Author: Elaine Stanovsky

Mensaje de Pascua de Resurrección de parte de la Obispa Elaine | jueves, 14 de abril de 2022

“La muerte ha sido devorada por la victoria.
¿Dónde está, oh muerte, tu victoria?
¿Dónde está, oh muerte, tu aguijón?”
                                                         1 Corintios 15:54b-55

Amados en Dios,

Este es un pasaje bíblico muy fuerte. Hemos estado en la sombra de la muerte.

Sentimos el aguijón.
En la sala de urgencias hospitalarias
En las calles devastadas por la guerra
Mientras vemos a nuestros vecinos como acechan a los que  están corriendo
En la estación del metro donde muchos son afectados por el humo
Y también al ver como la tormenta, las inundaciones y los incendios forestales arrebatan todo a los inocentes.

Las sombras de la muerte (tristeza, miedo, ira, desesperación) oscurecen nuestros días. ¿Cómo podemos cantar “Aleluya” cuando la muerte está tan cerca para nosotros como en tu teléfono y la televisión?

En la mañana de Pascua, miraré hacia el este. El sol saldrá, hará retroceder las sombras y derramará su cálida luz sobre la tierra. Pero, ¿qué pasa con las sombras en nuestros corazones que acechan nuestro espíritu? El sol no las ahuyenta simplemente.

En la Biblia, caminamos con Jesús de Nazaret, vemos cuando El se encuentra con todo tipo de personas. Escuchamos mientras habla de la realidad de sus vidas, y aprendemos que Jesús también nos conoce, nos reconoce, comparte nuestras luchas, pecados y tristezas. Y como conociéndonos por dentro y por fuera, Jesús nos ama. ¡Eso es como el amanecer!

Pero es fácil vagar en las sombras y olvidarnos de que Jesús nos ama. Pero, en la fe, nos amamos unos a otros, de diferentes maneras, que nos recuerdan el amor de Jesús. Y nos esforzamos por amar a las personas que no conocen el amor de Dios, como Jesús nos ama y como nosotros nos amamos unos a otros. El amor es cómo la esperanza, se eleva como el sol. El amor alivia el aguijón de la muerte. El amor es la luz espiritual que no se puede apagar, que tiene el poder de salvarnos al final de nuestro caminar.

Por lo tanto, mis amados amigos, “estén firmes y constantes, sobresaliendo siempre en la obra del Señor, porque ustedes saben que en el Señor su trabajo no es en vano”.

¡Cristo ha resucitado! El amor nunca termina, en Semana Santa y en las noches más largas y oscuras.

Aleluya!

Obispa Elaine JW Stanovsky


Translated and adapted by: Rev. Cruz Edwin Santos, Director of Hispanic/Latinx Ministry

An Easter message from Bishop Elaine

“Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory?
 Where, O death, is your sting?”

– 1 Corinthians 15:54b-55

Beloved of God,

This is a hard scripture. We have stood in the shadow of death. We feel its sting.
In hospital emergency rooms
On war-torn streets
As neighbors stalk joggers
In a smoke-choked subway station
As storm, flood and wildfire snatch the innocent.

Death’s shadows – sorrow, fear, anger, despair – darken our days. How can we sing “Alleluia” when death is as close as your phone and the TV? 

On Easter morning, I will look toward the east. The sun will rise, push back the shadows and shed its warm light upon the earth. But what about the shadows in our hearts that haunt our spirits? The sun does not simply chase those away. 

In the Bible, we walk with Jesus of Nazareth as he meets all kinds of people. We listen as he speaks to the reality of their lives, and we learn that Jesus also knows us, recognizes us, and shares our struggles, sin and sorrow. And knowing us inside and out, Jesus loves us. It’s like dawn breaking!

But it’s easy to wander into the shadows and forget that Jesus loves us. So, in faith, we love each other in ways that remind us of Jesus’ love. And we strive to love people who don’t know God’s love, just like Jesus loves us and like we love each other. Love is how hope rises like the sun. Love soothes the sting of death. Love is the spiritual light that can’t be put out, that has the power to save us at the end of our ropes. 

