The 146th Session of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference

Story by Patrick Scriven

Note: The following report was prepared to share the work of the 2019 Pacific Northwest Annual Conference across the connection. It is also hoped that this summary will be helpful to our lay and clergy members as they share the work of the Annual Conference this year. Links are provided throughout for more thorough coverage.


June 7-9, 2019, Puyallup, Washington

The 146th session of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference convened for a second consecutive year in Puyallup, Washington for its Annual Conference Session June 7-9. Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area was the officiating bishop.

The Showplex Center on the campus of the Washington State Fairgrounds was the setting for the numerous conversations, legislative work, and worship of the 600+ lay and clergy members and guests in attendance. Childcare, some preliminary meetings, and Friday’s Clergy Session were hosted nearby at Puyallup United Methodist Church.

Rev. Grace Cajiuat, an elder from the Wisconsin Annual Conference, brought her musical gifts to PNWAC19 in a number of ways. Photo by Patrick Scriven, PNW Conference.

In worship and plenary, members explored what it means to truly love God as they moved deeper into the Greater Northwest Area’s four-year theme and scripture, Luke 10:25-28. This year’s tagline was “Love Like This and You Shall Live.”

A Greater Northwest Area-wide team supported by the Rev. Grace Cajiuat, a worship consultant from the Wisconsin Annual Conference, prayerfully planned and executed each service. Revs. Alissa Bertsch and Katy Shedlock from the PNW Conference were joined by Revs. Richard Füss (OR-ID) and Emily Carroll (PNW, serving in Alaska). Lay member and regular accompanist Todd Shively passionately directed the Conference Choir through a rendition of Mark Miller’s “Child of God” during the Commissioning and Ordination Service.

Significant Messages

Rev. Kathleen Weber preaching at Opening Worship during the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference Session on June 7, 2019 in Puyallup, WA. Photo by Patrick Scriven, PNW Conference.

Rev. Kathleen Weber, Crest to Coast Missional District Superintendent, was the preacher at the Opening Worship on Friday morning, a service which invited attendees to remember their baptismal vows. In the first message (Watch) of several to reference denominational angst, Weber encouraged, “When we have trouble trusting, let’s turn to water.” The service would also include the baptism of Madeline Grace Stanton-Nurse, whose mother would be commissioned as a provisional deacon two days later.

The future course of United Methodism and the impact of General Conference 2019 actions was a topic throughout most of this year’s session. Marie Kuch-Stanovsky and Rev. Mary Huycke coordinated a report on the General Conference 2019 on Friday morning. Participants in recent events, Our Movement Forward and UMC Next offered insights on larger denominational conversations. Local members of the Wesleyan Covenant Association also spoke to the body offering their reflections and desires. Conference Treasurer Brant Henshaw provided a brief look at several potential “Pathways” leaders across the denomination are exploring.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky invited members to be in “honest, unvarnished, and vulnerable conversation” during her Episcopal Address (Video) which followed soon after. She acknowledged that The United Methodist Church was in uncharted territory, something she anticipated in part when she invited members and churches to study McLaren’s book We Make the Road by Walking together as part of a CrossOver year.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky delivers her episcopal address on the first morning of the 2019 Pacific Northwest Annual Conference. Photo by Rev. DJ del Rosario for the PNW Conference.

Throughout her address, Stanovsky acknowledged the differing opinions and beliefs held within the Church, the various questions surfacing for people, and the loss of control that many are experiencing across the spectrum. She anticipates that decisions will likely arrive over the next year at every level, but the options are not yet before people.

In closing, Bishop Stanovsky shared that while she intends to remain in ministry with all, she “can’t be silent in a church that won’t see when the Holy Spirit is at work, that can’t behold a new thing, that isn’t able to listen or sing a new song.”

Later in the day, Table Talk conversations, a diverse panel during Laity Session, and an evening Town Hall helped members to engage both Stanovsky’s address and the nuanced content that preceded it.

Youth members Falisha Hola and Katy Ritchey address the plenary on the matter youth inclusion during PNWAC19. Photo by Patrick Scriven, PNW Conference.

The second morning brought an impromptu statement from two youth members of the conference. Falisha Hola and Katy Ritchey lamented the difficult scheduling that made the participation of young people especially difficult this year and their sense that youth are often tokenized. The body received their message enthusiastically and later approved legislation dramatically increasing the number of young people who can participate as members in the future.

Alaska Conference Superintendent, Rev. Carlo Rapanut, was the preacher at this year’s Memorial Service. Rapanut, who lost both of his parents late in 2018, offered a message (Video) that was both personal and affecting. He encouraged those mourning the loss of a loved one, or even The United Methodist Church as they knew it, to give themselves time in the space in between to grieve. “Don’t rush [your grief], it’s okay to be there.”

Rev. Carlo Rapanut, Conference Superintendent for the Alaska Conference, preaches at the PNWAC19 Memorial Service. Photo by Patrick Scriven, PNW Conference.

On the final day of conference, the Rev. Lowell Greathouse, Mission & Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference, preached during the Service of Commissioning and Ordination. Greathouse took full advantage of the day of Pentecost (Watch), speaking about that moment when the Church was born and connecting it to a disappointing 2019 General Conference when the Spirit did not show up. “What took place at Pentecost happened for some reason. There can’t be room in one’s heart if there are assumptions and judgments. If we can’t see Christ in one another, then there isn’t enough room for Pentecost to happen…”

The Work of the Body

On the second morning of the conference, members divided into two Focus Sessions to consider close to three dozen petitions. Nearly half of those petitions related in some way to the passing of the Traditional Plan at the 2019 General Conference and the desire of many in the Pacific Northwest to avoid its implementation and the additional harm it would cause the LGBTQIA+ community. Most petitions would pass easily through committee to be adopted on the floor.

Simultaneous to this work, conference members were invited to alternative, collaborative discussions on a range of topics—gatherings which produced three new pieces of legislation and resources for congregations interested in resisting the Traditional Plan.

Click image to download PNWAC19 Actions.

All of the approved and perfected actions of the conference are available for review online here. Bound to spark interest are petitions calling for the exploration of disaffiliation, the creation of a task force to establish a new legal entity which might host a new expression of Methodism, and another which expresses the will of the conference regarding the prioritization of complaints relating to LGBTQIA+ matters. The conference directed its secretary to send a petition to General Conference calling for the formation of the United States as a Central Conference.

Awards recognizing Women in Ministry, Peace with Justice, and One Matters were delivered during plenary. First UMC of Olympia’s Refugee Ministry Team, Seattle: The Well’s Beating Guns Peace Garden, and Island Time Activities partnered with Seabold UMC to receive Peace with Justice grants. Rev. Paul Jeffrey was awarded the PNW Conference Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award.

During Laity Session, Moran UMC earned the first Disability-Friendly and Accessible badge in the denomination. The program is administered by the DisAbility Ministries Committee of the UMC and was presented by Lynn Swedberg on behalf of the conference Disability Ministries Committee. 

