The 175th California Nevada Annual Conference Session of the United Methodist Church met in person June 15-18, 2023 in Sacramento, California.
The theme of the conference was “Witnesses of a New Thing” from Isaiah 43:19.
Interim Bishop Sally Dyck presided over the conference through Saturday. Retired Bishop Warner H. Brown presided over the Sunday, June 18th session, as Bishop Dyck was called to another meeting in her role as ecumenical officer for the Council of Bishops.
Author and speaker, the Rev. Rebekah Simon-Peter, served as the keynote speaker throughout the conference, sharing on conflict and renewal. Worship throughout the conference was led by The Many, a Chicago-based worship collective.
The clergy and laity sessions took place at the convention center on Thursday afternoon. Both sessions were very well attended. The clergy session, a closed gathering, moved through the agenda with time to spare. The laity session was a celebration of service, inviting folks to dream like Jesus. Simon-Peter gave the keynote address. Esther Taufa and Lesila Leger of Café Agape set the tone with energizing praise and worship music.
The combined opening worship and memorial service took place on Thursday evening at First United Methodist Church Sacramento. The Rev. Ella Luna-Garza gave the message, “O When the Saints” and reminded the congregation, “history matters; your testimony matters; your witness matters.”
The first of three special offerings took place during the memorial service, totaling just under $3,600 for the Conference Necessitous Fund. The second offering took place during the ordination service, bringing in over $4,000 for the Ministerial Education Fund.
The final offering benefitting Native American Ministries totaled almost $10,000. All three funds are still accepting offerings. More information can be found on the 2023 Annual Conference Session website.
Bishop Dyck’s episcopal address took place on Friday morning and focused on moving forward, “Let’s be United Methodists! …Last year, I told you ‘to do your job’ because you can’t just stop and wait for something to happen… . We always have to keep going, listening to God in the context of today.”
Conference Lay Leader Micheal Pope gave the lay message. “Social justice action is God’s work,” stated Pope, “I am witnessing a new thing… . We need to pivot to another way of being with each other! We have to change and create pathways and bridges… be willing to embrace something we don’t know what it is… . Get back out there, my siblings, the world is waiting for you!”
Several General Conference delegates reported on the upcoming activities and delegates for the 2024 legislative session.
The Rev. Ili Vunisuwai, president of the Methodist Church of Fiji and Rotuma greeted the session on Friday morning. The 2024 budget was presented by Rev. Kristin Stoneking, chair of the Council on Finance and Administration, who celebrated the sixth year of the California-Nevada Conference paying 100% of the conference apportionment.
The California-Nevada Conference Core Team presented the new conference vision statement, “Following Jesus, Thriving in Community, Healing the World” which was officially moved and passed.
The Committee on Native American Ministries presented a Report on Methodist Involvement in Indian Boarding Schools within California and Nevada. The report was paired with a series of video interviews, one with Beverly Ogle, a Mountain Maidu author whose relatives were sent to boarding schools. The second set of interviews featured Susan and Dan McConnel, who worked as teachers at the Navajo Methodist Mission School in 1975.
Twenty-one retiring clergy with over 600 combined years of service were celebrated and recognized. At the Saturday night ordination service, 11 first time licensed local pastors, 4 provisional elders, 2 deacons and 7 elders were commissioned or ordained. The conference received two transfers of membership from the West Ohio Conference.
All legislative items on the consent calendar passed. Items passed included the formations of two committees, one on Tongan ministry and one on Children and Family ministries, a resolution on climate — responsible finance, and a resolution addressing the relocation of migrants to Sacramento.
The body voted to close four churches: Jamestown, Kerman, Lindsay and Vacaville, St. Paul’s. The Conference Board of Trustees presented item 3.e with the six names of churches requesting disaffiliation: Anderson, Trinity United Methodist Church; Battle Mountain United Methodist Church; Firebaugh-Mendota United Methodist Church; Montague United Methodist Church; Riverdale United Methodist Church; Weldon United Methodist Church. After discussion, the item passed with more than a 2/3 vote. The vote was followed by a liturgy led by Bishop Dyck and The Many.
Recognitions of excellence in service and leadership honored the work of churches and individuals. One Matters awards were presented jointly by Discipleship Ministries and the UM Foundation. Instead of a single church, awards were presented to one church from each district including: Great Northern District: Trinity United Methodist Church, Chico; El Camino Real District: San Jose First United Methodist Church; Los Rios District: Sacramento Wesley United Methodist Church; Central Valley District: Clovis Memorial United Methodist Church; Bay District: Berkeley Korean United Methodist Church. Lay Leader Micheal Pope received the Bishop Melvin Talbert Award, Theresa Jiggets and Steve Elliott each received the Bishop Warner Brown Award.
The Commissioning Service took place Saturday evening. Interim Bishop Sally Dyck gave the message titled “Terms and Conditions for Ministry,” which featured a rough-riding, Jeep-driving, scarf-flying-in-the-wind Holy Spirit that transported Jesus to and from the wilderness. Rather than give into the temptations of authority in the wilderness, Jesus shows us another model — one of leading from love.
Sunday morning was presided over by Bishop Warner Brown and began with a worship service commemorating Juneteenth. Bishop Brown gave the message, entitled “Juneteenth: Audacious Faith in the Future.” He spoke about his childhood and trying to understand of parts of stories unspoken. “We need courage to tell each other the truth and courage to listen.”
Sunday concluded with an offering for conference Native American Ministries and a recognition of the 40 youth and young adult delegates attending conference.
Statistics and Data:
Membership stands at 47,633, down 2,126 from the previous year.
Worship attendance stands at 14,315, up 1,015.
Online worship attendance stands at 13,243, down 6,677.
Church school attendance stands at 3,272, down 1,016.
Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2022 836, up from 562 in 2021.
Adults and young adults in small groups for 2022, 10,638, up from 10,147 in 2021.
Worshippers engaged in mission for 2022, 12,494, up from 11,558 in 2021.
— Hanna Widlund, California-Nevada Conference communications associate.