Contributions from Gayla Jo Slauson

November 30, 2022
The delegations who attended the Western Jurisdiction Conference had a big job to accomplish in a couple of days. It was a bit like heading into a labor where you know you must birth not one, not two, but three. It takes time and lots of appropriate “pushing.”
32 elders in good standing from across the Western Jurisdiction, five of them from the Mountain-Sky Conference, were still in discernment when the conference began. Furthermore, other names were raised once we began. The candidates for bishop were a diverse group, many extremely qualified.  

Individuals in our delegation had been doing our homework in advance, learning about those in discernment through listening to formal and informal interviews, a forum, reading written responses to questions, watching videos and perusing completed forms. We also spent time discussing candidates amongst ourselves and then at the conference with other delegates and delegations. 
Delegates worked extremely hard. We had questions to search answers for, especially when presented with terrific candidates who we simply did not know.  We made the time to explore all – including our own biases – and we worked hard to align with each other for the common good of the Western Jurisdiction.

When the conference was over, though, we had elected three superbly qualified candidates who all support the values of our (Mountain Sky) Conference. They all promote inclusivity, collaboration and honoring diverse voices and ideas. We are blessed.

Carlos Rapanut recently served as an assistant to Bishop Elaine Stanovsky in the Greater Northwest Area (which encompasses Alaska, Pacific Northwest and Oregon-Idaho Conferences). Pastoring in Alaska gave him direct experience working with small rural churches who are struggling financially. Also, he grew up in the Philippines so directly experienced being part of the Central Conferences and understands firsthand how it feels to be an immigrant and on the margins of society. 

Cedrick Bridgeforth recently served as Director of Innovation and Communication for the California-Pacific Annual Conference. He has written books on leadership and prayer and in 2021 published a book titled Alabama Grandson: A Black, Gay Minister’s Passage Out of Hiding. He served in the U.S. Air Force. I have worked with him through the First Elects group and know him better than the others. He has a Doctorate of Education in Organizational Leadership. 

Dottie Escobedo-Frank has been serving as a pastor and written books like Restart Your Church. She is from the Desert Southwest Conference and has served as a social worker who worked with migrants on the border. With her Hispanic/Latina background, she understands multiple cultural perspectives. She has a heart for justice. 

The future of the Western Jurisdiction and the conferences it contains is brighter than ever with the election of these bishops. They will work together to move us all to higher ground. 

The Mountain Sky Conference is one of seven Annual Conferences that comprise the Western Jurisdiction. To learn more about the areas we are in connection with, please visit the WJ site.