The 2018 Desert Southwest Annual Conference took place at the Renaissance Phoenix Glendale Hotel & Spa on June 14-17, 2018 with Bishop Robert T. Hoshibata officiating. The theme was Giving God Our Best and the accompanying scripture was Colossians 3:12-15. In his opening Episcopal address, Bishop Bob shared the following:

You know the three simple rules: Do no harm, do good, stay in love with God? What if we edited that to say: Do no harm, do your best, stay in love with God? Colossians reminds us that God has high expectations of us. The passage relates some of what it means to give your best to God. It names some of the qualities God expects from those who are followers of Jesus Christ:

‘Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another, and if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other. And above all, clothe yourselves with love. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, and be thankful.’

God has already done something remarkable for us:  God has given us salvation as a gift in Jesus Christ, and in return, God asks us to give back our best.

Guest Plenary Speakers included Rose Glass, who wondered what would need to change in herself and what would need to change in all of us in order to make the vision a reality?

Rev. Gina Campbell led the Laity Session through exercises on forming and telling their faith story. Later, she led the body on a learning session about change.

President Dr. Jeffrey Kuan shared a brief message of comfort as Claremont School of Theology moves from it’s California campus to Willamette School of Theology on the West Coast. “Thank you for your continued support of Claremont School of Theology. We are who we are because of you, and no matter where we are geographically we are and will always be your seminary.”

Throughout the plenary sessions, the Annual Conference body had multiple opportunities for holy huddles, sometimes responding to questions from the speaker and other times unpacking an idea or concern that was brought up. The concepts of ripples flowed through each session and even into worship helping us all to realize that if we give God our best, great things are possible. But we have to dare to trust in God and push beyond whatever box we may be in.

Bishop Hoshibata gave a thorough summary of the reports from the Council of Bishops and corrected the misleading reports from others. His summary was not just a report, it was a discussion where the Annual Conference body was free to ask questions, had time for holy huddle discussions at their tables, and the Bishop detailed each of the Way Forward plans that were presented to the Council. He further clarified misconceptions by sharing his learnings from Bishops around the world. He shared that what he learned is that although some Conferences prefer the traditional plan, they were voting for the one church plan because they recognized the different contexts of our countries and felt that the one church plan was the best plan to ensure our unity.

Main actions enacted by the Conference included:

The first official action of the Annual Conference body was to elect a new Annual Conference Secretary. We gave thanks to our outgoing secretary, Rev. Nancy Cushman, and welcomed the 2019 Desert Southwest Annual Conference Secretary, Rev. Jennifer Lambert. The first legislative item was a revote of the Constitutional Amendment #1 from the 2016 General Conference. Details about why a revote was necessary are available at: http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/constitutional-amendment-to-be-revisited.

The 2020 elected Delegates for the Desert Southwest Conference are:

  • Rev. Dan Hurlbert – first elect clergy delegate to General Conference and first clergy delegate to Western Jurisdictional Conference
  • Rev. Anthony Tang – first reserve clergy delegate to General Conference and the second clergy delegate to the Western Jurisdictional Conference
  • Rev. Beth Rambikur – Western Jurisdictional Conference Delegate (clergy)
  • Rev. Dee Dee Azhikakath – Western Jurisdictional Conference Delegate (clergy)
  • Rev. Mary Klaehn – Western Jurisdictional Conference Delegate (clergy)
  • Rev. Javier Olivares – Western Jurisdictional Conference alternate (clergy)
  • Rev. Gary Kennedy – Western Jurisdictional Conference alternate (clergy)
  • Rev. Timote Piukala – Western Jurisdictional Conference alternate (clergy)
  • Paul Gomez – first elect lay delegate to General Conference and first lay delegate to Western Jurisdictional Conference
  • Julie O’Neal – first reserve lay delegate to General Conference and the second lay delegate to the Western Jurisdictional Conference
  • Trinity Donovan – Western Jurisdictional Conference Delegate (laity)
  • Carla Whitmire – Western Jurisdictional Conference Delegate (laity)
  • Glenda Hill – Western Jurisdictional Conference Delegate (laity)
  • Jessica Brown – Western Jurisdictional Conference alternate (laity)
  • Matthew Harris – Western Jurisdictional Conference alternate (laity)
  • Marjorie Hrabe – Western Jurisdictional Conference alternate (laity)

