Virtual sessions honor clergy, work ahead in GNW

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Rev. Joe Kim, Bothell UMC, was prepared to help lead worship at the beginning of the Pacific Northwest Conference virtual clergy session on Wednesday.

Amid the pandemics of COVID-19 and racism, clergy across the Greater Northwest Area gathered together virtually this week in lament for the state of our world. They also renewed their commitment to serve churches and communities of the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho, and Pacific Northwest Conferences and beyond.

Virtual clergy sessions were held in each of the three conferences on Tuesday and Wednesday, where clergy conducted, among other things, the business of reviewing their standing within their conferences, welcoming into the fold provisional elders and deacons along with deacons and elders in full connection within The United Methodist Church. 

In total, 21 people became provisional or full members with overwhelming approval from their clergy colleagues on Wednesday. Similar approval was given to those licensed as local pastors, and to a number of transfers in membership from other annual conferences and denominations.

Greater Northwest Episcopal Area Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky assured those who were to be commissioned and ordained during this year’s shared annual conference (which was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic) that they will be honored in the traditional worship service of laying-on-of-hands when the GNW Area gathers for Annual Conference in 2021.

Rev. Ric Shewell, pastor at Christ UMC Cedar Mill in west Portland, dressed up – kinda – for clergy session where he was voted into the Oregon-Idaho Conference as an elder in full connection.

Rev. Ric Shewell, elected as an elder in full connection in the Oregon-Idaho Conference on Wednesday, said he was mildly disappointed when he first learned there wouldn’t be ordination this year, but it pales in comparison to what the rest of the world is experiencing.

“First, I’m healthy and I’m privileged,” he said.

Though his election was done virtually, Shewell dressed up for the occasion – kinda.

He wore a dress shirt, tie, and suit jacket paired with jogging pants and sandals while he sat outside his home in west Portland waiting to make his theological statement via the Zoom webinar and then waiting for his colleagues to approve his elder status. He currently serves Christ United Methodist Church Cedar Mill.

“I’m so thankful for all my friends and colleagues who made it feel special, even though I was sitting in my backyard with my dog,” Shewell said.

Although she, too, is missing the piece of being surrounded by friends and family as she moves into her role as a deacon in full membership with the Pacific Northwest Conference, Kristin Joyner thinks the virtual clergy session had its benefits, too.

“I was thinking ‘this is saving us so much money that can be used for ministry,’” said Joyner, whose primary appoint is as director of community engagement at Bothell United Methodist Church. “Let’s use the money to spread the gospel.”

As she waited for her clergy colleagues to vote on her full membership on Wednesday, Joyner sat in her home with her laptop, snacks and water bottle, with her two dogs snuggled in next to her. Putting an ordination ceremony on hold won’t hold her back from ministry.

“I believe God has ordained me to do this work,” she said. 

The Alaska Conference Clergy Session operates differently. Because it is a Missionary Conference the clergy serving in Alaska are members of other conferences and there is no vote to approve persons for provisional or full membership in the conference. Instead, the clergy session becomes a time to focus on current issues faced by clergy and their churches, to share major joys and concerns, and to celebrate the ministry of those who are leaving the conference and those who are joining.

Time was spent addressing current restrictions on in-person worship and church life, giving clergy time to raise their concerns and hear from Bishop Elaine Stanovsky and Superintendent, Rev. Carlo Rapanut. There was also a discussion of the systemic racism and the church’s role in addressing that in the framework of a “Reaffirmation of the Baptismal Covenant” that the clergy of the Alaska Conference confessed their sin and affirmed their calling to renounce evil. This was all led by people of color who are serving in the conference; a statement on the role of people of color in ministry and a reminder of the voices that need to be heard as the church confronts the racism of its past and present.

Candidate voted into provisional membership as a deacon:

  • Sonya Davis, Pacific Northwest Conference

Candidates voted into provisional membership as elders and their respective conferences:

  • Drew Frisbie, Pacific Northwest Conference
  • Kalina Malua Katoa, Oregon-Idaho Conference
  • Thomas Orquiza-Renardo, Oregon-Idaho Conference
  • MiKyung Mia Park, Oregon-Idaho Conference
  • Jayde Rasband, Oregon-Idaho Conference
  • Gigi Siekkinen, Oregon-Idaho Conference
  • Fungalei Taufoou, Oregon-Idaho Conference

Provisional deacons elected into full membership and their respective conferences:

  • Mark Hearn, Pacific Northwest Conference
  • Kristin Joyner, Pacific Northwest Conference
  • Jeney Park-Hearn, Pacific Northwest Conference
  • Jennifer Willison Hirst, Oregon-Idaho Conference

Provisional elders elected into full membership and their respective conferences:

  • Laura Baumgartner, Pacific Northwest Conference
  • Pam Brokaw, Pacific Northwest Conference
  • Emily Carroll, Pacific Northwest Conference
  • Dione Corsilles, Pacific Northwest Conference
  • Dylan Hyun, Oregon-Idaho Conference
  • *Daniel Miranda, Pacific Northwest Conference
  • Amanda Nicol, Pacific Northwest Conference
  • Richard Shewell, Oregon-Idaho Conference
  • Zachary Taylor, Pacific Northwest Conference

The clergy sessions also voted to approve the retirement of members who have faithfully answered the call to ministry across the northwest and around the world. It also paused to remember the legacy of service given by those members who passed away since gathering in 2019. 

Annual Conferences will likely have additional opportunities to acknowledge all of these transitions when they gather to engage essential business in the fall.

*Miranda was elected in as a full member from another denomination, American Baptist

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