In a speech on the floor, the Rev. Justin White expressed his gratitude for being able to serve openly in the Pacific Northwest, to not be forced to “live a double-life.” He was received in transfer from the Mississippi Conference. Photo by Rev. DJ del Rosario for the PNW Conference.

The Rev. Mike Ratliff, Associate General Secretary of Young People’s Ministries for Discipleship Ministries, was on hand to deliver the One Matters Award alongside PNW Executive Director of Connectional Ministries Rev. David Valera, to Deer Park United Methodist Church. Rev. Gregg Sealey, Inland Missional District Superintendent, received it on their behalf, sharing a story exemplifying the excellence of Deer Park’s hospitality.

Rev. Dr. William Gibson offered a report on the work of the Greater Northwest Innovation Vitality Team (Watch). In 2019, the area will see the launch of six new projects and two multicultural hub pilots in Portland and Tacoma. Gibson shared again the importance of doing our ministry with real attentiveness to listening to our communities, particularly those voices that are too often overlooked.

New PNW Conference Chancellor Molly Gabel, lay member of Seattle First UMC, shares a message with the body from Chancellor Emeritus Llew Pritchard. Photo by Patrick Scriven for the PNW Conference.

The body also took time to recognize retiring Conference Chancellor Llew Pritchard for his 48 years of service, likely a record in the denomination. It received a video highlighting his long tenure and elected him Chancellor Emeritus. The Conference also greeted and elected new Chancellor Molly Gabel. Stanovsky awarded Pritchard a Bishop’s Award for his many years of service.

The conference also celebrated 200 years of Methodist Mission and 150 years of United Methodist Women. The former provided an opportune segue to a celebration of retirees as two beloved conference missionaries happened to be retiring this year. A special video interview of the husband and wife missionaries, Revs. Paul Jeffrey and Lyda Pierce, was shown.

Most of the members of the newly-elected delegation to the 2020 General and WJ Conferences. Photo by Patrick Scriven, PNW Conference.

Delegates and reserve delegates to the 2020 Western Jurisdiction were elected during the conference session. 2020 General Conference delegates and reserves had been elected in 2019. The completed delegation well represents the Church the Pacific Northwest aspires to be—diverse in age, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.

Conference dates for 2020 were set for June 10-14, 2020, with plans to hold a shared session with the Alaska and Oregon-Idaho Conferences. Rev. Kathleen Weber invited the conference to meet again in Puyallup at the Showplex Center, an invitation that was affirmed.

Some Data Points

During the Ordination and Commissioning Service, nine individuals were ordained as elders and admitted to full connection. Two individuals were commissioned in preparation for the order of elder and one into the order of deacon. We recognized the new license of a local pastor, and the retirement of 15 pastoral leaders.

For this report we are asked to answer the following question: “Did your clergy session approve any openly gay candidates for ministry? If so, how many?” Our PNW Board of Ordained Ministry continues to maintain its position of giving equal consideration to all ministry candidates irrespective of sexual orientation and gender identity, so this is not data we collect or quantify.

Offerings and gifts were received during the weekend for a Safe Harbor Fund to support clergy persons and candidates outside of the Greater Northwest Area endangered by the actions of the 2019 General Conference, help to offset the disproportionate travel costs for those who will join us from the Alaska Conference next year, and support for groups participating in a rebuild effort underway in Saipan. An offering was also received for the Jamaa Letu orphanage in the DRC. Giving for these items at the conference totaled $5,898.50, $2,961.05, $3.502.30, and $7,277.74 respectively.

Providence Kamana, lay member of Des Moines (WA) UMC, plays the piano and sings during the memorial service. Photo by Patrick Scriven, PNW Conference.

Finally, at the Memorial Service, in grief we mourned, and with joy we honored, 24 saints who have gone on before us and three churches whose ministries will end, but whose legacies will live on.

  • Membership stands at 36,845, down 898 from the previous year.
  • Worship attendance stands at 16,417, down 368.
  • Church school attendance stands at 4,450, down 54.
  • Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2018 stand at 694, down from 2017 by 51.
  • Baptisms stand at 295, down 92 from the previous year.
  • Adults and young adults in small groups for 2018 9,888, down from 2017 by 505.
  • Worshippers engaged in mission for 2018 9,979, down from 2017 by 302.

Respectfully submitted by,

Patrick Scriven
Director of Communications & Young People’s Ministries
Pacific Northwest Conference

PNW Conference Delegation to the 2020 General and Western Jurisdictional Conferences

The following persons were elected as delegates to the 2020 General and Western Jurisdictional Conference to represent the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. They appear below with respect to their order of election.

Clergy

2020 General Conference Delegate & Reserve (elected in 2018)

  • Elizabeth Schindler
  • Gregg Sealey – Reserve

Western Jurisdictional Conference Delegates

  • Kathleen Weber
  • Joseph Kim
  • DJ del Rosario
  • Jenny Phillips
  • Shalom Agtarap

Western Jurisdictional Conference Reserve Delegates

  • Austin Adkinson
  • Nico Romeijn-Stout
  • Kay Barckley

Laity

2020 General Conference Delegate & Reserve (elected in 2018)

  • Skylar Marston Bihl
  • Brant Henshaw – Reserve

Western Jurisdictional Conference Delegates

  • Falisha Hola
  • Dionica (Nica) Sy
  • Kristina Gonzalez
  • Marie Kuch-Stanovsky
  • Noriko Lao

Western Jurisdictional Conference Reserve Delegates

  • Nancy Tam Davis
  • Erin Tombaugh
  • Benjamin Sparkman

Surviving the Protestant Affliction

Orders Talk by Rev. Katie Ladd

Just prior to Annual Conference, the Gathering of the Orders took place at Puyallup UMC. Rev. Katie Ladd, Elders Chair, offered a version of this talk.

Over the past few years, I have invited us into a Season of Blessing. Our work is as hard as it is holy. We are amid a time of incredible change. I remain in awe of those who say yes to God’s call to serve the gospel through the church, especially with all of the challenges this vocation brings with it. I’m especially in awe of those who are saying yes to this vocation in these most turbulent times, but I remain in awe of all of you. I really do.

I also want to say a word to those in the room called to be parish pastors. This is a special calling that we don’t all have. Blessed are you who have this heart.

The elders received a letter from me after General Conference 2019 when I told them that I was now going to invite them into a Season of Becoming as a follow up to our Season of Blessing.  And I extend that invitation to all here today. As the church is shifting under our feet – we can’t see where we are going – sometimes it’s hard to see even where we are. Yet, the change in and around us doesn’t wait for us to find our bearings and to get clear on our path. And, the need of the people in and out of our church, the creatures that share this planet with us, along with the water and air, cannot wait. We are past time for action, past time to be bold and clear and daring. In this Season of Becoming, I am not spelling out what it is that we should become; I am, however, urging us to become – to not rush and to not tarry – but to become. Voices all around us would have us grind to a halt or careen along without due diligence. The move forward thoughtfully, mindfully, boldly, and in love is a challenge that requires a great deal of discipline, hope, and community investment, but this is what it takes for us to become something new.  

