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2024 Pacific Northwest Annual Conference Report

June 13-16, hybrid with in-person locations in Richland, Washington

The 151st session of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference was held in a hybrid format on June 13-16, 2024, at Central Church in Richland, Washington, with its Clergy Session (May 29) and legislative Focus Sessions (June 7,8) preceding online. Bishop Cedrick D. Bridgeforth of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area presided. 

Click here to watch/download videos from #PNWAC24  |  Click here for photos

During the opening worship, Bishop Bridgeforth read an apology to the victims of sexual misconduct in the church, recently approved at General Conference, which included a promise from the Church to educate leaders, provide healing resources, and develop a trauma-informed response. A lovely service of music, liturgy, and Holy Communion encapsulated this apology and the bishop’s sermon that followed.

Bishop Cedrick Bridgeforth leans forward to engage directly with members as he encourages them to take a risk to reach out.

The bishop also delivered an enlivening sermon introducing the conference theme, “Being Well,” based on John 4:4-17, to members. In his message, Bridgeforth spoke pastorally, “Beloveds, our theme is ‘Being Well;’ it is about us taking a pause, looking for those spaces and places where we can care for ourselves and those around us … We want to check in on ourselves, and each other. We’ve been through a hard time.”

Encouraging members to continue their work on the M.I.L.E., Bridgeforth humorously contrasted ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Methodists, noting that ‘bad’ Methodists were taking risks and not waiting for permission. He encouraged ‘good’ Methodists to look outside the window, look for a need, and then “open the door and step outside.”

The bishop also challenged members to create spaces and opportunities for people to exhale, let go, name their needs, repent, and bring about repair. Considering the historic progress of the recently concluded General Conference, he said we must continue to work to change hearts and minds as “all we did was just change the words on a page… It’s important. But that’s not the work; that just opens the opportunity for the work to get done.”

Opening motions and a new conference lay leader

Out-going PNW Conference lay leader Nancy Tam Davis and incoming lay leader Falisha Hola pictured shortly after Hola’s election.

An abbreviated opening session followed directly after worship allowed for a mix of opening motions, instructions and procedural items to lay the ground for the work to come. Members were reminded that the budget was not before them to make space for conversations about values and mission as we consider funding for the annual conference and collaboration across the Greater Northwest Area. Upon the recommendation of the Conference Council on Finance and Administration, members overwhelmingly voted to approve Brant Henshaw as Conference Treasurer for the upcoming quadrennium.

The opening session was followed by a laity session, during which outgoing conference lay leader Nancy Tam Davis oversaw the election of the next conference lay leader, Falisha Hola. A member of First Tongan UMC of Seattle, Hola is the first Pacific Islander and, at 24, likely the youngest lay leader elected to that role in the Pacific Northwest.

“I’ve always been passionate about advocacy and representation because many of the spaces I’ve been in, even in our conference, are places I’ve been the only young person or Pasifika woman in the room,” shared Hola during the election process.  “At times, I felt uncomfortable and a sense of imposter syndrome, but I learned how important it was to be in these spaces.”

Rev. Katie Ladd offers a stirring reflection during the 2024 Memorial Service.

Worshipful opportunities

Members participated in a Memorial Service on the first evening of the annual conference. In her sermon, Rev. Katie Ladd shared how saints, including several of those being remembered in the service, took on the work of Jesus, bringing people together despite and sometimes because of their differences.

“They agitate and stir us with their wisdom … and they leave us with work to do.”

Appropriately subdued and beautiful music, organized by Worship Team chair Rev. Justin White and conducted by soon-to-be commissioned deacon Rev. Joe Lee, accompanied reflective moments for members to remember those they have lost.

The second day of the conference started with devotional time led by Cascadia District Superintendent Tim Overton-Harris, a guest from the Oregon-Idaho Conference. In a brief message, Overton-Harris encouraged self-reflection as a healthy practice. He also shared candidly that he hasn’t always been the best at it. He named this new skill as critical in helping him see his privilege and hear and learn from others.

Members of this year’s retiree class applaud as a retiring colleagues service is read by Bishop Bridgeforth.

Later that day, retiring clergy members were celebrated in a worship setting, allowing the conference to recognize their years of service. In her message, retiring local pastor Rev. Sheila Marie considered her second career call to ministry in light of the story of Jesus and the women at the well.

A symbolic mantle was passed from retiring elder Rev. Bo Bryant to Rev. Ashley Creek-Skinner, part of this year’s ordination class. Members also received a message from the retiree class interviewed before the conference over Zoom.

