with a limited audience and COVID-19 precautions in place. With sweltering weather, shade provided by several 50-year-old oak trees blessed the commissioning of five individuals and the ordination of 11 (with an average age of 45). The Rev. Lisa Talbott, pastor of Homer UMC (AK) and soon to be appointed as director of connectional ministries for the Alaska Conference, offered a sermon encouraging candidates to practice good self-care so they can recognize God’s love in their lives.
• Membership stands at 33,011, down 1,644 from the previous year.
• Worship attendance stands at 12,930, down 2,535.
• Church school attendance stands at 3,365, down 1,173
• Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2020 at 169, down from 2019 by 452.
• Adults and young adults in small groups for 2020 at 12,241, down from 2019 by 2,563.
• Worshippers engaged in mission for 2020 were 7,748, down from 2019 by 2,504.
These statistical numbers reflect a year where most local churches were restricted in practice due to COVID-19 precautions.
— Patrick Scriven, director of communications and young people’s ministries, Pacific Northwest Conference
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