Dear Lay and Clergy Members of the Desert Southwest Conference,
Grace and peace to you in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ!
Last week, in our Annual Conference session, we gathered to (among other things) worship and pray, to celebrate our successful Imagine No Malaria campaign, to witness commissioning and ordination of clergy leadership, to celebrate clergy retirements, to nominate and elect leaders for the Conference and the whole Church, to adopt our budget for 2017, and to learn about a new Initiative for Growth and Vitality for our Churches. I hope you were excited and energized to go out into the world to infuse our congregations and communities with the spirit of Jesus Christ!
I have been reflecting on the action we took on a resolution that was offered to the body on Saturday afternoon. Following a great presentation by Jim Griffith about creating new places for new people, I was moved to address the conference. I shared my thoughts about our Conference and its future. (Bishop’s Video) In the following plenary session, Rev. Stephen Govett asked for a moment of personal privilege during which he and two of our young people, Nadalynn Erazo and Tim Hoskinson introduced a resolution to the body. (Resolution document).
There was a brief time of conversation about the resolution. In hindsight, I should have given the body some time to discuss the resolution at our tables. I regret that I did not do so and I apologize for my error. The motion to adopt the resolution was amended to have the vote taken by written ballot. The vote was taken and results were announced a few minutes later. The tally was 271 voting for the resolution and 80 against.
On Sunday, in our final plenary session, Rev. Dr. Jimelvia Pettiford Martin made a request. She asked that in order to assist in the interpretation of the resolution “in a loving manner,” a resource be developed for use in churches. I received her request and committed myself to do what she had requested.
I am writing to you because I have been in contact with a number of you who were present at Conference. I know that the way in which the resolution was brought to the body, the lack of adequate time to discuss it prayerfully, as well as the resolution itself are causing concern and anxiety for many persons, lay and clergy. I know that the resolution will be received by good and faithful United Methodists in your congregations who both agree and disagree with the statements and provisions of the resolution. In response to Rev. Martin’s request for a resource, I am including with this letter a document that contains some questions and answers that may be helpful to you as you seek to understand the resolution and as you share about the resolution with persons in your congregation who are interested in knowing more about it and what its impact may be for us.
Many other experiences occupied our time together in our Annual Conference session. I felt a spirit of joy and celebration as well as a desire to work together for the success of the Initiative for Growth and Vitality. There is much that we can be doing as we lead our congregations into new ways of infusing our church and our communities with the love of God. I pray that all of us, laity and clergy alike, will meet the challenges of growth and increased vitality of our churches with the Holy Spirit leading us. And I pray that we will keep being a Christ-like inclusive church with a strong faith in a God who loves all persons, asks us to do no less, and walks with us in the journey.
As always, I am open to receiving your comments, questions and prayers! I am keeping each of you in prayer and I ask for your prayers as we move into our future!
Robert T. Hoshibata,
The Desert Southwest Annual Conference The United Methodist Church