2022 Pacific Northwest Annual Conference Report
June 19, 21-22, 25, meeting remotely online
The 149th session of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference was held remotely online on June 19, 21 and 25, 2022, with clergy and laity sessions preceding it on June 1 and 14, respectively, and with commissioning and ordination occurring on June 22. Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area was the officiating bishop. The conference theme was Called To Be: Alert, Faithful, Brave, Love, based on 1 Corinthians 16:13-14.
With COVID-19 continuing to be a concern, the conferences across the Greater Northwest Area met online via Zoom. This proved a wise decision as several conference and area staff members tested positive for COVID just before the primary week of conferencing.
During a shared opening session hosted at Des Moines United Methodist Church in Des Moines, Washington, Bishop Stanovsky offered words of encouragement and a call to perseverance during her final episcopal address to the lay and clergy members of the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho, and Pacific Northwest Annual Conferences. She highlighted the area’s efforts to address racism in our churches, including the continuing work by the Innovation Vitality Team under its new executive director Kristina Gonzalez. A video produced by GNW Director of Innovation for an Engaged Church Rev. Dr. Leroy Barber, offered a spoken word reflection to mark the Juneteenth holiday.
During her address, the bishop also touched on ways local churches are active in mission, highlighting a new initiative on gun control by Olympia First UMC and the response by Lents Tongan UM Fellowship in Portland to the tsunami-driven devastation in Tonga.
As she concluded her message, Bishop Stanovsky said, “Stand firm in your faith, that when God is doing a new good thing, there may be disruption. But there will be a way through it, and it will be worth it.”
During the opening session, members also received several other area-wide ministry reports, including those from the Circle of Indigenous Ministries and Disaster Response. The three conference lay leaders – Jo Anne Hayden (Alaska), Paul Nickell (OR-ID) and Nancy Tam Davis (PNW) – offered a shared Laity Address spotlighting ways laity were engaging in the ministry of the church.
Two days later, lay and clergy members of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference gathered in plenary session to receive reports from conference-level boards and agencies, including the board of ordained ministry, honor the retirements of clergy members, and remember the passing of clergy and beloved laity over the past year. Five districts of local church appointments and for clergy serving in extension ministry were read throughout the day. A powerful video from Hispanic/Latinx Ministries was shared by director Rev. Cruz Edwin Santos, highlighting a challenge and opportunity to offer fully-inclusive ministry to this community. The annual Ruth Award, a special honor given to a laywoman supportive of clergywomen, was given to Sue Magrath.
Conference parliamentarian Rev. Shane Moore shares details of the episcopal nomination process where members will consider support of elders exploring discernment for the role.
As it gathered, the body also received and acted upon the recommendations of the legislative Focus Sessions, which met earlier in June. Significantly, conference members passed the 2023 PNW Conference Budget and related financial items, approved the closure of Foothills UMC and added a new Conference Advance Special (Love Beyond Borders). They also affirmed a petition asking churches to observe Disability Awareness Sunday and another encouraging three actions toward creation justice. Finally, as recommended by the Focus Session, they declined to pass a petition which would have asked the General Conference for a change to ¶2543.1 and the regulations it establishes for proceeds raised from the sale of local church property.
During the plenary, members received a report from Rev. Mary Huycke, chair of the Western Jurisdiction’s Episcopacy Committee, that the committee anticipates the election of three new bishops in November and was recommending a new discernment-based process for episcopal nominations.
With a motion to suspend the rules offered by parliamentarian Rev. Shane Moore, members received names for affirmation into the discernment process. With a simple majority, conference members affirmed six names for continuing discernment toward the episcopacy – Rev. Shalom Agtarap, Rev. Joe Kim, Rev. Katie Ladd, Rev. Derek Nakano, Rev. Tim Overton Harris, and Rev. Carlo Rapanut.
On Wednesday, in-person and online, members of the conference and friends and family of the candidates and provisional members had the opportunity to celebrate the commissioning and ordination of new United Methodist leaders during a service held at Kent United Methodist Church in Kent, Washington. Seven individuals were commissioned as provisional members (Mele Taumoepeau Aho, Carrie Bland, Kellen Corliss, Catherine Lyle, Danielle Estelle Ramsay, Gayle Tabor, Meghan Woods), one ordained in the order of deacon (Sonya Davis) and one to the order of elder (Zachary Taylor).
Rev. Dr. Troy Lynn Carr, a PNW Elder, appointed to the General Commission on Race and Religion, offered a powerful message during the 2022 PNW Conference Service of Commissioning and Ordination. Riffing off a well-known hymn, she closed her sermon by encouraging us, “‘Love lifted me. When nothing else would help, love lifted me.’ Stay woke, stay watchful, and do everything in love.”
Attendees also had an opportunity to contribute to this year’s conference offering being taken to support relief efforts in Tonga, which is still recovering from a devastating Tsunami earlier this year. Lay and clergy members raised over $11k for this cause during the week of conferencing across the Greater Northwest Area. To learn more and give, visit greaternw.org/tonga or text the code “GNWTONGA” to 44-321 on your mobile device.
Zachary Taylor, accompanied by his daughter, awaits his ordination as an elder during the Service of Commissioning and Ordination, held June 22, 2022, at Kent UMC. Photo by Paul Jeffrey.
Portland First United Methodist Church hosted a shared closing session of the GNW conferences on June 25. In the morning, members received additional reports on area-wide ministries, including the blessing of all names lifted for episcopal discernment and each conference’s delegations to the General and Western Jurisdictional Conferences. The conference secretaries, including PNW Secretary Rev. Shirley DeLarme, summarized the work of each conference session with reports displaying both similarities and distinctions between each conference.
Puget Sound Missional District Superintendent Mark Galang and Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky walk members through a reaffirmation of faith written by Rev. Heather Riggs.
Members voted and agreed to extend the work of the GNW Vitality Commission after receiving a report and request from its convenor Dr. Daymond Glenn. And they heard a report from the conference treasurers on the Boy Scouts of America pending settlement, commitments we would honor, and the steps each conference will be taking to ensure our ministries are safe places for vulnerable persons. The morning also included the commissioning of a new deaconess (Ronda Cordill) and home missioner (Caesar Marciales).
During the session, a statement was presented for consideration by Rev. Ruth Marston-Bihl (PNW), Rev. Nico Reijns (Alaska) and Rev. Eilidh Lowery (OR-ID). The statement asked members to support access to vital reproductive healthcare a day after the Supreme Court announced its overturning of Roe v. Wade. The court’s ruling allows states to restrict access to abortion, with at least one state in the GNW likely to do so within the month. By an overwhelming margin, lay and clergy members of the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences voted to affirm the statement.
In the afternoon, members returned for a closing worship service with a moving celebration of Bishop Stanovsky’s ministry. She anticipates retirement at the end of 2022, making this her last annual conference as an active bishop. The celebration included a video of her years in the episcopacy, testimonies of gratitude from staff, gifts from each conference, and a few remembrances offered by the bishop.
- Membership stands at 30,984, down 1,644 from the previous year.
- Worship attendance stands at 9,638, down by 3,302.
- Church school attendance stands at 2,767, down 598.
- Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2021 at 217, up from 2020 by 48.
- Adults and young adults in small groups for 2021 at 9,763, down from 2019 by 2,478.
- Worshippers engaged in mission for 2021 were 7,200, down from 2020 by 548.
These statistical numbers reflect another year where many local churches were restricted in practice due to COVID-19 precautions.
— Patrick Scriven, director of communications and young people’s ministries, Pacific Northwest Conference