To engage in this becoming, first we must undo a number of things that we take for granted as real – as givens – as true. We – all of us, regardless of our academic commitments to things like post-colonialism or postmodernity – are committed to varying degrees to the effects and ways of the Reformation, Modernity, and the Enlightenment. We have to thoughtfully name how these social constructs have us held prisoner. Even more, as people of faith, I also believe we have to be clear about what it means to, as I put it, Resist and Survive the Protestant Affliction. It is to this project that I am deeply committed. Resisting the Protestant Affliction requires us to change a great deal about how we understand the world, how we engage the world, and how we create the new word we want to inhabit.

The Reformation was a marvel in many ways. It gave way to Modernity and the Enlightenment. It brought us the nation-state, democracy, industrialization, the modern city, science, reason, individualism, and other important changes. Because the Word of God was made available to people in their own languages, people could ask new questions of faith, of God, and about existence. Democracy transferred power from kings to the people. The nation-state undid feudalism. Individualism gave people the opportunity to rise above the status in which they were born. These are all, as I said before, marvels, but they also came with a price.

The nation-state paved the way for colonialism to take root. The scientific method removed context in understanding the world. Together – colonialism and the scientific method – led to the dehumanization of whole peoples, the robbery of their land, and the loss of their languages and cultures. Individualism leaves people lost, alone, and judged when they do not rise above the circumstances of their birth. Religion, in particular, Western Christianity, freed from the container of the Roman Catholic Church, located authority in dogma and in emotionality, and in the printed Word. Religion, in being freed, ironically became limited by new things. We lost the Mystery of the Divine, reducing God to a palatable idea, an easy friend, or a set of statements to which are supposed to intellectually assent. It can become lukewarm endeavor that neither makes people cower nor cry in awe. Industrialism, which broke things down into accomplishable tasks also led to ever increasing exploitation of the land, animals, the earth, and the workforce, pushing people from agrarian places to mines, cities, and assembly lines.

People, once organized by extended families engaged in the same work and rhythm, now became segregated into ever smaller units. Even the individual is now no longer a complete unit. We are fragmented into advertising units as well as other sub integral components.

And, part of all of this, was a different relationship with time – this is what I want to talk about today. Time became segmented – radically so. For most of humanity, people experienced the world in nature-determined ways. We rose when light broke through the sky. We slept in the dark. We worked until exhaustion and then rested until recovered. With the clock, urbanization, and industrialization, our relationship with time changed. The segments into which we divided time (and existence itself )continued to get smaller. Time was no longer, as it was in Genesis 1, determined by the organic and natural movements of the sun across the sky. Time in the post Reformation era was rigid and unchanging. Marching onward. Unrelenting.

Part of our task in this Season of Becoming is to Resist the Protestant Affliction that buys fully into Modernity and the Enlightenment. Our way forward as a church and as spiritual people in a segmented and fragmented world is to embrace wholeness, unity, and communion. Separating the world down into segments leaves it broken – physically and spiritually. It is our task to reintroduce the world to Kairos time. This embrace, I believe, will change us and the world we call home because it seeks coming together and not ripping apart. It has room for difference. It demands room for difference.

One of the fallouts of the Protestant Affliction is our inability to tolerate difference. We don’t like this religion? Move to another land. Take it. Kill the people and declare that we have found religious tolerance. We don’t like how this group works? I am a person with autonomy so I’m going to leave and start my other group that is exactly like it with this one change. We don’t like how someone looks? I segment my community so that only people with my skin color, religion, and language can live here. This is part of the segmentation and fragmentation that comes with Modernity and the Enlightenment. It does not pull us together; it pushes us more and more apart. These are the symptoms of the Protestant Affliction.

How do we “become?” How do we resist the Protestant demand for sameness, for intellectual assent, for conformity? We refuse to play by the rules of Modernity. How do we resist fragmentation? We live as whole beings. Modernity is not, despite its lure and power, Truth with a capital T. It is a social construction. The Reformation was an idea; it is not de facto true. The Enlightenment was made and can its unintended effects can be unmade. Jesus told us that the Reign of God is not of this world. It is here in this world; it is just not made up by the powers and principalities of this world. As long as we look to institutional power to authorize change, we will be disappointed, and worse. How do we refuse? We unflinchingly demand the fullness of God’s creation to be honored, care for, and celebrated.

How do we refuse? We stop talking about church with business language. We are not a business. We are not a business. We are not a business. We are a community, a communion, a covenant community. We are – or should be – God’s social movement of love and forgiveness, not a transactional enterprise that delivers a spiritual good to an inquiring patron. We embrace our unique weirdness in this world – we are a people who follow a crucified savior, who believe in a spirit that inspires but we cannot see. We claim to trust in a resurrection we have yet to fully experience. We are odd. We are not transactional, segmented, and rational. We should not embrace the fragmented world we are presented with. We are a dream yearning to be made real. We have to stop making excuses for those who want to further segment the body of Christ, exploit the earth, control the people, categorize the good, and harm and kill when these things are thwarted. We refuse the culture of violence and colonialism. We refuse to play the game of Modernity. We do not take the Enlightenment at face value. We resist this Protestant Affliction. Instead, we play the game of God’s expansive love. That is our identity. That is the core of our calling. It is what makes our vocation holy. It is of the Great I Am.

As Norman Wirzba in my Sabbath curriculum says, “We know that God loves because God makes room for what is not God to be.” Covenant community isn’t one that is easy or comfortable. I don’t know what will happen within or to the UMC, but “United” we are not. We are not the church some keep hoping we will return to. The naiveté of some of us smacks of Making the Church Great Again. The hope to return to some time that was clearer, easier, more united is like all nostalgic dreams – not rooted in truth. Our church has always been racist, homophobic, and sexist. We have been colonialists. We don’t need to preserve the church. We, as the church, need to become what we have yet to ever be.

I invite you – elders particularly because you are my primary covenant community – but all of you – to this season of becoming – not to falter at the difficulty of the details of unwinding a church that is in fact already in de facto schism. We have to name our truths. We are not behaving as one church. We are not talking about the same Christ. We are not living the same faith. I want us to be, but we are not.

It is ironic that as I call for communion I speak of untying the church. The irony is not lost on me. But the unity of the church cannot be predicated on the back of the marginalized, dehumanized, and oppressed. When Richard Allen formed the AME church, he didn’t do it because he wanted schism. He did it because racism and white supremacy drove him from his spiritual home. We have to stop blaming those who can’t bear the harm anymore.

Some in this room today are from cultures colonized by Europeans and Americans. In this room here we have radically different experiences with the Enlightenment. But all of us, despite the privilege afforded to some of us, lose because this worldview and the actions it promotes drive us apart. It pushes toward victory for some and division for all. Let’s stop this. It is not of God. We have to do better. We have to be better. Perhaps to move toward communion, we have to undo that which is built upon unintended outcomes of the Enlightenment. We must be cured of the Protestant Affliction.