Therefore, my beloved friends, “be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

Christ is Risen! Love never ends, on Easter and through the longest, darkest nights. 

Alleluia.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Lift Every Voice and Sing

Lift Every Voice and Sing

Prepare the way of the Lord,
Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

— Excerpts from Luke 3

When he was still in elementary school, I took our oldest son, Walker, to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day rally at the Langston Hughes Center in Seattle’s Central District and the march downtown that followed. When the standing-room-only crowd broke into song, I was surprised to see our son rise, respectfully to his feet, and sing the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” by heart, and sang it with all his heart.

The music teacher at Madrona Elementary School was married to an Africa Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) pastor. She had taught her students to stand and sing the song with conviction. I was moved to tears as my son participated in that powerful gathering of people honoring the legacy of the civil rights struggle and continuing to call out and demand equity and justice. He participated in the power of the history, the lament, the community, the cause, the witness, the hope.

This month, I was grateful when the local UMC I attended for worship on MLK Day included the song in their service, invoking the long, bloody struggle from enslavement to justice and equity for Black people in America.

As United Methodist Christians, I hope that we all carry in our hearts a yearning for racial equity and justice as a gift and challenge from Jesus. I hope we all know the work isn’t finished,

  • that all Americans have work to do to make the American Dream equally accessible to every American,
  • that white European-American immigrants to this land have had unfair access to the riches and opportunity embodied in the “American Dream” since Christopher Columbus first landed in 1492, and since people were first captured and enslaved in Africa and transported to America in 1619.

God’s good vision of human community cannot be achieved without racial justice and equity.  And it cannot be achieved unless people who benefit from inequality and those who are deprived by it work to name and dismantle the systems that protect white privilege and preserve exclusion and oppression.

February is Black History Month. I hope you will use “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in some way in worship this month. It is # 519 in The United Methodist Hymnal and is in the public domain, so you don’t need copyright permission to use the words or music. Be sure to share the history of the hymn, when it was written, by whom, for what occasion and how it came to be known as the Black National Anthem.

Consider using the TREASURE HUNT below to deepen your appreciation and love of this song. Use the linked resources to find the answers to the questions in the box and the resources offered.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” TREASURE HUNT

Searching for Treasure

  • When was the song written? In Black history, what is this period of history called?

  • Who wrote the words and music?
  • How are United Methodists connected to the writers/composers?
  • Is the Black National Anthem only for Black people to sing?
  • Why is it called the Black National Anthem?
  • What occasion was it written for?
  • What member of Congress proposed legislation to designate “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as America’s national hymn?
  • What one line from the song will you carry in your hearts, as a follower of Jesus?

Following the Map

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A call to prayer and action for Tonga

A call to prayer and action for Tonga


Thursday, January 20, 2022

Credit: Japan Meteorology Agency via AP.

Beloved in Christ, 

Last evening cabinet members and I gathered on Zoom with Tongan pastors in the Greater Northwest Area (GNW) to pray for the safety and recovery of the people in Tonga following the volcanic eruption and tsunamis. They shared the latest information they have heard through media and the few reports received from family and friends in Tonga. As a community, Tongans are dispersed around the world.

“Tonga is home to 106,000 people, but more than double that number live overseas, mainly in the US, New Zealand, and Australia. Remittances from the overseas population have been declining since the onset of the 2008 global economic crisis. The tourism industry is improving but remains modest at under 90,000 tourists per year.” – via Wikipedia 

The Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga is the largest religious group on the islands, representing 36% of the population. Christianity was introduced to Tonga in 1822 by Methodist missionaries, pre-dating the arrival of Methodism in the Northwest in 1834, when Methodist missionary Jason Lee arrived at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River. Tongans are our spiritual elders, embracing the Methodist movement ten years earlier than Northwesterners.

