Our Desert Southwest Annual Conference met June 13-16, 2019, in Mesa, AZ, bringing together more than 400 clergy and lay members from United Methodist Churches in the Southwest. They gathered for worship, holy conferencing on important issues, and decision-making. They passed legislation, ordained new clergy, and conducted other important Conference business. Pastors Dave Summers, Brenda Smith, and Christopher Wurpts were also reappointed by Bishop Bob Hoshibata to serve another year of ministry at Paradise Valley United Methodist Church.
A reflection from Pastor Dave…
There was much discussion about what happened at General Conference in February and the Traditional Plan that was approved regarding human sexuality and the church. Our Desert Southwest Conference voted to stand against that plan by a very large majority. As we look to the future of the United Methodist Church and our Conference, ten teams were organized to work this year in helping to prepare our own way forward. These teams include communications, connections, conversations, amicable separation, legal, financial, theology, dreaming a new Methodism, disaffiliation, and spiritual. If you have an interest in being a part of one of these team, please let one of the clergy know. — Dave Summers, PVUMC senior pastor
Reflections from the lay delegates…
What stood out to me was not necessarily a single moment or issue, but rather the Annual Conference as a whole in terms of interweaving bureaucratic complexity with clergy and laity dedication/ commitment. Given our structure, organization, and administrative design, conducting United Methodist Church business is no easy task, and what so impressed me was the willingness of those who attended the conference to take on the challenge of working through very challenging issues. I am not sure I have ever seen a harder working, dedicated church group over the course of three and a half very long days. I was blessed to be a part of it. — William Terrill, Professor, Arizona State University, School of Criminology & Criminal Justice
There were two things that stood out and were meaningful to me from this year’s Annual Conference. The first was the Lay Session on our first day when we spent the entire time exploring different kinds of prayer. The session was very effective in showing all of us a number of different ways to pray. The second was the time the Conference spent in developing and discussing a statement in support of being welcoming and inclusive to ALL people and against the disappointing action taken at General Conference with respect to the Traditional Plan as a way forward for the UMC. I believe there were great strides made by the DSC [Desert Southwest Conference] in identifying and supporting a way forward for our conference that will allow us to be loving and supportive and accepting of All our brothers & sisters in Christ. – Kent Heltne
The Desert Southwest Annual Conference 2019 was my first experience as a delegate. The issues were controversial at times and stances were often passionate. I listened to the arguments on both sides and voted in a way that I felt best served and represented PVUMC. I think the highlight for me was being able to interact with my fellow delegates/clergy from PVUMC. Going out together for meals allowed us to build relationships with each other as well as discuss the issues that had been placed before us. I definitely consider it to be a valuable experience. – Pam Poley
I was struck by the dedication among delegates to emerge from the anti-gay stance of the General Conference vote toward an inclusive organization supportive of all God’s people. The various statements and resolutions that were passed at the Desert Southwest Annual Conference reflected this inclusivity, and there was an overwhelming response to join Conference teams set up to address how DSC churches would move forward. We were asked to contribute ideas and I was grateful for the opportunity to help with the process. During the conference, I was frequently moved in hearing about the variety of projects initiated by DSC churches to help their communities, but especially the churches who provide shelter and humanitarian relief to asylum seekers. Their work is affecting so many lives now, and the benefits will be felt for years to come. While the legislative process seemed cumbersome, the overall experience was inspiring and made me proud to be a United Methodist. – Roanne Wallace
Pastors Christopher, Dave and Brenda were joined by lay delegates Roanne Wallace, Bill Terrill, Pam Poley, Diana Bode, and Kent Heltne at this year’s Desert Southwest Annual Conference.