This year the Pacific Northwest and Oregon-Idaho annual conferences will be meeting in a shared session at the Red Lion on the River – Jantzen Beach in Portland, Oregon. Many are asking why this is happening and if it points to a conference merger or other structural change. While the church and its organization are dynamic and always open to change, the reason for the shared session is more straight forward.
It all started in 2014. As area leaders began planning to host the 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon, the team was looking for ways to help prospective volunteers from both conferences get to know the Oregon Convention Center, which would be the site of the General Conference.
That plan faded when no available date could be found on the calendar, but the idea of an opportunity for the Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences to gather together lived on. Bishop Grant Hagiya, assigned to the Greater Northwest Area at that time, asked the two conferences to move forward with the plan in 2017.
Upon arriving as the newly assigned bishop for the area, Bishop Elaine Stanovsky called upon a joint session planning team to bring the annual conference plans together with a focus on creating opportunities to build on their shared strengths and learn about the opportunities, challenges, gifts and passions they undoubtedly share.
Meeting together will provide the special opportunity to gather for an installation service for Bishop Stanovsky as the opening event. Representatives from the Alaska Conference will also join in for this official welcome to Bishop Stanovsky as the Presiding Bishop of the Greater Northwest Area on Wednesday, June 14 at 7:00 p.m.
The meeting location on the banks of the Columbia River symbolizes the connection of the conferences, and some meetings will be held just across the river in Vancouver, Washington.
With a new location, new faces, a new schedule, and a new bishop, members of both annual conferences will need to be attentive for changes from established patterns and expectations. But those changes, received with openness and grace, may allow them to see conference with fresh eyes and new insights into the ministry that is happening, and can be happening across the Greater Northwest Area.