2012 Southwest Conference Annual Meeting

April 20 - 21, 2012
The Good Shepherd UCC in Sahuarita, Arizona

Within minutes of opening the meeting, delegates voted to authorize any UCC Council for Health and Human Service Ministries (CHHSM) agency that operates within the SWC region to elect a representative to the Mission Planning Board. They also approved the Marshallese Ministry in Tucson into covenant membership with the Southwest Conference. Taking these actions at the start allowed representatives to take part in the meeting as full members with voting privileges. 

Attending the meeting were 208 delegates and visitors from 40 Conference. Members of the host church, The Good Shepherd UCC and other Tucson area churches extended an extravagant welcome to all. Our hosts made sure that delegates were well cared for with delicious meals and snacks, abundant smiling faces and friendly assistance. 

Joining us this year were three special guests: Sandy Sorensen, Miguel de la Torre and Paul Sherry. 


Sandy Sorensen was introduced as a person who educates people on how to apply their faith to their vote. Active in the Washington office of Justice and Witness Ministries for over 22 years, she urged us, as people of faith, to be engaged in the political process. She thanked the Conference for their support and acknowledged that the support they give changes lives and works in places where transformation is necessary. She admonished all to work for a just and peaceful world.

The Rev. Dr. Miguel de la Torre, Associate professor of social ethics and director of the Justice and Peace Institute at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver and author of "Reading the Bible From the Margins," was our keynote speaker. De la Torre gave a very eye-opening presentation about how culture and oppression affects a person’s understanding of the Bible. 

The Rev. Paul Sherry, a past president of the UCC and currently a coordinator of Faith Advocates for Jobs, championed fair treatment towards people experiencing difficult times during the nation’s jobs crisis and our duty to assist them. His goal is to organize hundred’s of congregations around our country to join in the work of providing spiritual, emotional and financial support for this nation's unemployed.


Lauri Hasler, a member of West Congregational UCC and chairperson for the SWC Justice Witness Ministries Team, explained that the team was overwhelmed by all of the challenges and issues before them, such as inclusion and widening the welcome, economic justice, responding to immigration needs. Their recommendation was to focus on a single issue, while continuing to support a variety of justice imperatives. Discussion in small groups followed. It is hoped that our actions this year on the primary issue chosen, immigration, will have a greater impact.

Curt Ackley, interim pastor at the United Church of Sun City shared information about a ministry that they were instrumental in creating, Operation American Patriot (OAP). The program, which assists veterans, and their families, and is managed by Banner Health, has been very successful and will be expanded to every state where Banner has a presence.

The Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer reminded us that when this region became the Southwest Conference, it was with the pledge that our gift to the UCC would be the gift of experimentation. He spoke about the challenges we are experiencing and encouraged us to continue to look forward and trust the direction the spirit moves us. Dorhauer announced that our new Conference office will be the location for a center for leadership training, which will be supported by outside funding.

The Rev. Lee Milligan, Conference Moderator, expressed gratitude to his church for being understanding that the Conference work sometimes took him away from his work with his church community. He also spoke about all of the work completed by the Conference over the past year, including living into the new structure and the set up of the new video bridging technology. Milligan passed the gavel, and Conference leadership, to the new Moderator, Pastor Jane Cheek, from First Congregational UCC in Prescott, Arizona. Elected to the Vice-Moderator position was Cary Meister, a member at Yuma UCC in Yuma, Arizona. 

Also approved were the following: 

  • The creation of a second Conference Committee on Church and Ministry (COCAM). The purpose is to assist the original COCAM with their workload. One committee will manage credentialing and authorizing clergy. The second committee will be responsible for the standing of churches and similar covenantal relationships.
  • A resolution concerning privatized prisons. The resolution recommends continuing study of the private prison industry, authorizes our agents to advocate for justice and to examine of our investments, if any, in the private prison industry.  
  • A resolution from the national setting authorizing changes to the UCC constitution and bylaws. This action is designed to streamline the denomination by creating a single governing board.

The meeting concluded on Saturday afternoon with worship and the installation of new officers. Members of the First Samoan Congregational Christian Church UCC blessed the service with their wonderful songs and voices. 

Church of the Palms in Sun City, Arizona, which will be the location of next year’s annual meeting, extended an invitation to all.



Rev. Dr. John Dorhauer's State of the Conference Address:
Grieving, Believing, Perceiving


Photos taken by Ryan Collins, a member of Casas Adobes Congregational Church in Tucson.

Photos taken by David Huisjen, also a member of Casas Adobes Congregational Church.