California-Nevada Annual Conference Session Report
June 24, 2010
By Cate Monaghan
Interim Communications Director
The emphasis was on fruitfulness when members of the California-Nevada Annual Conference gathered for their 162nd annual conference session, June 16-19, 2010. "We must be accountable for the fruit that we give," said Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr. in his State of the Conference Address. "Mr. Wesley had a thing about fruit. Jesus had a thing about fruit. I guess it's in my DNA to have a thing about fruit."
After citing reductions in the numbers of churches reporting professions of faith, baptisms, and confirmation classes in 2009, the bishop read aloud Luke 13:6-9, the parable of the fig tree, and added, "It's not a numbers game – it's a Scripture game."
His message was reinforced by the conference's guest speaker, Missouri Area Bishop Robert Schnase, who taught from his Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations and Five Practices of Fruitful Living.
Dr. Marcia McFee led the assembly in inspirational worship focused around the concepts of radiating joy, initiating relationship, and "co-creating the Reign."
Bishop Schnase and Dr. McFee conducted workshops for guests of the conference on Thursday morning, while members participated in legislative sections. That afternoon Jennifer Rodia, director of Igniting Ministry for United Methodist Communications, conducted a Rethink Church workshop for youth delegates to Annual Conference Session.
The youth showed themselves to be truly "the church of NOW," fully engaging in the parliamentary process as well as in the battle to eliminate malaria from the continent of Africa by 2015. The bishop's annual reception this year was given over to a basketball-themed fundraiser, "Slam Dunk Malaria," in which the Youth Delegation raised $4,681.53 for Imagine No Malaria – $1,040 of it through texting.
At Conference Secretary Kristin Sachen's urging to "Let's go viral to end this disease," those assembled and those watching from home through live video stream texted the word "malaria" to donate $10 to the Imagine No Malaria campaign. Jennifer Rodia reported that she was able to assist someone in sending the first text of his life to participate in the text donation process!
Several key pieces of legislation were approved. Among them: a proposal to direct bill active clergy pension costs; a resolution reducing the number of districts from seven to four; and a recommendation to suspend Division V of the Standing Rules for a period of two years, "for the purpose of allowing flexibility and innovation in re-aligning the work of the Annual Conference with the four areas of mission focus."
The conference approved resolutions in support of "humane" state budgets for California and Nevada; in support of a bill that would exclude offenders under the age of 18 from being sentenced to "life without possibility of parole"; and a resolution calling for local churches to become bases for "confronting unjust heterosexist structures."
The conference also approved recommendations requiring active clergy to maintain an active email address, local churches to maintain an Internet presence in some form, and local churches to create and maintain a "communications coordinator" position.
It approved a resolution supporting self-determination and independence for the people of East Turkistan, established a Committee on Pacific Island Ministry, and agreed to designate all or part of the 2011 Conference Offering to the Methodist Mission in Cambodia.
The 2010 Conference Offering was taken on behalf of the Gilead Center for Children and the Ethelou D. Talbert Shelter for Girls in the Philippines.
Jurisdictional connectionalism was highlighted when David McPherson, Director of Connectional Ministries for the Desert Southwest Annual Conference, reported that Operation Resurrection 2010, the Western Jurisdiction's Lenten campaign on behalf of Haiti, generated more than $2 million in contributions and more than 44,000 health kits.
The conference closed on Saturday following the Ritual of Commissioning and Ordination, "A New Heaven and a New Earth," in which nine persons – five women and four men, with an average age of 45 – were ordained.
Conference Statistician J. Scott Allred reported membership gains by 118 churches, compared to 115 in 2008. However, 2009 also saw the greatest loss in overall membership in a single year since 1981. Membership stands at 80,375, down 1,854 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 37,424, down 718. Church school attendance stands at 8,150, down 1,025.