Rev. Katie Ladd is pastor of Queen Anne United Methodist Church and director of The Well, both in Seattle, Washington. She is also chairperson of the PNW Order of Elders.

Learning to “Love Like This” legislatively at #PNWAC19

Story by Rev. Austin Adkinson, Photos by Patrick Scriven

Against a backdrop of its aspiration to “Love Like This,” the members of the 2019 Pacific Northwest Annual Conference (PNWAC) voted for a wave of petitions that denounce anti-LGBTQIA+ denominational regulations, celebrate queer lives, and set some of the tasks for how it will resist. In short, much of the legislation passed could be summarized by the petition that reads:

Click image to download PNWAC19 Actions.

RESOLVED, that the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference denounces the actions of GC2019 that inflicted emotional and spiritual harm on members of the LGBTQIA+ communities. 

Simultaneously, the conference covered procedural tasks such as approving the budget, retirement and pension issues, Advance Specials, and minimum salary. It even set up a Special Sunday for raising funds to help foster its deepening relationship with the churches in Alaska and challenged churches to rethink the placement of governmental flags in sanctuaries. 

While there was plenty of typical business, almost half of the petitions passed this year were responses to the current crisis of Methodism. Resistance to the forced discrimination created by the ​passage of the “Traditionalist Plan” at General Conference 2019 was a constant theme from the stage and the floor of the session. The body passed 14 petitions that fleshed out the aspirations of the petition quoted above. It began to provide guide rails for how the PNWAC will respond if the restrictive and punitive new rules become unavoidable, including the possibility of creating a whole new entity.

Youth and Young Adult Voters Increased

Lay members Falisha Hola and Katy Ritchey made an impassioned call for young voices at PNWAC on the second morning of the conference.

Last year, redistricting efforts reduced the number of youth and young adult members of the annual conference because there is now one fewer district to send representatives. This year we corrected that by increasing the number of youth and young adult reps from two per district to five—a net gain of 26 after a loss of four. The legislation’s approval affirmed that the conference understands that youth and young adults are more than the future of the church; they must be the present. 

Inclusive Values were Named

The Pacific Northwest Annual Conference declared that it will:

  • Reaffirm and continue its commitment to Non-Compliance with United Methodist and governmental actions that limit, degrade, or hinder full participation in the life of both church and society for members of the LGBTQIA+ communities. 
  • Affirm and celebrate the sexual and gender identities of all members of the LGBTQIA+ communities. 
  • Live into the statements of the PNW Board of Ordained Ministry, the Western Jurisdiction’s Leadership Team, and Mission Cabinet, as it seeks to become a truly inclusive Church [where its leaders have previously stated that they do not consider sexual orientation or gender identity as disqualifying candidates for ministry and refuse to capitulate to the “Traditionalist Plan” by both resisting from within and exploring alternate structures]. 
  • Listen to and further the work of gatherings like UM Forward and come alongside those most impacted by our oppressive systems, as it considers new ways forward for the church. 

A Need for Repentance

The PNWAC called on the cabinet leadership of the three conferences within the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area to create a time during their shared annual conference meeting in 2020 where they can formally repent of their participation in systems that cause harm to members of the LGBTQIA+ communities. 

Plans were made for Resistance 

The PNWAC recommended to the bishop a triage ranking for handling complaints against members of our conference. This may not sound significant on the surface, but here’s why it matters. With the passage of the “Traditionalist Plan” and its punitive measures against LGBTQIA+ people and those who fully minister to them, a significant uptick in formal complaints against out clergy and those performing weddings for same-gender couples is expected. The investigations, arbitrations, and (God forbid) church trials stemming from the expected flood of complaints could very well overwhelm the administrative capacities of the conference, in addition to the great harm they will cause to LGBTQIA+ people.

The recommendation seeks to preempt this problem and allow for the processing of complaints involving actual harm, such as abuse, sexual misconduct, harassment, or embezzlement. The recommendation also made clear that a strong majority believes that further harm to LGBTQIA+ persons should be avoided. Separately, conference members encouraged leadership to not use any of its reserve funds for processing complaints that do not allege harm as expressed by the conference (e.g. same-gender weddings and out clergy). 

Multiple petitions created teams that will take on various aspects of navigating the unknowns in this time of denominational crisis. As Rev. Katie Ladd, the PNWAC chair of the Order of Elders said, our denomination is in de facto schism. It’s difficult to know where the lines of division will fall, but in the not-too-distant future there will be at least two Methodisms. 

Shortly before the 2016 General Conference, several conservative United Methodist activists created a separate incorporated entity named the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA), which has the legal standing to hold a new denomination if needed. Inclusive-minded United Methodists have not by and large advocated for schism and or invested in similar, parallel structures. The PNWAC approved a task force that will ensure a new legal entity will be formed that can be used to start a new expression of Methodism if needed. 

Inland District Superintendent Rev. Gregg Sealey (left) speaks in support of legislation calling for the creation of a new legal entity to potentially hold a new expression of Methodism. Also pictured, Rev. David Parker, pastor at Oak Harbor UMC.

In a separate piece of legislation, the PNWAC directed its leadership and trustees to form a study committee for disaffiliation from The United Methodist Church. The new group will have the authority to develop a plan of exit of the entire annual conference from The United Methodist Church, maximizing the retention of the “annual conference’s financial, property, and other resources” and study the financial implications of doing so.

Recommendations to General Conference

The PNWAC adopted a petition from First UMC of Seattle directing its Conference Secretary to file petitions to General Conference 2020 that would start the process of amending the denomination’s constitution to make the US or North America a Central Conference. In the event that only a small number of Methodists defect to the WCA, this could be a valuable way to preserve and build healthier international relationships.

The proposed amendments would dismantle some of the colonialist aspects of our systems of governance, but similar efforts have been blocked by conservatives unwilling to let US delegates vote on LGBTQIA+ inclusion independently. Central Conferences (i.e. everyone outside the US) are allowed to make adaptations to portions of the Book of Discipline to fit their cultural context. Official United Methodist stances are presumed to be US-centric even as the number of United Methodists outside the US nears parity with those within.

New Ways of Being Church

Anyone who has witnessed the Robert’s Rules proceedings of General Conferences knows that it is not always complementary to the Holy Conversations Methodists aspire to. Additionally, it is a decision-making process which often benefits those who already bring more privilege into the room, with little formal space given for story and mutuality. Its focus on results over process further entrenches people in embattled and imbittered camps. 

The PNWAC seeks to explore new ways of decision-making that are more relational, respectful, and productive. The PNW Board of Ordained Ministry has been using a modified consensus process for decision-making in recent years, and now the whole conference plans to explore new procedures. 

RESOLVED, that the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference develop new ways of governing and decision-making, that make meaningful space at the table, and provide adequate time, for engaging the stories, joys and sorrows, and leadership gifts of lay and clergy persons on the margins, including, but not limited to people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, people with disabilities, youth and young adults, and people experiencing economic insecurity.

