From the Office of Bishop Grant
With the life-changing reality of COVID-19 and the effects it has had on our United Methodist Church, I write this introductory reflection to the churches, laity, and clergy of the Desert Southwest Conference. First, let us remember all those we have lost across the world to the ravages of the global pandemic. Most of us know someone we have lost to COVID-19, and we continue to pray for their surviving families and loved ones.
The direct effect that the global pandemic has had on our United Methodist Church is what has brought me to be in relationship with all of you. We had to cancel our 2020 General Conference, and the Western Jurisdictional Conference, where we would elect new bishops. Instead of retiring, I will continue for a short interim until we can hold the 2022 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. Since Bishop Hoshibata preferred to move to a much-deserved retirement, I will be serving until we can elect new bishops. I will continue to serve both the California-Pacific Conference and the Desert Southwest Conference during this interim period.
I know you realize what a huge responsibility this is, and I ask for your continued prayers during this period. Fortunately, I have had experience in taking on an additional annual conference in my history. I was serving the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference and the Alaska Missionary Conference, when in 2012, our Western Jurisdiction lost one bishop, and we decided to combine the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference into one region called the Greater Northwest Area. So, I know a bit about what this means and, hopefully, have had some experiences that will help us navigate this change.
First of all, there is no ulterior motive to merge the annual conferences or Episcopal areas. We were once one annual conference, and with the strength of the Arizona and southern Nevada areas, you formed the Desert Southwest Conference, and have thrived in the process. With a smaller footprint, I believe that Cal-Pac has also thrived. I believe that for future growth and prosperity, we should have two independent annual conferences and Episcopal areas. However, we can enhance each other by sharing programming, leadership, and vital resources. My vision is that we can provide cross-conference resourcing to each other and becoming stronger by sharing vital ministries.
Second, I will only be here in the Desert Southwest for a short season of time, yet, we cannot stand still waiting. We must actively move forward in ministry: improving, innovating, and creating new forms of ministry that will evangelize new people into our churches. Now is not a time to hunker down and wait out this interim period. Instead, it is a time of dynamic outreach and growth where we aim to expand our ministries. I hope to serve as a catalyst for this growth, but all of us as local leaders must also enter this mindset and commit to such action. If we have learned anything from COVID-19, it is that we can continue to do life-giving ministry, even with limited physical access. I am challenging all of us to step up our commitment to creativity and innovation and find new ways of doing the ministry of Jesus Christ!
Finally, my style of leadership is one of transparency and trust. I always have an open door in terms of communication, and by extension, the Cabinet and staff will also model this openness. Trust, of course, has to be earned, and the best way to reach this is through consistent and integral actions. I pledge to give my all toward earning such trust, and I pray that you will join me in the active reshaping of ministry in our Desert Southwest Conference.
I do not believe it is just fate that has brought us together, but the providence of God is a mighty factor in all of life, and I pray that there is a divine reason for our time together. I relish the gift of this time with all of you!
Be the Hope,