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Report of the 40th California-Pacific Annual Conference Session

The California-Pacific Annual Conference held its 40th annual session in Burbank, California from June 12 to 15, 2024. Bishop Dottie Escobedo-Frank presided over the session with the theme of “Flourish.” Bishop Escobedo-Frank opened the session on Wednesday and delivered a message on the theme, focusing on our movement from last year’s theme Nourish to this year’s of Flourish. She encouraged the members to consider what is shackling them from becoming who or what they are called by God to be. She asked us to work together in community and in our physical spaces so that our churches and our conference can make progress on our vision to end spiritual and physical hunger.

Guest speakers and memorable points or quotes by speakers: Rev. Jenny Phillips, Director of Environmental Sustainability at Global Ministries, spoke on Thursday, June 13, delivering a talk entitled “We Can Do Something About This: Faith and Action for the Climate Crisis.” On Friday, June 14, Dr. Frank Rogers spoke about “Flourishing in the Midst of Trauma: Spiritual Resources for Healing and Recovery.” Dr. Frank Rogers is the Muriel Bernice Roberts Professor of Spiritual Formation and Narrative Pedagogy and the codirector of the Center for Engaged Compassion at the Claremont School of Theology. On Saturday, Erin Hawkins, Executive Director of Connectional Ministries for Cal-Pac, gave a closing speech encouraging the conference to stay rooted in our faith in order to flourish.

The conference session also featured three interactive panels. Wednesday’s panel focused on flourishing after this year’s General Conference and discussed inclusion from a variety of perspectives. Rev. Dr. Denyse Barnes, the Director of Justice and Compassion Essential Ministry Team for Cal-Pac, hosted the panel, which also included Deborah Bass, Monalisa Tuitahi, Pastor VJ Cruz, and Rev. Eugene Han.

Thursday’s panel discussed flourishing as an annual conference, focusing on budgetary developments and the path leading to a Special Called Session in October to approve the budget. The panel was hosted by Dr. Alyssa Fisher, Director of Communications for Cal-Pac, and included Cal-Pac interim Treasurer Christy Drenner, Cal-Pac Executive Director of Connectional Ministries Erin Hawkins, Rev. Molly Vetter, Rev. George Hooper, and Rev. John Woodall.

On Friday, the panel discussed flourishing as a local church. Rev. Ken Suhr, Director of Leadership and Congregational Vitality hosted the conversation with Rev. Lydia Sohn, Rev. Jonathan Chute, Burnetta Tate, and Jason Tucker. Each panel concluded with a directed time of discussion for conference attendees.

A special offering was collected during the session in support of the Susanna Wesley Community Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Bishop Escobedo-Frank hosted the Bishop’s award ceremony on Friday, June 14. Seven members of the California-Pacific Annual Conference were honored and received awards, including Gloria Auburn, Rev. Dr. Bau Dang, Arlene Dempster, Winnie James, Albino “Al” Pineda, Natividad Torres Lagaso, and Rev. Dr. Lydia Jackson Waters.

The legislative action of the conference session included approving a Hispanic Ministries Special Sunday during Hispanic Heritage Month. Several resolutions were approved in recognition of and support for groups and governmental action including LGBTQIA+ people, tourism and hospitality workers, trafficked workers from the Philippines, solidarity with the Filipino people, living wages and the right to organize for all, gun violence as a public health emergency, peace in the Holy Land, and care for God’s creation. The commitments of these resolutions include actions such as new task forces, letters of support to foreign and domestic government agencies, and the inclusion of pronouns on all name badges at official conference gatherings.

The conference membership also approved and recognized the need for ongoing training for conference leaders, District Committee on Ordained Ministry, and the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry to provide support and reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities who answer their call to ministry.

Two resolutions recognized the need for the ratification of worldwide regionalization, and established support for the conference’s ongoing education around these actions.

One of the final pieces of legislation was a resolution in support of Living Out the Big Table Theology, submitted by the Pacific Island Commission. The resolution affirmed the California-Pacific Annual Conference’s commitment to “live into the reality of the Big Table, a place where there is room for everyone in God’s kin-dom,” and to “carry out their work in responsible ways that will ensure that Pacific Islanders and other more traditional faith communities continue to faithfully carry out their mission in their authentic context; and…engage in mutual relationship building that will lead to mutual respect and honoring of the different ethnicity, theologies and beliefs in the local church setting and beyond.”

Two recommendations to close churches in the conference were approved. Immanuel United Methodist Church, Saipan, will be discontinued effective June 15, 2024, and Community United Methodist Church in Winchester, California, will be discontinued effective June 30, 2024.

Total attendance for the session was 1,104, with 511 lay members, 415 clergy members, and 178 guests in attendance.

The next budget of the California-Pacific Annual Conference will be voted on during a Special Called Session on October 5, 2024.

There were 16 people ordained, commissioned, or received into associate membership, with an average age of 49. The annual conference session also celebrated the retirement of 26 clergy.

Following the special called session on October 5, 2024, the next gathering of the California-Pacific Annual Conference will be June 11-14, 2025, with the theme “Cherish.”