Aspiration and practice combined as the PNWAC took a tentative step toward this goal before it even had the chance to vote on the legislation. In addition to the typical Robert’s Rules governed focus sessions, conference members were given the opportunity to gather in areas of interest for collaborative work. Three of the most significant petitions approved by the full conference plenary had their origins in these break-out groups. Good steps toward a lofty goal of new modes of governance.

Another working group led by Kathleen Weber produced ideas for strategically resisting the “Traditionalist Plan. A handout available on a new website was shared during the last plenary session.  

The PNWAC is reacting and resisting to the turmoil in the denomination, but more importantly, its members are moving forward into God’s new future together. 


Rev. Austin L. Adkinson is a leader in the United Methodist Queer Clergy Caucus, but is not a “homosexual.” They are the primary writer of the Simple Plan submitted by the caucus leadership and the pastor of Haller Lake UMC in Seattle.

Ordination, commissioning invokes Pentecostal reminder of love

Story by Kristen Caldwell, Photos by Rev. DJ del Rosario & Patrick Scriven, Video by Sasha Terry & Rev. David Valera

With hands laid on them on Pentecost Sunday, the Pacific Northwest Conference commissioned and ordained 12 people to lead as provisional elders and a deacon and fully ordained elders in The United Methodist Church.

Click here for more photos from Day Three of #PNWAC19

“It may be a crazy day in the life of The United Methodist Church. But it’s a great day in the kin-dom of God,” said Bishop Elaine Stanovsky.

The 2019 PNWAC Choir offering a powerful moment directed by Todd Shively.

Candidates went through a rigorous interview process through the Board of Ordained Ministry to be present on Sunday morning and accept the call to serve God through local churches and other ministries.

Alexa Eisenbarth and David Hall were commissioned as provisional elders; while Mary Stanton-Nurse was commissioned as a provisional deacon.

Ordained as elders in full connection with The United Methodist Church — even as it is conflicted over the role of LGBTQ+ persons in the church and upholding the Book of Discipline related to this — the following individuals said yes to the call: Casey Banks, Micah Coleman Campbell, Melinda Giese, Joseph Kim, Paul Ortiz, Heather Riggs, Katy Shedlock, Heather Sparkman and John Wang.

“Remember that you are called to serve rather than to be served, to proclaim the faith of the church and no other, to look after the concerns of God above all,” Stanovsky said.

Rev. Lowell Greathouse preaching at the Service of Commissioning and Ordination at #PNWAC19.

Rev. Lowell Greathouse, retiring coordinator of mission and ministry for the Oregon-Idaho Conference, connected the story of Pentecost to the work going on in the church today as he preached to the crowd on Sunday.

Just as the Jews showed up for an annual gathering that Pentecost Sunday and found people alit with fire, speaking different languages about the Holy Spirit being poured out; members of the Pacific Northwest Conference showed up for their annual gathering expecting the routine, but finding themselves on Holy Ground.

Greathouse said he was disappointed by the Special Called General Conference in February because that spirit did not come alive.

“Something happens in that moment in which the works of God become visible,” Greathouse said.

“What grieves me most, we gathered then and people did not see or experience the works of God’s wonder,” he said. “What took place at Pentecost happened for some reason. There can’t be room in one’s heart if there are assumptions and judgments. If we can’t see Christ in one another, then there isn’t enough room for Pentecost to happen and this is a huge spiritual challenge that is multi-faceted in nature.”

But that didn’t stop Bishop Stanovsky from praying to God for the room to experience Christ as hands were laid on the provisional elder and deacon candidates.

“Pour out your holy spirit upon Alexa Eisenbarth

Pour out your holy spirit upon David Hall

Pour out your holy spirit upon Mary Stanton-Nurse …”

Stanovsky urged the Holy Spirit to be known, just as it was on Pentecost Sunday as hands were laid upon each ordinand and prayers were issued.

“Almighty God, pour upon Casey Banks the Holy Spirit

Almighty God, pour upon Micah Coleman Campbell the Holy Spirit …

Almighty God, pour Upon Melinda Giese the Holy Spirit

Almighty God, pour upon Joseph Kim the Holy Spirit

Almighty God, pour upon Paul Ortiz the Holy Spirit

Almighty God, pour upon Heather Riggs the Holy Spirit

Almighty God, pour upon Katy Shedlock the Holy Spirit

Almighty God, pour upon Heather Sparkman the Holy Spirit …

Almighty God, pour upon John Wang the Holy Spirit …”

Memorial service honors Conference saints, space for grief

Story by Kristen Caldwell, Photos by Patrick Scriven

One thing can be certain, the Pacific Northwest Conference will not be the same with the loss of clergy, laity, and Bishops who faithfully served God and people of this region, according to Rev. Carlo Rapanut, who lead Saturday night’s service.

And that’s maybe OK as people grieve their losses yet struggle to move forward to a new space.

“The time between is the most difficult time to be in. We want to be certain. We want to move on to what next,” Rapanut said.

But the liminal space — the in-between — he said, “this is where genuine newness can begin.”

Bishop Elaine Stanovsky drops the names written on rice paper of those who have passed, one by one, as they are read during the Memorial Service.

The names of 17 people and three churches were read and prayed over during a humbling ceremony, which included music and communion. It was a moment of living in the uncertainty of death, grief, and moving on.

Saints remembered were those clergy both active and retired who died since the last Annual Conference gathering: Revs. Jonathan Albert Short, C. (Charles) Wendell Ankeny, Laurence M. Eldred, Mahesh Ram Giri, Charles M. Maness, Jr.

“Help us inherit from them that which will make us more fully your people,” prayed Rev. Denise Roberts.

Other saints honored are the spouses of active and retired clergy who had passed on as well as spouses of previously deceased clergy who died in the past year: M. (Margaret) Alison (Kent) Bryan, Gertie Maye (Patterson) Goldson, Donnabelle Patricia (Mahan) Aiton, Edith Miriam (Allen) Countryman, Joan Aiko Imai, Myrna Ilene (Rhoads) Manley, Catharine Louise (Cooney) Morgan, Martha JoAnn (Johnson) Strunk, Ruth Louise (Beggs) Tooley.

“Where they offered us blessings of love, may we incorporate those gifts into our lives,” Roberts prayer continued.

Laity in the life of the Conference who died in the last year were honored: Ethan John DeLarme, Wayne Thomas Gruen, Doris Jean (Jones) Smith.

“Where they struggled, may we learn from them,” Roberts continued to pray.

Bishops who died in the last year, spouses of bishops who died in the last year, and surviving spouses of deceased Bishops who died in the last year were also honored: Bishop Benjamin R. Chamness, Bishop William B. Oden, Bishop Judith Craig, Bishop C. Dale White, Mary Jean (Garrett) Russell, Melvena Maway (Morris) Nagbe and Mary Ann (Kyker) Hunt.

