Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,
The 20th Session of the Western Jurisdiction Conference of The United Methodist Church which met in Scottsdale, Arizona, was brought to order on July 14, and was adjourned on July 16, 2016. In those three days, momentous, memorable things occurred. I’d like to share some reflections with you. However, first and foremost, let me express my deep appreciation to our Desert Southwest team of planners and volunteers who poured out abundant blessings in welcoming and caring for the 100 delegates and the many more visitors and observers present at the Conference. The members and staff of North Scottsdale UMC, Paradise Valley UMC, and Central UMC also were “bend-over-backwards” generous in providing support for worship and meetings.
During this conference much was accomplished! The conference:
- worshiped with spirit and devotion led by planner and coordinator Rev. Susan Brims and her team.
- remembered and gave thanks for Western Jurisdiction leaders who had died since the last Conference in 2012. Those memorialized included Pastor Diana Williams who served as Western representative to the National Committee on Deaf and Hearing Impaired Ministries; and the Rev. Dr. Jane Tews, who was a delegate to General and Jurisdictional Conferences. (Click here to watch the archived video.)
- heard spirit-filled testimony and visions for the Church of the future from inspirational leaders who had offered themselves for the office of bishop. Our own candidate, Dottie Escobedo-Frank was stellar in her candidacy, including her speech as she withdrew from candidacy. (Click here to read Dottie’s Gift of Words.)
- celebrated the ministry and leadership of Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr., who retires from his episcopal assignment to the San Francisco area. (Click here to watch the retirement video)
- engaged in discerning, prayer around the future of our church and our jurisdiction.
- adopted a budget, received reports, and elected leadership for our Jurisdiction. (Click here to find out more.)
- took the delegates to the Heard Museum for a tour and a discussion about the ways we might continue the Acts of Repentance for injustices committed by the church against indigenous people. (Click here to see photos of this outing and the rest of the conference events.)
- engaged in fellowship, laughed and cried together.
- felt the presence of God’s Holy Spirit in many ways during the Conference.
- elected a new bishop for our Jurisdiction, the Rev. Karen Oliveto. Bishop Oliveto has been serving as senior pastor of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco. I have admired her strong leadership at that church where the poor, homeless, hungry and those at the farthest periphery of society are welcome, served, and loved. (Click here to read her letter.)
Bishop Oliveto’s election and consecration have raised questions by some. (UMNS has the story.) These questions are being received and will be addressed. But for this moment, I want to share some personal reflections with you. From my perspective, Bishop Oliveto might best be described as a child of God with a pastoral heart for all persons, a profound appreciation for creation, one who connects intentionally and deeply with God, and a servant to all in the name of Christ.
I share these thoughts based on my acquaintance with Bishop Oliveto both before and after she became a bishop of The United Methodist Church. This is what I feel is important for you to know about her.
She is first, and foremost, a child of God. As a pastor, Bishop Oliveto loves all persons and has led her local church to practice that love. She will lead us all into that understanding and experience of the open arms of God embracing and loving all of us. Bishop Oliveto enjoys and honors God’s created world and finds her spiritual grounding by, among other ways, being outdoors, with a particular passion for hiking. And in those moments, she is renewed and refreshed in her relationship with God. She has a humble servant’s heart and a desire to give of herself to the church.
In the future, we will have opportunities to get to know Bishop Oliveto more deeply. I am looking forward to this with the high expectation that she will be a bishop for all in the name of Christ who called her to ministry.
As you might guess from these reflections, the Western Jurisdiction Conference was momentous and memorable. It will go down in history as a conference that changed the way we understand and practice our United Methodist faith. And it will long be remembered as a conference which demonstrated the extravagant hospitality of the people of the Desert Southwest Conference!
And, oh yes. Let me mention one more thing. Five active bishops of the Jurisdiction were assigned to the areas where they will lead for the next 4 years. (Click here to find out more.) And I am blessed by the assignment to return to the Desert Southwest Conference to be your bishop for 4 more years. Greta and I receive that news with great joy and celebration! We love you deeply!
Desert Southwest Conference
The United Methodist Church