Photo by Barry DoyleThe Annual Conference mission projects were also the three worship offerings. Before Annual Conference and during the summer session, churches and people around the country were able to give and support the Inn Project, Arizona Justice for our Neighbors, and Tonga Cyclone Relief Effort. In addition to the monetary gifts, the Desert Southwest Conference gathered supplies requested by the sovereign nation of Tonga that they could not provide for themselves but were in desperate need of. Those items were collected in a huge shipping container that would journey to the people of Tonga, an island that is composed primarily of United Methodist people. Find out more about each of these ministries and continue to support them in prayer and monetary gifts by visiting https://dscumc.org/2018/04/annual-conference-mission-projects-3.

Rev. Nancy Cushman was elected as the next District Superintendent and Missional Strategist for the West District and as the rest of the appointments were announced, the other three existing District Superintendents accepted another year in the same appointment. Click here to download the complete 2018-2019 appointment list.

Resolutions adopted by the annual conference were:

Seven people were commissioned or ordained. One person was Recognized for Orders in The United Methodist Church and five clergy members retired.

  • Commissioned for the work of an elder: Asa Andrew Holly, Brooke Burris Isingoma
  • Ordained as elders: Paul Hyung Cho, Misty Michele Howick, Carl Roger Peterson, Timote Moana Piukala, Khalif Akil Smith, Sr.
  • Recognition of Orders: Robert Rynders
  • Retired: Rev. Andrea Andress, Rev. Tom Butcher, Rev. Michael Downing, Pastor Michael Keffer, and Rev. Michael Pearson.

The retiree video is available to watch again at https://vimeo.com/275006270/5c6ca0369f. All of the 2018 Annual Conference plenary sessions and worship services are available to watch online at www.livestream.com/dscumc.

The Desert Southwest Annual Conference membership stands at 29,255, down 1,693 from the previous year. The names of the districts reflect their geographical location: East, North, South, and West.

The Annual Conference attendance totaled 497 this year.

  • Laity = 304
  • Clergy = 193
  • Ordained, Commissioned, or received into Provisional = 8
  • Retired = 5

We celebrate the diversity in the Desert Southwest Conference and continue to find strength thanks to our differences and gain a sense of unity and hope because of God’s presence among all of us.

Age groups included:

  • Born before 1925 = 0
  • Born in years 1925-1942 = 59
  • Born in years 1943 – 1964 = 303
  • Born in year 1964 – 1979 = 73
  • Born in years 1980 – 2000 = 49
  • Born 2001 – Later = 13

Ethnic groups represented were:

  • African American = 19
  • Asian = 13
  • Caucasian = 420
  • Hispanic = 29
  • Multi = 4
  • Native American = 10
  • Pacific Islander = 2

Worship attendance stands at 19,541, down 1,600 from the previous year. Church school attendance stands at 3,706, up 5.3%. Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2017 were 792. Adults and young adults in small groups for 2017 were 10,328, up 0.1% from 2016 and worshippers engaged in mission for 2017 totaled 11,606, down 8.7% from 2016.

The Desert Southwest Conference consists of 118 churches and 12 fellowships. Although there were no new churches started in 2018, we anticipate a tidal wave of change in 2019 from the ripples that have begun this year. Will we see another flood of new faith communities sprouting in the desert once again similar to when this Conference was first created? Will we find fearless vitality cultivated in our churches stimulating new disciples of Jesus Christ? How many people will find comfort, love, and hope in Jesus because of the ripples that resulted in this year’s Annual Conference? Only God knows, but we give thanks to be a part of the disruption and change that is only possible through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


Find other images of this year’s Annual Conference at https://www.flickr.com/photos/dscumc.

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Author: Christina Dillabough

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