Report from the 54th session of the Oregon-Idaho Conference
The 54th session of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference happened in a hybrid setting, as part of the Greater Northwest Area Episcopal gathering, June 19-25, 2022, with Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky presiding from both Des Moines United Methodist Church in Washington and Portland First United Methodist Church in Oregon throughout the week.
The theme for the Conference “Called to Be: Alert, Faithful, Brave & Love” was based off scripture from 1 Corinthians 16: 13-14 and guided many of the reports and actions taken by the Oregon-Idaho Conference, sometimes in conjunction with our siblings from the Alaska Conference and Pacific Northwest Conference under the umbrella of the Greater Northwest Area.
Annual Conference began as a GNW Area with an opening worship based out of Des Moines, Wash., on June 19 and Bishop Stanovsky’s episcopal address, which touched on many topics, including our call to continue our work of anti-racism. The Area was encouraged to support a GNW Tongan relief fund to help our Tongan faith communities in the GNW continue to provide relief and support for their family and friends back home who were devastated by a volcanic tsunami in January 2022.
On Thursday, June 23, the Oregon-Idaho Conference held its plenary session – business session – with clergy and lay members receiving several reports and voting on several key pieces of legislation. Members voted to increase base salaries for pastors and clergy due to the rising cost of inflation. They adopted a budget for 2023 that included a reduction in spending. Members approved a nominations report, which included the selection of Candace Clarke as the new Oregon-Idaho Conference Interim Treasurer and Benefits Officer.
The Board of Pensions offered an update on the new BIPOC Support Initiative. In this past year, $117,000 has been granted to eight ministry settings—and this work is just beginning.
With a prayer of gratitude for their faithfulness, clergy and lay members approved the closure of Talent UMC and Coburg UMC in Oregon as well as Aberdeen, Filer, Richfield and Wilder UMCs in Idaho as chartered churches within the Oregon-Idaho Conference. Members acknowledged the closure of Ministerio Amistad y Fe, though not a chartered church.
Members also approved significant pieces of legislation that were previously reviewed by the Legislative Assembly gatherings (April 29-30 and June 15), including amending the clergy housing standards review process and a Ministerial Education Fund administered by the Board of Ordained Ministry that will assist clergy and pastoral leaders with spiritual direction and well-being. Members adopted a new resolution stating opposition to all laws attacking the dignity and rights of transgender persons; strengthened an existing resolution advocating for comprehensive immigration policy reform; and continued a resolution affirming our commitment to inclusion for all people. Members also said yes—by a clear vote and in writing as a resolution—to intentionally remaining part of the United Methodist Church.
Clergy and lay members of the Oregon-Idaho Conference also approved a Racial Justice Strategy drafted by Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) within the Conference that calls on the Conference to address four levels of racism and change: personal, interpersonal, organizational and cultural in the areas of white work, BIPOC funds, land acknowledgment and paths to leadership.
On Friday June 24, 2022, the Oregon-Idaho Conference celebrated the ordination of Revs. Alyssa Baker, Nicole Berry, Jessica Connor, Ethan Gregory and Jorge Rodriguez Vasquez as elders in full connection. The Conference also honored and welcomed Rev. Christy Dirren as an associate member of the Oregon-Idaho Conference. Rev. Christina DowlingSoka, newly appointed superintendent of the Alaska Conference, preached a sermon on “Touches of Angels Wings” and offered words of encouragement to the new elders and associate member.
On Saturday June 25, 2022, the three Conferences of the Greater Northwest Area met together again via Zoom webinar, with Bishop Stanovsky still presiding from Portland First UMC, to hear a few different GNW Area reports, including new deaconesses and home missioners, GNW missions, and more.
They approved the report from the GNW Vitality Commission that is working with the GNW Innovation Vitality team and offered another year for the group to bring back action items to the conferences it serves.
With some passionate discussion, clergy and lay members from each of the annual conferences overwhelmingly voted to affirm a statement drafted by clergy and lay members from across the GNW Area in support of reproductive freedom – one day after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade. The statement calls on individuals within our churches to support access to reproductive choices and set up a fund that people can give to help individuals in some of our states that may lose their access due to the court ruling travel to other states to access care.
Finally, the three Annual Conferences ended with a celebration of Bishop Stanovsky as she intends to retire at the end of December. She was presented gifts from each of the Annual Conferences, as well as a gift from the GNW Area to honor her years of services as Bishop and a pastoral leader and she offered words of wisdom and gratitude, alongside her husband Clint Stanovsky. It was noted that the kneeler the Oregon-Idaho Conference elders used to be blessed during their ordination service on Friday was the same kneeler Stanovsky used when she was consecrated as a Bishop during the Western Jurisdiction Conference in 2008.
A few statistics from the Oregon-Idaho Conference to share, keeping in mind the impact COVID-19 restrictions and the cautious nature our churches have practiced in their ability to gather and be in mission.
- Membership stands at 20,193, down 991 from the previous year.
- Worship attends stands at 17,299, down 4,646 from the previous year.
- Church school attendance is at 1,358, down 686 from the previous year.
- Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2021 stood at 157, up 75 from the previous year.
- Those worshipping in small groups totaled 5,615 in 2021, down 2,181 from 2020.
- Those engaged in mission work in 2021 totaled 4,240, down 2,152 since 2020.