Annual Conference Session Focuses on "With"
June 25, 2014
2014 California-Nevada Annual Conference
June 18-21, 2014
Theme: "The Power of With: Building the Beloved Community"
June 18-21, 2014
Theme: "The Power of With: Building the Beloved Community"
Addressing more than 1,000 attendees, San Francisco Episcopal Area Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr. addressed the 166th session of the California-Nevada Annual Conference saying, "This love of God is something that continues to bring us together. God's love and God's goodness is not just limited to the people we already know, it's not limited to those who are already a part of the faith community, it's not limited to United Methodists…but God does not limit God's love to us." He added, "The day of God's redemption is here if we claim it, and receive it, and live into it."
After many consecutive years meeting in Sacramento, this year the annual conference met in Burlingame, California near San Francisco.
Featured speakers this year included the Rev. Cecil Williams, Janice Mirikitani, and the Rev. Eric H.F. Law.
This year's theme, "The Power of With: Building the Beloved Community" focused on one of the denomination's four areas of focus, engaging in ministry with the poor. In keeping with the theme, the ministry of San Francisco's Glide Memorial United Methodist Church was featured throughout the annual conference session. The Rev. Cecil Williams, longtime and distinguished Minister of Liberation at Glide, preached for the opening communion celebration.
Williams said, "I'm tired of seeing the church relate to those who look like them and that's as far as it goes… If we practice unconditional love that means loving our enemies, those we thought we could never love, those who gave up on us." He added, "I stand before you and I want you to know that I'm 84 years old and I'm not through yet. I'm keeping a spirit of God in my whole being."
Williams is a minister, an author, social activist, lecturer, community leader and spokesperson for the poor and marginalized who is respected and recognized as a national leader on the forefront of change and in the struggle for civil and human rights. His ministry underscores his roots in liberation theology.
Williams and Janice Mirikitani led two teaching sessions sharing best practices and insights they have gained in their years of ministry with the poor in San Francisco's Tenderloin District.
Mirikitani is the Founding President of the Glide Foundation and for over 43 years, she and her husband Cecil Williams have helped to establish 87 comprehensive programs that provide education, recovery support, primary and mental health care, job training, housing and human services. Mirikitani's passion has been to create programs for women and families as they struggle with issues of substance abuse, rape, incest, domestic violence, the AIDS crisis, single parenting, childcare, health/wellness, education, and jobs development.
Williams and Mirikitani are co-authors of the book, Beyond the Possible: 50 Years of Creating Radical Change in a Community Called Glide.
Another session featured current Glide pastors, the Revs. Karen Oliveto and Theon Johnson III along with Rita Shimmin and Kristen Growney Yamamoto, co-executive directors of the Glide Foundation, for a panel discussion focusing on the collaborative leadership style used at Glide in their diverse social context. The Rev. Theon Johnson III said, "Every single day we have to be those folks who are willing to go to the margins. We have to be those who are willing to make the margins the center. That work compels us beyond Sunday." The Rev. Karen Oliveto added, "The church should be the place to go where human hurt exists if we are to truly be people who transform the world."
The panel shared some of their top learning at Glide which included:
- it has to go beyond Sunday;
- we are all in recovery from something;
- it's not about me;
- boring and playing it safe doesn't get you anywhere; and
- love really does transform.
For the second year in a row, the Rev. Eric H.F. Law led two sessions that explored "holy conferencing." He is the founder and executive director of the Kaleidoscope Institute for Competent Leadership in a Diverse Changing World. Law founded the institute to continue the ministry he started in the late 1980s when he began a theological and practical journey through the landscape of diversity.
Aeri Lee, worship leader, pianist, and conductor led the annual conference in worship. Lee has served as music director and adjunct faculty in Christian Worship at the Pacific School of Religion (PSR) in Berkeley, California, and currently serves as the worship coordinator at Oakland, California’s Chinese Community United Methodist Church. Since 2003, the Korean born artist has been a member of the Global Praise Working Group at the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) and has led numerous workshops on Global Praise Music.
Last year's annual conference session launched a conference wide Imagine No Malaria Initiative to raise $2 million over a two-year period. This year's mission offering raised almost $40,000 for the initiative.
The offering time was also a time of celebrating being more than halfway towards reaching the goal. Barbara Ferguson, a laywoman from Los Altos United Methodist Church who donated $1.1 million towards the conference's efforts, was present for the celebration. Ferguson said, "Becoming stronger brings hope for the future…God needs openings in our lives to get through to us." This is the largest gift to date from an individual donor to Imagine No Malaria. The conference website, www.calnevimagine.org, is set up to educate and track the endeavor.
In other action, some of the legislation the conference passed included:
- continuing mission partnerships with Methodists and Wesleyans in West Angola, Cambodia, the Philippines, Tonga, and Fiji/Rotuma;
- asking President Barack Obama and the United States Congress to pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform and put a moratorium on deportations;
- called on local churches across the annual conference to engage with various resources for prison reform and ending mass incarceration; and,
- support of the urgent campaign for the resumption of peace negotiations in the Philippines.
The Committee On Native American Ministries (CONAM) made a presentation about the history of native people and the three Native American churches in the annual conference. The presentation is in preparation for a study leading to an "acts of repentance" service for indigenous people.
The conference passed a $5.3 million budget for mission and ministry for 2015, a six percent increase from 2014 and renewed its commitment to moving towards paying 100 percent of general church apportionments.
In what has become a tradition for Bishop Brown’s episcopacy, he washed the feet of the newly commissioned ordinands. Two deacons in full connection and nine elders in full connection were ordained, and two provisional deacons and six provisional elders were commissioned on Friday evening. Fourteen licensed local pastors were received as well. The service ended with the ordinands doing a flash mob of Pharrell Williams song, "Happy," which led into the recessional.
Twenty-four clergy and spouses who died in the past year were remembered during a memorial service.
Twenty-two clergy retired, representing more than 561 years of service.
Membership stands at 74,766, down 1,060 from the previous year.
Worship attendance stands at 31,528, down 933.
Church school attendance stands at 6,121, down 495.
Professions of faith stand at 1,387, down 218.
Baptisms stand at 816, down 8.
Attendance in Christian Formation groups stands at 29,319, up 396.
-Dr. Larry R. Hygh, Jr., director of communications, California-Nevada Annual Conference