by Bishop Bob Hoshibata
May 11, 2021
Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,
Grace and peace to you in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ, who calls us to ministry!
I am writing to share with you a decision I have made regarding my retirement from active ministry as your bishop. As many of you know, I was scheduled to retire last year. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a postponement of the 2020 General Conference and retirements were also postponed because of that. Since that time, the Council of Bishops has worked to determine how bishops who have reached the mandatory retirement age can be retired since provisions in the Book of Discipline do not allow for retirements in a time of disruption of the usual sequence of conferences. It has been a long process, but finally, there is clarity about how retirements can happen.
The Council of Bishops has laid out two viable options for my retirement. The first is Voluntary Retirement, which allows a Bishop to retire in much the same way retirements take place for our clergy. This option is outlined in ¶ 408.2a of the 2016 Book of Discipline. Voluntary Retirement allows a retiree to move from active to retired status without any expectations of any ministry during retirement.
The second option is Vocational Retirement, which is appropriate when an active Bishop desires to move into a different kind of ministry in retirement. The provisions for Vocational Retirement are in ¶ 408.2b. In this case, a Bishop moves from active residential episcopacy to a new form of vocation. Typical examples of this are a Bishop-in-Residence at a seminary. In this option, a Bishop would have some obligations on her or his time, energy, and attention.
As I considered these two options, after prayerful discernment and consultation, I have decided to request Voluntary Retirement. This requires the approval of the Western Jurisdiction Conference. A special session of this conference will be taking place soon, at which time there will be a motion to permit me to retire. Although the date for the conference has not been announced, I have requested retirement as of October 1, 2021.
When I began my assignment to the DSC, I shared with you my hope that we would engage in the holy work of imagination to lead us in the days ahead. In my episcopal address last year, I reminded us that God is present with us in this liminal space, between what we have been and what God is calling us to become. While we have certainly had to use our imaginations, especially in the past year, we know that God is faithful, present with us, holding us tight and walking with us in these times.
During my time with you, I have been blessed with the great privilege and responsibility of guiding the clergy and laity of the Desert Southwest Conference. I have been blessed with the privilege of ordaining deacons and elders and appointing those who serve among you. It has been an honor to offer my spiritual leadership and vision; of presiding during annual conference sessions; and of working with the Appointive and Extended Cabinets, with our faithful staff and with outstanding lay and clergy.
My decision places the Desert Southwest Conference in an uncertain position in terms of episcopal leadership. While the Council of Bishops has determined that retirements of bishops can take place, the Council has also determined that elections of new bishops cannot occur until the Western Jurisdiction Conference that takes place after the next in-person General Conference. The next in-person General Conference is presently scheduled for August 29 to September 6, 2022. The subsequent Western Jurisdiction Conference is scheduled after that, in the fall of 2022. That means that the Desert Southwest Conference will not welcome your next resident bishop until the election of new bishops takes place in the fall of 2022.
In the interim, a vacancy in the office of the bishop in an annual conference is filled by the Council of Bishops, in accordance with ¶ 407. A number of groups are to be consulted. Among them are the Desert Southwest Conference Committee on Episcopacy and our cabinet. With their input, a team of persons from the Western Jurisdiction will be working on a recommendation to the Council. I will be keeping you abreast of the progress of that process as I am able.
In the meantime, between now and October 1, there is much that you and I are called to do. We are focusing on our upcoming Annual Conference session, as well as many programs and ministries that speak of our commitment to spiritual growth, social justice, eliminating racism, proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to our neighborhoods and communities and supporting one another as we emerge anew from the difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Let us turn our energy and our faith to engage lovingly in the work that is yet ahead of us. As we do so, I ask that we keep each other in prayer and that we “fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV).
Click here to read the letter in Spanish.
Click here to read the letter in Korean.