By Patrick Scriven | Director of Communications, Young People’s Ministry

When United Methodists from across the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference descend on the Washington State Fairgrounds this Thursday, they won’t find the elephant ears and farm animals they may be accustomed to. What they’ll discover instead are the faces of friends, colleagues, and fellow United Methodists who will be joining them to remember the ministry we’ve done, consider pressing items of the day, and vision together about the future of the work we are called to in the great Pacific Northwest!

The 141st session of the Pacific Northwest will convene on Thursday, June 19th at 7pm. Bishop Grant J. Hagiya will make use of a video live stream  to simultaneously call a separated body to order as the clergy will be gathered for a closed session at nearby Puyallup United Methodist Church while the laity converge to meet, learn, and elect a new associate lay leader at the Showplex Center on the campus of the Washington State Fairgrounds. Much of the Conference will be streamed online via the PNW Conference’s Youtube channel.

As always, worship will be an essential part of our time together. An Opening Worship on Friday morning will offer the body a special opportunity to remember the history of the host site where Japanese Americans were unjustly “processed” beginning in 1942, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Members of the Japanese American community will join be joining us.

Preachers for the weekend will include Bishops Hagiya, Paul L. Leeland, and outgoing Tacoma District Superintendent Sharon Moe. Bishop Leeland will offer members a teaching moment on Saturday morning before preaching that evening as the Conference commissions and ordains new clergy members. The Portland-based Minidoka Swing Band, a youth choir from Riverton Park UMC, and Altercall from Toppenish UMC are among a variety of talented groups and individuals offering musical gifts to the conference.

Special guest, the Rev. Dr. Kah-Jin Jeffrey Kuan, president of Claremont School of Theology will lead a bible study on Saturday morning at 6:30am focused on the Scriptural texts undergirding the 2014 Annual Conference theme, “What’s Our Next Act?” The theme asks us to look at our life together as a church using the metaphor of a three act play; remembering our common roots and covenant, considering the challenges of discipleship and mission in a rapidly changing world, and thinking about the promising future God has for us.

Members will consider a smaller conference budget than they did in 2013 with a proposed reduction of 3.36% (a reduction of $206,916), among other financial and pension related items. Petitions calling for the cessation of United Methodist trials over clergy sexual identity and participation in same sex weddings and unions, civil penalties for mental health practitioners who engage in sexual orientation change efforts, and gender-inclusive ministry facilities, all offer members the opportunity to weigh in with differing understandings of human sexuality and the church’s role in society.

Another petition, supported by the Board of Laity, asks that leadership to consider the schedules of those employed (or in school) outside the church when they schedule meetings.  The body will be asked to weigh in on Initiative 594 which would require background checks for gun sales in WA, the topic of corporate personhood, and upon fossil fuel divestment. Finally, lay and clergy members will affirm nominated Global Ministries Secretaries, support for Jamaa Letu, and the designation of Conference Advance specials. Unlike some other annual conferences, we will not be considering legislation, or electing a delegation, for General Conference 2016.

Finally, the Ministry Fund Drive will offer a presentation updating the conference on our shared work toward revitalizing existing, and starting new, faith communities across the region. One of its three foci, the Imagine No Malaria campaign, will be the beneficiary of a 5K Fun Run (and Stroll) on the fair grounds. With nearly 75 registrants already, this fun moment will provide a great opportunity for members to enjoy some fresh air and exercise while bringing hearts and minds to bear upon the attainable goal of eradicating unnecessary deaths from a treatable and preventable illness. If you are interested in participating, please register via the online registration form found here.

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