When Tongans immigrated to the GNW, they turned to The United Methodist Church to establish faith communities. Today Tongans gather for worship in six local churches or fellowships that identify as Tongan and are active members of many more congregations. 

I am asking you to do two things before the end of January:
Pray and Act.

1. PRAY for the people of Tonga and their leaders as they work to respond to the immediate crisis. Pray for encouragement in the long, silent waiting; pray for rain to clean the air and settle the ash that has fallen everywhere. 

Rev. Sia Puloka reminded us that “What Tonga needs is your love. We haven’t heard. We cannot be there. But Jesus is there. Your prayer to Jesus is what Tonga needs.” Pray for hospitality and shelter for those who have lost their homes. Pray for no more eruptions and for quick repair of the communication cable that is their lifeline to the world.  

Pray also for our GNW siblings in Christ and their faith communities as they wait for word of their relatives and friends in Tonga. They reminded us last night that, while we cannot be present, our prayers can still encircle them.

And, as you pray, please go to the Facebook pages of these faith communities or their pastors and post your prayers and words of encouragement. We must open our hearts to share this tragedy with those most affected.

2. ACT to share resources in Tonga’s time of need. We are preparing to help the recovery effort in Tonga, where many homes are destroyed and ash blankets the land, killing crops, polluting air, water, and fish, the primary source of protein.   

    Rev. Taufoou mentioned that disasters like in Tonga, and Tongans in other countries are used to sending supplies to help their families recover. But, he said, “this will be a long journey. There may be another eruption; now ashes cover the kingdom. We must send relief for more than our families, for the whole Kingdom.”    

    I encourage you to designate donations to your local church for “Tongan Relief” now. At the same time, we are working to determine the best channel for these funds, perhaps through partners in New Zealand, which can deliver goods to Tonga much quicker than from the United States. Your gifts can be sent to your Annual Conference with this designation and will be channeled for this purpose.

    Joining with you in offering prayer and hope,

    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky


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    Advent Message 2021

    An Advent message for the Greater Northwest Area from Bishop Elaine Stanovsky

    Wednesday, December 1, 2021 | en español

    Having trouble? Watch this video on Vimeo!

    Transcript

    “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

    Grace to you this morning, we are well into the holiday season, the holy holiday season. And I have not been speaking to you, my people across the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church much lately. Time and again, I have thought I want to give a good word, to share good news with the people that I serve with. And yet, the words have not come.

    So, I want to start this morning just by saying thank you again. I hope you’ve heard me say thank you before. This has been an awkward and difficult and trying season and you have kept alive, most of you. And we mourn those who have not made it through this pandemic for reasons of COVID or other life circumstances and health circumstances that have taken their lives.

    But those of you who are listening to this message, who are hearing this message today, you are alive and you’re serving and you’re caring, you’re struggling at times. Thank you. God works through us. Whether we feel up to the task or not. People find blessing in us. And so, we get up each morning, we greet the sun, and we go on, as best we can, spreading love and hope and tenderness to the people that we encounter. So, thank you. Thank you, God bless you and keep you.

    It is a strange and disorienting time, though, isn’t it? Don’t you find it so? I certainly do. There are so many urgent matters to give our attention to, to open our hearts to, to learn about, to respond to with compassion and understanding. Every time I think about bringing you a good word, I find myself caught.

    Shall I speak about the climate and the flooding and the wildfires and the need to move away from fossil fuels and find new sustainable sources of energy?

    Shall I speak to you about COVID and the deaths and the dangers and the trials of not being able to gather and sing together?

    Shall I speak to you of January 6 and the divisions that seem to be separating us as people in our nation and threatening the very foundation of civil society?

    Shall I speak to you about racism and the trials of Rittenhouse and the people who killed Ahmaud Arbery and Charlottesville and the danger of losing voting rights?