Legislative actions and table conversations help to identify values and areas of work

Conference members approved annual updates to conference advances and several other administrative support items, including increasing the moving allowance for those under appointment. The conference also voted to close three churches—Lapwai UMC, Nezperce UMC, and First Korean UMC of Seattle—and celebrated the ministry these congregations accomplished over the years.

In new work, members approved two petitions affirming the conference’s care for the environment. Together, the petitions will help enact some of the commitments made in 2023 by tasking churches with climate-related items, establishing a PNW Conference Commission on Environmental Stewardship, and naming environmental stewardship as a Missional Priority.

Rev. Meredith Dodd offers an amendment to a petition establishing common work expectations for pastoral leaders.

Another petition was approved to establish common work expectations for pastoral leaders. To affirm healthy work/life balance as essential to clergy health, the conference supported an average work week between 35 and 40 hours, two days off, vacations and leaves, and educational work for local church staff parish committees.

In a petition accepted from the floor, members affirmed their solidarity with the Filipino people and their struggle for human rights. The action calls on U.S. political leaders to support H.R.1433, which would suspend military aid to the Philippines until specific reforms are made to its military and police forces.

Click here for a full report of Actions approved by the 2024 PNW Annual Conference.

In place of the normal budgetary process, Bishop Bridgeforth invited members to prayerful conversations discussing ministry values and goals for our conference and considering future opportunities to collaborate within the Greater Northwest Area. Similar discussions will occur at the Oregon-Idaho and Alaska Conferences when they meet in the coming weeks. Additional opportunities are being planned for late summer and into the fall before a special session is called to approve a budget for 2025.

PNW Lay Delegate to General Conference Skylar Marston-Bihl makes an emphatic point during a report on the postponed 2020 gathering.

Ministry reports received by members

Throughout the sessions, members received ministry reports on conference, GNW Area, and General Church efforts. Nomination processes were navigated to populate conference boards and agencies for the quadrennium and to create a pool to serve on General and Western Jurisdictional committees.

A significant report from the conference delegation to the General Conference provided an overview of the legislative accomplishments. Delegates echoed the bishop’s message that legislation was just an opening. In addition to changing hearts and minds, as the bishop encouraged, conference members were also informed members that critical changes to the United Methodist Constitution, particularly those to support regionalization, required ratification at next year’s annual conference session.

A joint report from the Board of Congregational Development Chair Rev. Kathy Hartgraves and the GNW Area’s Innovation Vitality director updated members on continuing new church start projects. Kristina Gonzalez, GNW Executive Dir. for Innovation & Vitality, presented a video providing an excellent summary of the Equity Cohorts that have occurred over the past six months.

Revs. Shalom Agtarap, Janelle Kurtz and Geoff Helton present candidates for commissioning and ordination.

During its report, the Board of Ordained Ministry introduced the candidates for provisional and full membership before the bishop asked Wesley’s Historic Questions of the candidates. Church and Society announced this year’s Peace with Justice and MLK, Jr. award recipients, and reports were received from Ethnic Ministries, with videos prepared by the Hispanic/Latinx Ministries Committee, S.L.A.M. Trips, and the Christmas Institute. An additional report was received from the Circle of Indigenous Ministries director, Rev. Dr. Alan Buck.

Revs. Kathy Neary and Sheila Miranda offered a time to recognize the gifts and witnesses of certified lay ministers, Hispanic lay ministers, home missioners, deaconesses, and licensed local pastors while also announcing a new worship planning workshop series with Marcia McFee to support small churches served by lay persons.

Other reports included an update on the Bishop’s Task Force on Church Properties offered by Rev. Kathy Neary, Rules Committee by outgoing chair Jim Odiorne, Rev. Paul Mitchell and Sophia Agtarap (and guests) provided a summary of Creation Justice work in the conference since 2023. The body heard updates from Global Ministries co-chairs Kathy Bryson and Marilyn Reid about its efforts and the excellent work of our disaster response teams.

Sophia Agtarap and Rev. Paul Mitchell (left) and joined by other conference members indicating the different kinds of support needed to drive creation justice projects.

Members also received a positive report from PNW Executive Camping Director Alan Rogstad and a llama-filled report from Faith Foundation NW highlighting ways to invest aligned with one’s faith. A report from PNW Pensions Board chair Rev. Shane Moore elicited much approval as he highlighted ways the board was working to support cash-strained local churches.

Toward the end of its plenary sessions, appointments to the conference’s five districts and extension ministries were read. Dates and a general location for the 2025 annual conference were also announced – June 26-29 in the Inland or Seven Rivers District.

Lawrence Paltep, Teri Tobey, and Lynne Onishi were among those who enjoyed a change of scenery during the Central Kids Run.

