United Methodists in the Pacific Northwest Conference,
I’m writing you from Anchorage, Alaska, where clergy and laity from 29 churches across the state will gather on Saturday to decide whether to ask to remove its status as a missionary conference and to become part of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference. This proposal was developed by the Alaska Conference Leadership Team, in response to several considerations:
- Financial and administrative support from the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) has diminished over the years and is likely to be discontinued in the near future.
- GBGM intends to discontinue missionary conferences within the United States altogether, which would require Alaska to be included in another Annual Conference.
- A sense that United Methodist Churches in the Western Jurisdiction of the US should take responsibility for supporting the ministries in their area that are not self-sustaining.
- A desire for Alaskan United Methodists to have a role in determining their own future, rather than waiting for others to determine their future.
If Alaskan United Methodists approve this proposal, it could have significant implications for the Pacific Northwest Conference. I want you to be aware of the important matters being considered this week, and their possible impacts on the Pacific Northwest Conference.
There are multiple steps to this process before it is final. The sequence of actions necessary for this change to occur is:
- February 22 – Alaskan United Methodists request to no longer be organized as a missionary conference.
- May 5-15 – General Conference approves this request.
- July 15-18 – Western Jurisdictional Conference redefines the boundaries of the Annual Conferences in the West to include the churches of Alaska in the Pacific Northwest Conference.
Of course, depending on what happens at General Conference, we will have the opportunity to discuss these matters in June, when the three conferences of the Greater Northwest Area – Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest – meet together in a shared Annual Conference session in Puyallup.
I hope that as you consider this possibility, and as you talk with your friends about it, your interest and concerns will be for the future of Methodist faithfulness in the northwest, and how we can be stronger together than we are separate.
God is at work in the Greater Northwest in powerful and hopeful ways. We are invited and privileged to be invited to join God’s work as United Methodist disciples of Jesus Christ. I look forward to the conversations and deliberations as these possibilities emerge during the spring and summer.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky