PO Box 6006
Pasadena CA 91102-6006
110 S Euclid Ave
Pasadena CA 91101
About California-Pacific Conference of The United Methodist Church
Adapted from the Conference Episcopacy Committee Report to the Western Jurisdiction, December 2011
A. Geographical location & description:
- The California counties of Imperial, Inyo, Kern (only that portion described as the Antelope Valley to the base of the Tehachapi Mountains and that portion extending easterly from the Sierra Nevada Mountains), Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara (excluding the town of New Cuyama), Ventura, and excluding the cities bordering the Colorado River (namely Blythe, Needles, and Fort Yuma) and the entire state of Hawaii, the Territory of Guam, Saipan, and other territories of the United States in the Pacific Region.
- The diverse geography of the California-Pacific Conference and Los Angeles Episcopal Area includes beaches, mountains, remote islands, deserts, large urban areas, suburban communities, agricultural lands, and sparsely populated areas. The Area’s total square miles cover seven time zones and crosses the International Date Line.80,
|Clergy Members||897*||Lay Members||80,879|
|Active Elders||352||0-99 Members||116|
|Active Deacons||17||100-199 Members||104|
|Provisional Members||48||200-599 Members||117|
|Licensed Local Pastors||62||600-999 Members||13|
* Retired and on-leave included in 897, excluded below (Retired 370, On Leave 37, Assoc/Affil 11)
C. Conference Mission: To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world
D. Political Makeup:
- Political environment: complete spectrum of very liberal to distinctly conservative; there are slightly more registered Democrats than Republicans in the Annual Conference. Primary issues include immigration (documented and undocumented);quality and accessibility of primary education; affordability of health care, growing concern for the environment, living wages; and violence (gang and juvenile).
- Economic environment: the global recession has caused significant unemployment and underemployment, extensive mortgage defaults (including the second highest rate of defaults in the country, in Riverside County), longer commutes, and an increase in homelessness and hunger; State indebtedness and a stagnant political process are contributing to an increase in the number of people leaving California.
- Church Trends: there is wide theological diversity in the conference, bound together by a commitment to ministries of compassion and justice. Styles of worship cover the whole spectrum. Although total congregational membership continues to decline, worship attendance is stable with modest growth. All congregations continue to struggle with financial commitments and aging physical infrastructures. A strong focus on the common mission of the Church is beginning to take hold, with a growing affirmation to consider faithfulness to the Gospel more important than mere church survival. The desire to live out our “Wesleyan code in our zip code” has assisted in an appreciation of our Wesleyan heritage to be more movement / mission-oriented rather than on institutional maintenance.
- Social Environment: the ethnic make-up of the Conference is extremely diverse, with strong continuing growth of Hispanics and Asians in the general population; African-Americans and Pacific Islanders continue to be significantly represented, with Anglos predominant in most U.M congregations. Every church is either in or within easy driving distance of areas of extreme poverty, highlighting the increasing gap between the upper and lower economic classes.
- Ecumenical environment: ecumenical and interfaith efforts are primarily focused at the local level in ministerial associations, ecumenical/interfaith councils or council of churches. The Conference has celebrated the new sharing of communion with the Lutheran church; Bishop Swenson meets her counterparts in other faith groups on a regular basis.
E. Financial status:
The Conference has short and long term financial challenges and opportunities. The short-term challenge is to address accumulated fiscal pressures that have recently become acute, compounded by operational and organizational transitions. These include a change in Conference Treasurer after 14 years; the advent of a radically new accounting system; a new conference structure and accompanying budget; and coming to the limit of internally available credit to address unforeseen, unavoidable and underfunded operational and ministry expenses, with the result that the conference presently is carrying internal debt equal to roughly 30% of its budget.
Three primary causes have generated this debt and accompanying annual deficit:
- declining support of apportionments with concomitant fluctuations in monthly cash flow which have been off-set by internal borrowing
- delinquencies in congregational reimbursement to the conference for payment of clergy health insurance, pension, and property/liability insurances, also addressed through internal borrowing
- an increasingly negative change in camping ministries (the conference owns eight sites and operates seven through a central system) also met by internal borrowing. Camping continues to have a general decline in use by congregations and various ministries, while simultaneously experiencing accelerating operational costs. A Camping Task Force is on schedule to address these issues strategically, with proposals to be considered by the 2012 Annual Session.
Measures already in place to address these concerns include a freeze in conference salaries since 2008, downsizing of conference staff through both natural attrition and lay-offs, and a reduction in the number of superintendents. On the positive side, conference leadership recently agreed that in the midst of apparent scarcity, it was appropriate to gratefully model “God’s abundant generosity” by authorizing a major acceleration of the distribution of Jubilee Funds to congregations: what was a 13 year schedule will now be accomplished by spring of 2012.