    Each time I think about what to speak to you about, I think, if I speak one word, it leaves unspoken those other words, and we carry it all, all at the same time. And yet we can’t speak of it all at the same time. And so, I have found myself in a season of silence. Not because I don’t feel deeply, not because I’m not attuned with what you’re struggling with, with what the world is struggling with. But I find myself unable to speak because it is so broad and so deep and there’s so much, it’s hard to know where to begin.

    I turned to scripture, into prayer, deeply in the last couple of weeks to prepare for this message and what I found there were two great stories in the Gospel of Luke of people being drawn into stillness.

    The first is from Luke 1 and it’s the song of Zechariah. You remember Zechariah is married to Elizabeth and Elizabeth becomes pregnant with the baby that will become John the Baptist. And Zechariah receives this announcement and is puzzled by it and doesn’t quite trust it. He and Elizabeth are older and not sure they can have children. And so, he questions the angel that brings him this news. And the angel strikes him silent, takes his voice away for doubting the word from God.

    And he sits in silence, then until you recall that Elizabeth gives birth, the baby is born. They’re going to name it Zechariah after his father, and Mary says, “No, his name is John.” And that people turn to Zechariah and say, “What do you say about this? What do you think, shouldn’t the baby be named after you?” And Zechariah gets his voice back, his voice returns. And he says, he doesn’t say I want to name him, John. He doesn’t say I name him John. He says, “His name is John” as if it comes from beyond. It’s a powerful moment in the scripture.

    And then I’m drawn also to Mary. And all that she pondered in her heart as the world was swirling around her and she had given birth to this new baby and shepherds and angels, and the sky opened up and prophets are speaking, and she speaks a word. But then she ponders it all in her heart.

    The writers of the Bible, know what we’re going through – the fear, the disorientation, the danger, the displacement, exclusion, betrayal, the plagues. They know it all, it’s all in the story. It’s not a happy Christmas Eve story with babies in and animals in a barnyard and halos. It’s also a story of deep displacement, disregard, flight. And yet, it’s a story that invites us to wait, to find our own silence, to anticipate, not to wait passively, but to anticipate and watch for and prepare for, and live in hope.

    Because the core of the scripture is the message that what’s going on around us what we see with our eyes, what we hear with our ears, what we experience in the complex and unpredictable social lives we lead isn’t everything, that beneath it, there is a spirit. There is a place where our souls live, there is a place where God who watches and tends the whole complexity of our lives, tends to us, plans for a good future, and invites us to partner in creating that future.

    So here we are. We’re invited into this season of Advent which is all about coming. Advent means coming. It’s about God coming into the world, yes, in the baby Jesus. But God coming every year as we celebrate Advent, every day, as we awaken to the dawn, to lead us in new ways, to teach us new things, to invite us to participate in our own lives in the world with open eyes, and new awareness.

    I want to read to you Psalm 46 this morning. You can hear this as foolish optimism, superficial wishful thinking, or you can hear it as an invitation to look for where the goodness and the hopefulness that God promises is alive and being born in the world.

    Our defense is sure, our shelter and help in trouble, God never stands far off. So we stand unshaken when solid earth cracks and volcanoes slide into the sea. When breakers rage and mountains tremble, the Lord of cosmic power, Jacob’s God, will shield us.

    A river delights the City of God, home of the Holy One most high. With God there, the city stands. God defends it under attack. Nation’s rage, empires fall. God speaks, the earth melts. The Lord of cosmic power, Jacob’s God, will shield us.

    Come, see the wonders God does across the earth. Everywhere stopping wars, smashing, crushing, burning all the weapons of wars. An end to your fighting. “Acknowledge me as God,” God says. High over nations, high over Earth, the Lord of cosmic power, Jacob’s God, will shield us.

    And so, in the season of Advent, we wait. We anticipate. We prepare. We hope for what the scripture tells us is the truth we sometimes cannot see.

    Be still. Be still with Zechariah. Be still with Mary. Be still with Job. Be still with Jesus in the garden.

    Don’t be consumed by what you see on television or on social media. Watch for help in trouble. Notice where our world, our city, our neighborhoods are being made glad.