Additionally, three churches in the PNW Conference closed this year, and they, too, were honored for their years of service to their communities. Those included: McCleary United Methodist Church, Seattle: Crown Hill United Methodist Church and Sunnyside United Methodist Church.

Rev. Denise Roberts lead those gathered for the Memorial Service in prayer.

“May the honor that we convey toward those we recognize today reflect the honor that we feel toward you,” Roberts said, ending the prayer.

During Rapanut’s sermon, he asked the crowd, rhetorically, why it was important, year after year, to stop and gather and remember the people who have gone before them.

“With the limited time that we have and all the work that needs to be done at an annual conference, why do we even bother to pause and remember?” he said.

But as the Alaska Conference Superintendent, Rapanut said he learned this last year just how important it is to hold ourselves in the in-between spaces of grief and growth; certainty and change. Last fall, as he was busy traveling to attend charge conferences and many other things that keep District Superintendents busy in the fall, he lost both of his parents within the space of six weeks.

Even though work was chaotic, Rapanut said it was important to make those two trips to the Philippines to attend the wakes of his mother and father – to laugh, cry, be with friends and family and more.

“The wakes allowed me to live in the space where I was not avoiding or denying, but intentionally carrying the weight of my loss,” he said. “Remembering as a community gives us a wake-like place.”

And it is in that in-between time that Rapanut said God shows up.

“Don’t rush it,” he said. “It’s ok to be there.”

A Morning of Transitions and Celebrations at #PNWAC19

Story by Patrick Scriven, Photos & Video by the Media Team

During Saturday morning’s Plenary at the 2019 Pacific Northwest Annual Conference Session, we marked a number of significant moments in the life of our ministries and ministry leaders. These followed a report from the Rev. Dr. William Gibson updating the conference on the exciting work of the Greater Northwest’s Innovation Vitality Team.

Gibson shared, “I cannot tell you how many conversations I have experienced in The United Methodist Church where the assessment and design of ministries happened without listening to the very people we are trying to reach.” His marketing background taught him that this was the “quickest way to failure.”

The Greater Northwest Area is poised to be on the leading edge of change because of its embrace of innovation, inclusion, and multiplication as essential elements of vitality according to Rev. Dr. Gibson. In 2019, the area will see the launch of six new projects and two multicultural hub pilots in Portland and Tacoma. The centers will be centers for research and design, learning, and multiplication.

Following the IV Team report, we honored the retirement of Llew Pritchard from his role as Conference Chancellor, a role he has filled since 1970. A video was shown with Pritchard sharing anecdotes from his years of service. Bishop Stanovsky remarked that it was possible, even likely, that he had the longest tenure in that position in the denomination which itself was formed in 1968.

Stanovsky was surprised to learn that Pritchard had not received a Bishop’s Award over those many years, so one was awarded. Due to a family obligation, Pritchard was unable to be in attendance but he offered words of gratitude delivered by Molly Gabel, lay member of Seattle First. The Conference then voted to install Pritchard as Chancellor Emeritus and Gabel as the new PNW Conference Chancellor.

This year, The United Methodist Church is celebrating the bicentennial of Methodist mission. The Conference had the special opportunity to recognize this milestone with a special video featuring two of our retirees who have spent much of their ministry pursuing justice and mission WITH. The interview of the Revs. Paul Jeffrey and Lyda Pierce by Executive Director of Connectional Ministries Rev. David Valera was received with applause.

Those persons approved for commissioning and ordination were next introduced to the conference. Their names are listed below.

To be commissioned as Provisional Elders
Alexa Eisenbarth, Mary Stanton-Nurse, and David Hall.
  • Alexa Eisenbarth
  • David Hall
To be commissioned as Provisional Deacon
  • Mary Stanton-Nurse
To be ordained as Elders
  • Casey Banks
  • Micah Coleman Campbell
  • Melinda Giese
  • Joseph Kim
  • Paul Ortiz
  • Heather Riggs
  • Katy Shedlock
  • Heather Sparkman
  • John Wang

Bishop Stanovsky inquired of the candidate’s for ordination John Wesley’s historic questions. The questions, which have been asked since the beginning of Methodism, were difficult to hear by some in the current context of denominational strife.

Candidates for ordination just prior to questioning at #PNWAC19.

The morning plenary ended with a celebration of 15 clergypersons who were retiring this year though several will go on to serve in retirement. Several of the retirees submitted short video testimonies for the occasion and the service offered a symbolic passing on the mantel from the retiring clergyperson with the most years of service, Rev. Jeffrey, to the youngest ordinand, Rev. Micah Coleman Campbell. A list of retirees follows. 

  • Marcella Baker, 7 Appt. Years
  • Ann Berney, 31 Appt. Years
  • Mary Boyd, 22.5 Appt. Years
  • Sanford Brown, 31 Appt. Years
  • John Chae, 32 Appt. Years
  • Chuck Cram, 14 Appt. Years
  • Nancy Ferree-Clark, 38.25 Appt. Years
  • Edward Hamshar, 23 Appt. Years
  • Richard Hargis, 30.5 Appt. Years
  • Paul Jeffrey, 41 Appt. Years
  • Amy Starr Jennings, 10.75 Appt. Years
  • Rebecca Parker, 40.5 Appt. Years
  • Lyda Pierce, 38 Appt. Years
  • Brenda Tudor, 24 Appt. Years
  • Maka Vao, 12 Appt. Years

The morning ended with a prayer and the collection of the Jar$ for Jamaa Letu offering supporting girls and boy’s orphanages in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

More than a word from our young people? #PNWAC19

The following statement was read by Falisha Hola and Katy Ritchey eloquently lamenting the way young voices are scheduled out of the work of the church. Hola and Ritchey are lay members of the PNW Annual Conference this year.

Click here to watch this now.

Hello. My name is Katy Ritchey. I am a junior in high school, I am 17 years old, and I am a youth voting member from the Puget Sound and I use she/her pronouns.

And I’m Falisha Hola. I am a senior in high school, I am 18 years old and I am lay voting member by position. I use she/her pronouns. We are speaking now to share our truth about being young people in the conference.

We want to express the importance of young people’s voices in contribution to the annual conference. We are tired of the disconnect between the body voicing that young people’s voices are important and the actions minimizing the space and priority of youth in the context of conference gatherings and committee meetings.

We feel like we are invited into spaces so that adults can pat themselves on the back for including youth.

And I am tired

Tired of being a token

Tired of being disregarded based on my age

Tired of repeating myself

Tired of being cut off

Tired of being told I am special because I have an opinion

We are not outliers. Many youth want to express themselves and care about what is happening in the church and in the world. We as young people can not fully live up to our potential as leaders in the church here and now when things such as scheduling prevent us from participating. As many of you have noticed this year we have a lack of pages and voting delegates.

The timing of annual conference has made it so youth across the state are kept from annual conference as school is winding down and this weekend is in conflict with graduation and finals for many people, In addition to this, the consolidation of districts has made it so there are only 11 youth voting spots available in the conference. Ask yourself this, who is inheriting the work and ministry we do here?

