The following is a post conference update to the congregation about the 2012 California Pacific Annual Conference, submitted by JP Harris.
Once again, the University of Redlands was the scene for this annual gathering of United Methodists from throughout the Cal-Pac Annual Conference. Held June 14 through 17, eight members of our congregation attended in various capacities. They were Paul Audley, Barbara Gorton, JP Harris, Garry Hart, Marilynne Kennedy, Melanie McCann, Michael Moore, Wanda Gae Stefansson along with all of our clergy. Annual Conference is a time for renewal, reconnecting with friends, raising your voice loudly in song with other United Methodists, and charting the course for our churches for the next year and beyond. There are 378 churches in our Annual Conference and virtually all were represented in the over 1,200 attendees.
This Annual Conference was the last to recognize the 7 California Districts. Effective July 1, the Annual Conference is re-aligned into 4 California Districts, the Hawaii District remaining unchanged. We have gone from 8 Districts (7 California plus Hawaii) to 5. First Church is now part of the new North District and our District Superintendent is Rev. Dr. Cedrick Bridgeforth, whom many of you met when he gave our Consecration Sunday sermon two years ago. The North District office has been moved to Chatsworth from its former location at Sierra Madre UMC. (By the way, Sierra Madre UMC is in the new East District.)
The District Re-alignment, in general, has parts of Pasadena and all of Santa Barbara District rolling into the new North District, the Los Angeles, Long Beach and parts of Santa Ana Districts becoming the West District, parts of Pasadena and all of Riverside District becomes the East District and parts of Santa Ana, Riverside and San Diego districts become the South District. The last time the Districts were re-aligned was in 1984, and this current re-alignment closely follows where we were in 1951.
The realignment will cause us to re-examine how we as local churches relate to one another. To foster a greater reaching out to other churches, and the communities in which we live, churches are now grouped into Mission Areas. The Mission Areas will push us out of our silos and cause greater collaboration with our neighboring congregations, bringing our strengths to a common table where everyone will benefit. It is hoped it will act as a force multiplier, giving us greater strength, flexibility and availability to shared resources and aid us all in meeting the mission of the church, “To Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World.”
The Pasadena Mission Area consists of 7 UMC congregations: Altadena, Pasadena First, Holliston, Saint James, Scott, South Pasadena, and Immanuel (Highland Park). Our calling has always been to serve the world around us, in partnership with one another. Mission Areas will re-emphasize what has always been our core function.
Worship is an integral part of Annual Conference. There were numerous worship services held over the 4 day event and on Sunday we all joined for our traditional Sunday Worship Service. Although all the services were moving and gave you a chance to sing loudly with other like-minded Methodists, to me the most moving worship services were the Memorial and Communion Service and the Ordination Service.
The Memorial and Communion Service gave us a chance to pay tribute and remember those members of our clergy and their spouses that are “Absent from the body, Present with the Lord.” We learned a lot of church history and other interesting facts. I learned that Rev. David Sharp, the founder and owner of Sharp Seating, the company that provides virtually all of the seating for the Rose Parade, including the seating directly in front of our church, AND who assisted us greatly last year with ticket sales for our New Year’s morning Pancake Breakfast fund raiser, was a former Nazarene and United Methodist minister, serving in Pomona, Northridge, Honolulu and Tustin. He passed away on October 4, 2011 at age 89.
We also learned that Rev. Don Shelby, who passed away on April 4th of this year at age 81 and is the father of Darla Dyson, was truly a pillar of our church and widely respected by the entire Annual Conference, having spent 45 years in Southern California as a United Methodist pastor and mentor to many of our clergy. His presence will be sorely missed.
The Ordination Service was equally moving as we watched persons who had formerly been in service to our congregation being granted provisional and full connection status. Rev. Bob Rhodes, formerly our Youth Pastor here at First Church, became a Provisional Elder, on loan to the Nebraska Annual Conference in service as an Associate Pastor at Trinity UMC in Grand Island, Nebraska. Additionally, Rev. Colleen Windham-Hughes, who also previously served our church, became a Deacon in Full Connection, on appointment as a professor at California Lutheran College.
A large part of each Annual Conference is the consideration of legislation that governs the churches within our Annual Conference. This year was no different and there were many resolutions that were acted upon. Budget is never a small part of the proceedings, and this year it was even larger as the Annual Conference continues to struggle with reduced apportionment monies from local churches. Additionally, a new accounting system was introduced which further complicated the process as existing functions were re-categorized within the five Essential Ministry Teams. After two separate sessions prioritizing where the Annual Conference would spend its resources, the apportioned budget (the only portion voted upon by the Annual Conference) was approved at over $12 million within a Total Conference Budget for 2013 of over $26.8 million. The entire budgetary process re-emphasizes the importance of paying our apportionment so the important work of the Annual Conference can be carried out within our many and varied ministries.
Starting in 2000, the Cal-Pac Annual Conference has passed, and at each subsequent Annual Conference re-affirmed, our commitment to being specifically inclusive of all persons. As many are aware, every 4 years United Methodists from around the world hold a General Conference. At the 2012 General Conference, a resolution passed stating that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. In response to that resolution, the California-Pacific Annual Conference renounced that statement, declared the statement itself was incompatible with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Additionally, the Annual Conference affirmed the sacred worth of all persons, including members of the LGBTQ community; committed to continuing to build inclusive Christian communities in our churches, where LGBTQ lay persons and clergy are loved and welcomed; and we invited churches and individuals to adopt this statement, and join in living out its principles.
Another resolution was passed which was deeply troubling in that it dealt with the discontinuance of St. Mark’s UMC in Anaheim. Last year, Crescent Heights UMC in West Hollywood was also discontinued. Although new ministries are starting within our Annual Conference, a resolution to discontinue reminds all of us that we cannot take for granted the continued existence of any church. We must be energetic in renewing our churches. We must strive to be welcoming to all persons that today are unknown to us. We must be a church that truly lives the mission statement “Open hearts, Open minds, Open doors.” This coming year Pasadena First must renew our commitment to live out our own mission: “Christ is Calling! Come. Worship. Serve.”
At the conclusion of the conference on Sunday, a celebratory luncheon was held in honor of Bishop Mary Ann Swenson and her husband, Jeff, and her 39 years of ministry as they begin a new chapter in their lives, retirement. Although we are all wondering who will be appointed the new Bishop, we will all just have to wait and see!
If you want more information, go to www.cal-pac.org and click on the 2012 Annual Conference button within Directories on the left. A complete list of the agenda and all documents associated with all of the various topics discussed and voted on are found there.