    Pray with me this breathing prayer. Come, Jesus, be born in us today. Come, Jesus, be born in us today. Come, Jesus, be born in us today. And see if you can get up about seven in the morning or a little bit earlier and to look outdoors, find a place that looks east and see if you can see the sun rising.

    “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

    May it be so for you, for your congregation, for your neighborhood and for God’s amazing wide world.

    Amen.

    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

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    From the Bishop, RE: Boy Scout units chartered by local United Methodist Churches

    Aug. 27, 2021

    Dear Greater Northwest United Methodists of the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences:

    We send this letter with heavy hearts, knowing that many young people have been harmed while participating in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), over many decades. While countless young persons have benefited from the different programs and levels of Boy Scouting, some have experienced demeaning and abusive behavior while participating in scouting activities and events and have taken their claims to the courts.

    Many local United Methodist churches partner as charter organizations for Boy Scout units across the country. The United Methodist Church (TUMC) is committed to being a safe and nurturing place for all people, to healing harm that has been done and, to partnering with organizations that share this commitment. The United Methodist Church is reviewing its relationship with BSA to ensure that the Church is acting responsibly to protect the safety of children and ensure that it is not responsible for harm done during Boy Scout activities.

    BSA Current Reality

    The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is overwhelmed with potential liability exposure from sexual assault allegations nationwide. The BSA has filed for bankruptcy protection. Under both of the proposed plans that the BSA has suggested as ways to continue after the bankruptcy, they are leaving their chartered organizations out on a limb by themselves. The chartered organizations are the local churches, schools, and civic groups that sponsor or host a Scout Troop, Pack, Crew, or other unit. The details of these plans are still being played out, but the BSA is placing all of our United Methodist churches who have ever been involved in Scouting in a very difficult position.

    Despite their consistent past assurances that they held enough insurance to cover their chartered organizations in case of injured scouts, we now know that the BSA did not have enough or sufficient insurance. The local churches are at risk of having to pay significant sums to victims to compensate them for the damages they suffered at the hands of some Scout leaders. In addition, the local churches will have to pay for the cost of their own attorneys to defend those claims. All of this is because the BSA did not fulfill their promise to have enough insurance to protect the local churches.
     
    Future Relationship with the BSA

    Our team, made up of the Bishop, her GNW Area assistant, and the treasurers and chancellors of the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conferences, recommends that local churches change their relationships with Scouting units.

    If your local church currently charters a Scout unit, we recommend that you NOT renew that chartering agreement when it is up for renewal or re-chartering this fall. Instead, we recommend one of three options, the choice of which is up to you:

    1. Tell the local Scout council that you will NOT renew that chartering agreement but will only extend the current agreement until December 31, 2021.  
    2. Tell the local Scout council that you will NOT renew that chartering agreement but will enter into a Facilities Use Agreement with their unit until December 31, 2021.
       
    3. Tell the local Scout council that you will terminate the existing charter agreement and replace it with a Facilities Use Agreement with their unit until December 31, 2021.

    In options 2 and 3, the Facilities Use Agreement will act similar to a lease allowing the Scout unit to continue using your space, but they will be responsible for everything else, including the selection of leaders. A proposed agreement template can be found here. Also, please let your Conference Treasurer know if you are currently hosting a scout troop in any of the above described manners.

    After December 31, 2021, we should be in a better position to see how the future will unfold. Once a reorganization plan is approved by the bankruptcy court, we will know better how to proceed.

    If your local church does not charter a Scout unit at this time, we recommend that you NOT consider chartering a unit until the bankruptcy case is finalized and we have an understanding of how The United Methodist relationship with Scouts will continue in the future.

    We understand that these suggestions are dramatic, but we think them to be the prudent course of action at this time. We want to protect our local churches from being accused of contributing to the abuse of children and to the resulting risk of costly litigation.

