Response to a Question about the Special Session



From time to time, district boundaries change for a variety of reasons. Since the announcement of the Special Session to vote on this matter, several persons have asked for more specific information about the assignment of churches to districts.  However, since we have not officially determined whether we will do so, I have not finalized the assignments. However, I would like to share with you what the criteria are for determining how churches will be grouped into 4 districts if the vote is affirmative to do so.
One of the criteria that will be used is geographic proximity. For the most part, districts will be comprised of churches that are geographically as close as possible to one another. This is critical for the building of relationships among congregations. Ideally this would make it possible for clusters of churches and cluster of clergy to gather for business, learning, fellowship, and mutual support. 
Geographic proximity is also critical to the success of our efforts to have the A2B’s in relationship with each church and all clergy in her or his district. Constituting districts with churches as close as possible in our geographically vast annual conference will enable us to be better stewards of our resources and time and will strengthen our ability to work together for the health and vitality of all. I am hopeful that since each A2B will take on the supervision of more churches if we reduce the number of districts, having the churches in each district as close to each other as possible will be a beneficial.
Another criterion being taken into consideration is the historic connections that have existed over time between churches. Sometimes close proximity does not necessarily mean two churches share a great deal in common. For a variety of reasons, some churches have developed strong ties to another church. The plan for assignment of churches to 4 districts will take these into consideration.
Obviously, each district will undergo some changes. Some districts more so than others. I look at this reassigning process as an opportunity for all districts to forge new relationships and to engage in growing healthy vital congregations in partnership with new colleagues in ministry. We have demonstrated in the past that we are able to work side-by-side in ministry with other laity and clergy. The assignment of a church into a district does not preclude relationships with neighboring churches that may be in a different district.  I would prayerfully hope that should the vote be affirmative to move to 4 districts, we would all work together to become a stronger, more connected Annual Conference, with each congregation, each clergy, partnering with each other in mission and ministry.
Stay tuned for the next blog about why we are asking for a reduction to 4 but not to 3 districts!

Bob Hoshibata
Robert Hoshibata is Bishop of the Phoenix Area of The United Methodist Church and presides over the Desert Southwest Annual Conference. Hoshibata presided over the Oregon-Idaho Conference from 2004-2012 and his blog postings are here for reference.