The conference continues to be in a solidly positive position in its balance of pension obligations to pension reserves; it also retains significant assets in real property in the form of camps, campus properties, its dated although well-located conference center, and congregational properties, all of which are regularly assessed for their service to existing and projected ministries, as well as their potential for conversion to other forms of mission service.
The primary issues of this annual conference are concentrated versions of the issues challenging the United Methodist Church in the U.S. These include an aging population of professional (appointed) and volunteer (resident) leaders/members in the midst of a young, exploding and extremely diverse population that is enamored of the newest, shiniest and most transient that present culture idolizes and makes easily available. In addition, across its connection, the conference bears the weight of its history in well-used but worn-out infrastructure. The ideal question—“Can the UMC in this region move to the leading edge of spiritual leadership and social transformation?” is in danger of becoming diluted to “Will the UMC be evident in this region 25 years from now?”
- Clergy Issues:
- Clergy Strengths – many clergy are dedicated and passionate about the gospel and are highly educated with many skill sets. They are diverse ethnically, socially, politically and economically; many are mission and justice-oriented and moving toward more collaborative ministries between churches; although clergy may disagree with one another, they come “back to the table in love”.
- Clergy Concerns & Areas for Improvement – stress in all its forms, evidenced by high insurance rates; doubt and therefore anxiety about the future capacity of the Church to meet its promises to current and future retirees; lack of fruitfulness in calling young people to ministry and rising debt for new clergy of all ages; conflicting desire for and yet fear of genuine accountability; steadily increasing tension of balancing local and connectional fiscal needs; all of which contributes to low clergy morale and cynicism in the life of Annual Conference.
- Lay issues:
- Lay Strengths – desire for lay leadership training and development; concern for the future well-being of congregations; growing sense of outreach to community although some members remain tied to buildings more than mission; strong UMW that is generally well supported by clergy; strong prayer ministry of laity; sense of tradition and affirmation of our Wesleyan roots; laity care for one another in variety of ways.
- Lay Concerns or Areas of Improvement – request for assistance in dealing with clergy who are partially or wholly ineffective; a sense of woundedness in some congregations that is directed toward the Annual Conference; a need to identify and integrate millennials (young people) who are tech savvy, work well in groups that are not hierarchical, and expect to make a difference quickly; lack of fruitfulness in calling current and next generations into discipleship; increased giving to good causes outside the church but less stewardship of God’s mission within church organizations.
G. Conference strengths:
The Conference celebrates its recognition at the fall 2011 Council of Bishops meeting as having an above the national average of 25% of its congregations qualified as “vital” according to the Vital Congregations project. This is the result of strong lay and clergy leadership at the local and connectional levels, plus strong Episcopal leadership with strong support; growing clarity of vision and shared purpose; explicit desire to move forward and make a difference as The Church in its assigned region, especially on issues of social justice; extraordinary ethnic diversity with all its opportunities and challenges; a pattern of (relatively) strong apportionment support and special giving, compounded by the positive status of funding for pension obligations; often an excess of appointable clergy compared to openings.
- Conference organizational changes: The Conference is living into a new organizational structure inspired by the Four Areas of Focus and the desire to be more effective in mission by streamlining our system of governance. Five Essential Ministry Teams serve as stewards of the values and primary outcomes that are indigenous to both the Book of Discipline and the unique opportunities and diversity of this Area. These include: Leadership, New Ministries, Justice and Compassion, Resources and the ministry of Navigation. A Conference Table functions similar to the denomination’s Connectional Table; each Team has an approved yet evolving charter, elected leaders, and is learning how to align with other teams in pursuit of “the transformation of the world.” Related budgets and staffing are in some flux as the Conference addresses the financial challenges named separately in this Profile.
- Areas for improvement in Annual Conference:
- to move beyond surface agreement to genuine alignment and passion for mission
- to address the practical financial issues, and continue the shift from a survival mentality to one of abundance
- to strengthen the willingness to see liabilities (local and conference properties) as assets to be used creatively
- to eliminate a sense of entitlement among clergy, and of parochialism among congregational leaders (lay and clergy)
- to build up the diversity within our congregational communities to match the diversity of the Area’s population
- to build a radical sense of shared responsibility for communications in an era of increasingly dense, high quality media
- need for individuals, congregations and the Annual Conference in order to better articulate and share our Wesleyan heritage with a hurting world
Questions may be directed to Rev. Gary Keene at firstname.lastname@example.org.