    Closing Thoughts

    Boy Scout councils have begun contacting local churches directly that host Boy Scout units. One such letter is attached here. If you receive any communication from a local Scout council or the BSA advising or encouraging you to contact a Boy Scout attorney, please report this at once to Rev. Carlo A. Rapanut, Assistant to the Bishop. His email is carlorapanut@gmail.com.

    We know the value of scouting. It has played a very large role in the mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church for a very long time. But the BSA is not proving faithful to The United Methodist Church as they leave us without the protections that they promised. We simply cannot currently commit to the relationship with the BSA as we have in the past. Until we know how the BSA will be organized and operate in the future, we must make some changes. Hopefully, we will be able to continue our long connection with scouting in some way, but we need to make some changes today to help prevent us from being dragged down with the BSA in the future.

    May God’s mighty, surprising, Holy Spirit work a miracle of healing in the lives of people harmed by abuse. May God bless and keep us honest, diligent and wise through this process.

    Faithfully,



    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
    Greater NW Area
    The United Methodist Church

                       




    Rev. Carlo A. Rapanut
    Assistant to the Bishop
    GNW Area of The UMC





    Brant Henshaw
    Conference Treasurer
    Pacific Northwest & Alaska Conferences





    Rev. Dan Wilson-Fey
    Conference Treasurer/Benefits Officer
    Oregon-Idaho
    Attached documents:
    Facility use agreement template for Boy Scouts of America.
    Letter related to BSA sent to pastor at Homer UMC in Alaska.

    From the Bishop: Join me in honoring Juneteenth National Independence Day

    People of God,

    “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” John 8: 31-32

    June 19, known as Juneteenth, celebrates the freedom of enslaved Black Americans, by recalling the day in 1865 when the news of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was finally proclaimed in Texas, three years after it was issued.

    Yesterday the U.S. Congress established June 19th as a federal holiday: Juneteenth National Independence Day. The action awaits President Biden’s signature.

    On Saturday, June 19th at 10 a.m., the Coos Bay Museum in Coos Bay, Oregon, will dedicate a memorial to the only confirmed lynching of a Black man in the state of Oregon. Alonzo Tucker was lynched in Coos Bay in 1902 as a crowd of 300 people watched. Sponsors of Saturday’s memorial event hope at least 300 people will attend the online dedication of a memorial to Alonzo Tucker.

    The memorial to Alonzo Tucker’s lynching is part of a movement of the National Memorial of Peace and Justice to remember and mark the sites where more than 4,400 Black people died by lynching between 1877 and 1950. Taylor Stewart began the Oregon Remembrance Project after visiting the National Memorial as part of a Civil Rights tour of southern states.

    Much of our nation’s violent racial history has been forgotten or suppressed by white Americans or assumed to have occurred only in slave states. This event, on Juneteenth, 2021, is an opportunity for citizens of the Northwest to remember and realize that this region has its own violent past that is ours to reckon with and heal.

    I hope you will join me online on Saturday, Juneteenth, 2021, as part of the crowd that stands for truth, justice and reconciliation.  

    Thank you,

    Elaine JW Stanovsky
    Bishop, Greater NW Episcopal Area

    An update on my retirement plans

    Greater Northwest Area clergy and lay members of Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences,

    Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
    looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith…

    After deep reflection, conversation with my family and consultation with trusted colleagues, I am withdrawing my request for retirement, effective January 2022, to continue my assignment to the Greater Northwest Area. I hope and pray that postponing retirement will relieve anxiety and contribute to an orderly transition of leadership for all the conferences in the Western Jurisdiction during this extended pandemic interruption of normalcy. I am not naming a new retirement date at this time but hope that it might follow in-person general and jurisdictional conferences in 2022, with the election and assignments of new bishops, for a new quadrennium, beginning January 1, 2023.

    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

    I never intended my retirement to add to the uncertainty of this wilderness passage. I originally named January 1, 2022 as my retirement date so that my retirement would coincide with that of Bishop Hoshibata and possibly, Bishop Hagiya. At the time, we anticipated regular in-person general and jurisdictional conferences in the fall of 2021, when new bishops might be elected to begin serving as the new quadrennium began with the new year.