Celebrations and new and renewed activities

On Saturday morning, members took a break from plenary and worship to celebrate ministry in different ways. The Central Kids Run, an annual outreach event sponsored by Central Church, provides children in the community with a fun place to run while clouds of color fly through the air. Bishop Bridgeforth participated with a playful spirit as children and adults joined the fun.

The PNW Ministry Fair returned after several dormant years due to COVID. The event, held in the church’s gymnasium, allowed United Methodist ministries in the area to present displays and for conference members to learn about new ways they can get involved in ministry beyond the local church.

In a plenary session, Bishop Bridgeforth honored outgoing PNW Conference Lay Leader Nancy Tam Davis with a Bishop’s Award for her years of service and advocacy on behalf of the laity. Brant Henshaw and Rev. David Valera also expressed gratitude for Davis’s gifts and commitment to the conference. Davis and her husband, Rev. Jim Davis, have served as conference leaders and consultants.

Kristina Gonzalez receives a gift from Bishop Bridgeforth as she anticipates retirement.

Dan Krause, chief executive of United Methodist Communications, visited the conference to deliver a surprise Epikoinonía Award for excellence in communication ministry to PNW Communications Director Patrick Scriven. Staff conspired to keep Scriven unaware as he was also gifted with a t-shirt and lightsaber by DCM Rev. David Valera, Teri Tobey, and Amanda Tobey, dressed as the Star Wars character Rey.

Members also thanked Kristina Gonzalez, who announced that she would retire before the next conference session. Gonzalez received a certificate recognizing her 26 years of service to the conference and a piece of fine art. In his remarks, Bishop Bridgeforth shared a memory of Kristina’s impact on his ministry decades earlier.

“So, thank you because people like me have been treated better and had spaces to speak in because of your work.”

Dr. Glenn Paraso (right) offers a gift to the bishop symbolizing the emerging partnership between Mary Johnston Hospital and the GNW Area.

With wellness as part of the conference theme, it was fitting that Dr. Glenn Paraso and his spouse were present to mark the beginning of a new partnership between Mary Johnston Hospital and the Greater Northwest Area. Mary Johnston is the only Methodist hospital in the Philippines and has been serving for 118 years in Tondo, where many patients are poor. 

Paraso gave Bishop Bridgeforth a shawl representing sacred leadership and a bamboo flask from a tree representing flexible faith. “This is the shawl that starts the partnership,” Paraso said.

Conference offerings were taken for Mary Johnston Hospital, Riverton Park UMC’s migrant support, and Martha’s Cupboard, a ministry of Central Church.

Commissioning, ordaining and welcoming new pastoral leaders

Candidates being ordained, received, and commissioned stand before Bishop Bridgeforth as the congregation offers their support.

During worship on the following morning, members and guests celebrated the commissioning of three provisional elders – Kate Crisci, Drew Hogan, and David Owsley – three provisional deacons – Denise Ann Belista, Jackie Celin, and Joseph Lee – and the ordination of three elders –  Kellen Corliss, Ashley Skinner-Creek, and Gayle Tabor. The congregation also received with gratitude Rev. Megan Madsen into full membership as an elder. Madsen had been transferred into provisional status in 2022 from the Church of the Nazarene.

Guest preacher Rev. Dr. Lydia Muñoz delivered a personal, genuine message of hope for the church. She reflected on the recent changes in the denomination, the well at the center of the conference theme’s scripture, and our call to offer living water. “If you invite people to drink, you need to make sure it is safe to drink,” she said. Deep wells must be built so that “…church is a place of equity and inclusion so the healing and cleansing Spirit of God can flow through us.”

Guest preacher Rev. Dr. Lydia Muñoz offered an encouraging and practical message for those being commissioned and ordained.

In words directed to those being commissioned and ordained, Muñoz advised three things: “1. Be part of a covenant group to pray with. 2. Get a good therapist. 3. Find a good vacation club.”

  • Membership stands at 27,454, down 1359 from the previous year.
  • Worship attendance stands at 8,858, down 18 from 2022. Reported online worship is up by 1051.
  • Church school attendance stands at 1,915, down 219.
  • Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2023 were 140, down from 2022 by 15.
  • Adults and young adults in small groups for 2023 were 321, up from 2022 by 15.
  • Worshippers engaged in mission for 2023 were 7,311, up from 2022 by 220.

These numbers reflect the disaffiliation of 13 congregations who left the denomination during special sessions held in 2023.

— Patrick Scriven, Director of Communications, Pacific Northwest Conference

Patrick Scriven

Patrick Scriven serves as Director of Communications for the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.

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