Thirty years from now we will be in our late forties, we will be the clergy and the lay leaders, the conference staff and the camp directors.  I have hope that the church will be an inclusive actively welcoming space because that is the culture I see in our young people and we are ready to affect change so we can be in a church that reflects those values.

Our church, our community of young Methodists looks:

  • Racially Diverse
  • Like Active young people
  • Reconciling
  • Like Open minds
  • Connected
  • Welcoming
  • Fierce
  • Fearless
  • Active

Are you ready to see that church reflected in the culture we create here? As young women in this conference, we are consistently overlooked, talked over, and ignored. When will our voices be deemed of value to this body because we have a lot to say about what our future will be and what the church should look like now.

When will I stop being the only Pacific Islander, the only young person represented, when will the groups here look more like the groups at our local churches, diverse in all aspects.

We don’t have enough voices to make it happen on our own but you do.

The reality is that the issues we are debating are not just legislation, they are our siblings in Christ’s real lives and truths that are lived out every day.

Invite your youth to the conversation at your local churches, scheduling meetings at times when they can come and actively listen to what they have to say, share with them conference opportunities for young people and ask them where they would like to see the church head because

WE ARE READY!

Are you?

Town Hall

Questions & Answers from the #PNWAC19 Town Hall

Story by Rev. Pam Brokaw, Photos by Rev. DJ del Rosario

Note: The first evening of Annual Conference concluded with a Town Hall to discuss the aftermath of the Special General Session and passage of the Traditionalist Plan. Questions were fielded by Bishop Stanovsky and other Conference leaders including Clergy and Laity. Here are some of the questions and answers: 

What’s with the she/her pronouns? Skylar Bihl responded that using pronouns is a way to describe one’s identity. For folks who find themselves with a different gender identity, using pronouns is a way to recognize that not everyone’s bodies reflect their identity. The goal is to create an atmosphere of mutual respect.

For those who want to do something right now, what can they do? Rev. Jeremy Smith said there are many things. Local churches can work toward welcoming. Churches can reach out in the community. They can join with other Annual Conferences in passing resolutions. Rev. Smith spoke about the freedom in the PNW to discuss differences. This is not always the case in other conferences. 

Rev. Joanne Carlson Brown answers a question raised at the Town Hall about Reconciling churches.

What’s a Reconciling Church and how do we become one? Rev. Dr. Joanne Carlson Brown said it is a congregation that has spent time and discernment to make an announcement that all are welcome. This is with a focus on Queer folks. People often worry about losing people over this decision, but churches are losing folks already. It’s not enough for a church to vote to become a Reconciling Church, it needs to live it. 

What’s the Council of Bishops’ role in this and how much progress are they making? Bishop Elaine Stanovsky reflected on the taboo of discussing sexuality…even among Bishops. The Global Church tries to span very wide cultural gaps and there is not a clear consensus among the Bishops to offer clear leadership in these matters.

What is the timeline for United Methodist Churches to sign on to the Traditionalist Plan or how do they leave? Treasurer Brant Henshaw answered we are in it now. Decisions about how local churches and the Conference will proceed will likely make a decision imperative by Annual Conference 2020.

So, do you all think a split is inevitable? Henshaw said it was his opinion that a split was likely. Kristina Gonzalez, Greater NW Director of Innovation for an Inclusive Church stated the Holy Spirit can move and make change. She said she did not see the Conference as being able to be a fully inclusive church without a split. In some ways, splits already have occurred, Rev. Smith said referencing actions of the conservative Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) creating a quasi-denominational structure. Progressives do not have these entities yet.

Can legislative change at General Conference be made this year? Rev. Smith was doubtful legislative change could happen because of a lack of votes even with some of the shifts occurring in U.S. delegations.

Joel Rodriguez
Sunnyside Church planter Joel Rodriguez asks a question during the Town Hall at PNWAC19.

How does leaving work for a local church? Henshaw said there are two ways. One is to use the petition passed at General Conference. A formula exists that a church would have to pay a full year of apportionments plus an additional year and pay their portion of liability for pensions. This is probably between seven and 10 times a church’s annual apportionment rate. Churches are required to pay all of this before they can leave.

Henshaw said another way is to do it in groups probably as an Annual Conference or most of an Annual Conference. It’s called Withdrawal and it has never been done. Pension liability would not need to be paid because payment would continue to be made. There are questions about how that would be done.

If a church left, could it rejoin later? The Bishop said yes. She pointed out this is all in the conversation stage. The question in this chaotic time is how to not lose the connectional values that are a part of the denomination. She noted a worst case where we wind up in the courts and fight one another. That would be a terrible thing.

Will the Western Jurisdiction leave as a body? Gonzalez stated there is preparatory work happening in case this is needed. There are differing views, and some are cultural. Attendees in the room were invited by the Bishop to share views. Rev. Shalom Agtarap spoke about the value of multiple cultural identities. Engaging in intersectional conversation and relationship is a rich opportunity to learn more about one another.

What happens January 1, 2020? Rev. Smith said the Annual Conferences will have to deal with a deluge of complaints. Clergy and Bishops will be charged, as many as possible, before General Conference.

What resources are there to take back to local churches to engage in respectful conversation? Gonzalez said there are models such as the Table Talks that have been held in the past year at Conference level in addition to Annual Conference 2019. Respectful conversation is critical.

What is the power that we have here? What can we do here this week? The Bishop asked: “What do you want to do?

David Reinholz asked if there is anything we can do here? The Bishop noted there is legislation before the Conference. There is research underway regarding options. We will pass budgets. We will ordain people. We are used to the way we are and may not be as creative as we might be. David Valera, Director of Connectional Ministries, urged taking care not to engage in relationships with a string attached. Relationships and conversations need to be honest and respectful.


Pam Brokaw currently serves as pastor at Rochester and Oakville United Methodist Churches in the Crest to Coast Missional District of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference.

General Conference Report & Episcopal Address – #PNWAC19

Story by Rev. Debbie Sperry, Photos by Rev. DJ del Rosario & Patrick Scriven

During the morning session of the 2019 Pacific Northwest Annual Conference, Rev. Mary Huckye & Marie Kuch-Stanovsky presented on behalf of the 2019 General Conference delegation. Together, they gave a history of how The United Methodist Church has related to the LGBTQIA community within our polity over the last 40+ years. Their overview covered the call at General Conference 2016 for the Council of Bishops to lead us beyond the stalemate in conversation and polity decisions, the formation of the Commission on the Way Forward, and the decisions of GC2019, which voted in favor of the Traditionalist Plan.

While it didn’t change the language current contradictory language that a) “all persons are of sacred worth”, and b) some are “incompatible with Christian scriptures” the Traditional Plan renders church polity more exclusive and punitive for those who are charged and found guilty of violations. These changes take effect January 1, 2020.

Rev. Mary Huycke and Marie Kuch-Stanovsky addressing members of the 2019 Pacific Northwest Annual Conference.