    Since that request, general and jurisdictional conferences have been put off again, further postponing the election and assignment of new bishops. In light of these delays, the timing of my requested retirement is no longer helpful.

    I have a renewed sense of focused mission for this extension of my active service and look forward to continuing to work with lay and clergy leadership of the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences.

    Jesus is nudging and tugging the church to engage people and communities with the faith, hope and love of Jesus Christ in ways that bind up wounds, transform lives and overturn systems of exclusion and inequity. We can’t stop now.

    I’m still running the race with Jesus. Won’t you pull up your socks, tie your shoelaces, strengthen your weak knees, and join me for the next leg of the race?

    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

    Stepping forward safely in love and trust

    Clergy Siblings in Christ,

    Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, 
    so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. 
    Help each other out. And run for it!–Hebrews 12:12, The Message

    Friends, we have been running to care, serve and survive COVID-19 for more than 14 months and the end is not yet in sight. You have been our essential workers in ministry for many months as our buildings have been largely closed and activities severely restricted.

    We have not crossed the finished line, though we have learned a lot, adapted incredibly, and experienced the presence of God in ways we never expected. From my heart, thank you for your endurance, your courage and fortitude, your vulnerability, your compassion, your faithfulness in the valley of the shadow of death.

    Attached is new guidance for churches as they Stepping forward safely in love and trust, that builds upon, but replaces Reimagining Life Together.& It acknowledges the continuing risk of disease, advances in science, and the increasing capacity of our local church leaders to manage the risk in their contexts. New responsibility falls to local leaders to understand and guide their ministry settings wisely and safely with fewer mandated guidelines.

    Some of you will welcome the shift of responsibility to local leaders. Others may dread managing intense differences of opinion within your congregation as you make difficult decisions locally. I want to call your attention to two provisions from the document that may help you lead with strength.

    1. “…please remember Saint Paul’s admonition that what is “permissible” is not always “beneficial” to the common good. (I Corinthians 10:23). While some churches may act quickly to adopt new, less restrictive practices, it is always OK for a church or ministry to choose to remain more cautious for any reason.”

    2. “A local church is not permitted to hold in-person worship without the approval of the pastor. For local churches, decisions about the use of church property for worship or other gatherings belong to the pastor without interference from the Board of Trustees (Book of Discipline, ¶ 2533).”

    Your trusted lay leaders and clergy colleagues, district superintendents and directors of connectional ministry are your partners in ministry as you lead one more challenge in the fight against this deadly disease.

    And most of all, GOD IS WITH US.

    May God bless and keep you all in your circles of care — members, friends, family, neighbors, strangers — so no one will trip and fall!

    Elaine JW Stanovsky
    Bishop, Greater Northwest Area
    The United Methodist Church

    A pastoral update on our COVID-19 response

    Dear Siblings in Christ, 

    We are making progress, but we are not quite there yet. It has been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted life as we knew it. We continue to persevere, exhausted at times, yet anticipating the day when we can gather, greet each other, share communion and other precious rhythms of life and spiritual practice in person without risking harm to one another. Hopeful also that we now carry with us new learnings and practices, hard lessons of necessity that will continue to connect us in new ways in life and ministry.  

    The rapid vaccine rollout gives us hope that we can enjoy more freedom to gather as families and faith communities soon. Vaccinations coupled with continuous strict adherence to safety protocols are expected to lower infection rates, hospitalizations and COVID-19 related deaths. Overall, we have seen the number of cases decline since the winter peak in many places, but progress has been stalled by premature re-openings, the easing of restrictions in some places, resistance by some to being vaccinated and observing simple safety practices: washing hands, social distancing, wearing a mask. I hope that each of us is continuing to follow these practices, as well as being vaccinated, consistent with medical advice, as soon as we are eligible.  