An exit plan wherein a local church, by 2/3 vote of membership, may disaffiliate was also passed. Some terms were set by General Conference, some terms are to be set by the annual conference board of trustees. 

In addition, Wespath clarified their position for pension funds for clergy who leave the UMC. The funds would be moved and would be changed from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan. These changes were effective immediately.

They shared that many did not expect the Traditional Plan to pass. Many churches were catalyzed to create a position regarding their commitment to inclusion, that has included two significant gatherings for “centrists to progressives” to discern how God might be leading them forward.

Click here to watch video of the report.

Jay Tamaalii and Kristina Gonzalez shared on behalf of those who participated in the Our Movement Forward (UMForward) gathering in Minnesota, which Gonzalez described as a “ya’ll come event.” UMForward sought to center voices of LGBTQIA and People of Color in defining a way forward. Tamaalii said, “You could feel both the love and the tension that is in the church.” He was encouraged through prayer, worship, the Spirit of God, and round table conversations around the following options:

  1. Stay and resist from within; 
  2. Stay and figure a way out; 
  3. Get out.  

Gonzalez shared a significant change in language away from “inclusion” and toward “liberation” where all would be free to be their true selves.

Rev. Shalom Agtarap shares some of her experience at UMC Next with people at #PNWAC19.

Rev. DJ del Rosario and Rev. Shalom Agtarap then shared about their experience at the UMC Next event. Rev. del Rosario said, “It was important that UMForward came first so it could inform the UMC Next event that happened the next week. Where we begin matters. The work of inclusion begins not with action but with listening

Participants at the UMC Next event formed four clear commitments.

  1. We long to be passionate followers of Jesus Christ, committed to a Wesleyan vision of Christianity, anchored in scripture and informed by tradition, experience and reason as we live a life of personal piety and social holiness.
  2. We commit to resist evil, injustice and oppression in all forms and toward all people and build a church which affirms the full participation of all ages, nations, races, classes, cultures, gender identities, sexual orientations, and abilities.
  3. We reject the Traditional Plan approved at General Conference 2019 as inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ and will resist its implementation.
  4. We will work to eliminate discriminatory language and the restrictions and penalties in the Discipline regarding LGBTQ persons. We affirm the sacred worth of LGBTQ persons, celebrate their gifts, and commit to being in ministry together.

Next, Rev. Shalom Agtarap shared a quote from her mentor, Rev. Chuck Hineman, “Never waste a good crisis.” She said, “We will not waste this crisis. We will move forward together in solidarity with those who are on the margins. We will take our traditional Wesleyan values, our love of connection, and our love of the sacraments into the next thing. We need all of us [to do this work].”

Kuch-Stanovsky returned to share that the Western Jurisdiction (WJ) has been a loud voice of resistance, including on the floor of General Conference 2019. The WJ met as a leadership team affirming the need to resist injustice and insist that the church repent of exclusionary practices. This is a time to gather our energy and live into the ways God is calling us to be beloved community.

Kathy Cosner and Rev. John Hunsberger share their evangelical perspective as members of the local chapter of the Wesleyan Covenant Association.

Rev. John Hunsberger and Kathy Cosner came before the conference next to share from the local chapter of the Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA). Hunsberger shared that they came before the annual “as people who above all see Christ as the savior and answer to show God’s love to us all.” He was grateful for the dialogue that has taken place, and looks forward to continued conversation as they seek a church that “is not totally captured by American culture and political systems of our day.”

Cosner conveyed she began to participate in a local WCA chapter because she was looking for a place of community and fellowship. “It can be lonely for those who are theologically conservative.” She wanted Annual Conference to be clear that the WCA has “a passion for sharing Jesus with others. What we want is fellowship and ministry.”

Fianlly, Brant Henshaw came forward to share about the work conference treasurers are doing to help map out future options. There are four paths (out of seven) their work has centered around for which he outlined pros and cons. The four main options include: stay and resist, disaffiliation, withdrawal (of individual churches or full annual conferences), and negotiated division with asset distribution.

Episcopal Address

After the General Conference report, Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky addressed the conference. She highlighted Luke 1:78-79 as verses that have guided her work for more than a year now. She said, “It is not clear where we are, but it fits all the definitions of a wilderness.” Stanovsky highlighted the creation story and God’s blessing each day that affirmed God’s handiwork as “good” and humanity as “very good.”

Over a year ago, the Bishop discerned 2018-2019 would be a crossover year. She knew we would be in a different place and invited the conference to read, We Make the Road by Walking and reground ourselves in the life-giving love of Jesus Christ.

Since GC2019 there has been a flurry of questions, including:

  • What will happen January 1, 2020?
  • How will [the new rules] be implemented?
  • Who is at risk?
  • Will we have a period of “cleansing”?
  • Does the WCA really know what it’s getting into?
  • Does it want responsibility for the entangled UMC?

The bishop said, “People who had stayed out of the fray for decades rose up to say “this is too much,” “it hurts people,” and, “we can’t put up with these harsh rules and punishments.”

Bishop Stanovsky shares that people at every point on the spectrum feel marginalized and victimized. People have a sense that the actions are being taken beyond our control. They want to influence the actions but it’s not clear how to do that and most don’t want to see the church split. But on both sides, it’s hard to see a way to stay together. Some people see the way of faith as obedience to the rules. Others see it as relating to people’s lives. She has also heard “A fair amount of denial, hoping it will all go away. People who love their church and don’t want it to change.”

For people at all points on the spectrum of opinion and attitude. This is an issue of conscience expressed in statements like “I can’t stay in a church that allows gay clergy.” And “I can’t stay in a church that doesn’t welcome transgendered people.”

Stanovsky shared that there doesn’t seem to be a way forward that holds the UMC together unless something entirely unforeseen happens. That means it is likely each Annual Conference will have to decide where they will go (but those options are not yet before us), and each individual church will have to decide if they will go with their conference or disaffiliate. That’s likely to mean that every pastor and every member will have to choose to accept (or not) the choices of the General Conference, Annual Conference, and their local church. There will be a world of hurt.

The bishop ended by sharing her heart. She said, “I can’t be silent in a church that won’t see when the Holy Spirit is at work, that can’t behold a new thing, that isn’t able to listen or sing a new song. I’m a bishop of the whole church. I have seen the church move and change. I believe it is moving now. I asked God to show me a pillar of fire—that I would follow it if I could just see it. I waited and waited and I saw no pillar of fire. Then in the gentle way that God uses sometimes, the dawn broke inside of me, through the people God has put in my path along the way…God has been revealing a pillar of fire to me all along.”

Her final comment was, “I intend to be in ministry with all of you. I hope we can all be in conversation with honesty, unvarnished, and vulnerable.”


Rev. Debbie Sperry serves as pastor to Moscow First United Methodist Church in Moscow, Idaho.

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PNWAC19 Session

Washington State Fairgrounds
Showplex Center | Puyallup, WA
June 7 to June 9, 2019 

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