    I was surprised by the deep joy that welled up in me when those shots went in my arm, protecting not only me but also everyone I encounter from the dangers of this virus. I’m grateful to every person who is able and willing to join this movement toward health and safety.   

    As Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reminded us in a briefing earlier this year,  

    “We may be done with the virus, but clearly the virus is not done with us. We cannot get comfortable or give in to a false sense of security that the worst of the pandemic is behind us – not now; not when mass vaccination is so very close.” 

    Permissible not Necessarily Beneficial 

    In an article for The Atlantic, Dr. James Hamblin of the Yale School of Public Health points out,  

    “Our social lives can resume, but only when the whole community is ready. The turning point does not arrive for individuals, one by one, as soon as they’ve been vaccinated; it comes for all of us at once, when a population becomes immune.” 

    With this understanding, we are advised that the number of coronavirus cases needs to decrease further before we resume regular activities, especially in light of the arrival of new fast-spreading variants of the virus. A premature reopening, even if allowed by the state, may run the risk of not just stalling but even reversing the recent progress we have already achieved.  

    I am reminded of Saint Paul’s admonition that things that are “permissible” are not necessarily things that are “beneficial” to the common good. (I Corinthians 10:23).  

    While we should celebrate the good news of vaccines providing a layer of protection already for a significant number of members in some of our congregations, the church does not belong solely to those who are vaccinated. Especially as we have just now reached a time when all adults are eligible to receive a vaccine, we must continue to be patient to allow them the privilege of receiving this gift of security before we consider letting our guard down. At the same time, we will need to find ways to protect and include children in church life while continuing to wait for vaccination eligibility to be extended to them. 

    As the church, God calls us always to do things that are beneficial because we bear responsibility towards the well-being of others, especially the most vulnerable among us.  

    A Posture of Hopeful Caution 

    The progress we see in vaccinations, tempered by the potential threat of variants we race, leads me toward a posture of hopeful caution; we are almost there but not quite there yet. Even as our hope is renewed with the increasing percentage of those vaccinated, our decisions and actions must continue to manifest the utmost concern for one another as an act of love in response to Jesus’ command for us to love one another as he had loved us (John 13:34).  

    Accordingly, I am asking churches to remain vigilant in their planning and decision-making processes. The COVID-19 Response Team, made up of lay and clergy members from across the area, is continuing to review and amend its guidance to local churches. By May 5th, we will release updated guidelines for Phase 3, shifting more responsibility to local leaders to guide their congregation’s, camp’s or other ministry setting’s COVID-19 response.  

    I am grateful for each of you and your faithfulness and commitment, especially during this long time of physical separation due to this pandemic. May the hard lessons learned as we have persevered, and new skills developed as you have adapted, empower our work together and witness to God’s love which never fails us. 

    “Those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40:31) 

    With love and grace, 

    Elaine JW Stanovsky 
    Bishop, Greater Northwest Episcopal Area 

    Offered in consultation with the COVID-19 Response Team, as currently composed: 

    • Rev. Alyssa Baker, pastor, Open Door Churches of Salem-Keizer, OR-ID Conference 
    • Laurie Day, OR-ID Conference Director of Connectional Ministries 
    • Rev. Jim Doepken, pastor, Moose Pass & Seward Memorial UMCs, Alaska Conference 
    • Rev. Mark Galang, Puget Sound District Superintendent, PNW Conference 
    • Rhondalei Gabuat, Executive Assistant for Bishop Stanovsky Greater Northwest Episcopal Area  
    • Rev. Karen Hernandez, Sage District Superintendent, OR-ID Conference 
    • Rev. Pat Longstroth, pastor, Bremerton UMC, PNW Conference 
    • Becky Platt, lay member, Boise (ID): Whitney UMC, OR-ID Conference 
    • Patrick Scriven, PNW Conference Director of Communications 
    • Jim Truitt, lay member, Renton (WA): Fairwood Community UMC, PNW Conference