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This episode of insideout explores the essential role of deep listening in fostering true innovation, and what that means for a church often fixated on ‘best practices.’ According to Rev. Dr. William (Bill) Gibson, “it’s a mistake to think that a best practice is a silver bullet answer for a declining church that lacks innovation and creativity.”

Transcript:

Over the last fifteen plus years, the Church has tried to embody innovation through the phrase best practices.

In the business world, best practices were about maintaining quality and establishing benchmarks. In the Church, we’ve had a tendency to see best practices as a program option to ensure success. If they worked in that church, then surely they’ll work in our, right?

But here is a major problem. The church is not as adaptive as corporate America. Often, by the time we implement a best practice, we are behind the curve in a world that is changing before our very eyes.

In 2011, Stephen Shapiro wrote this valuable little book entitled Best Practices Are Stupid: 40 Ways to Out-Innovate the Competition. Now before you claim that I am hating on best practices let me offer some clarity. Neither Shapiro or myself through this video are saying that we should ignore best practices, not at all.

It’s important for us to know what is working in a particular context, and why it works. But it’s a mistake to think that a best practice is a silver bullet answer for a declining church that lacks innovation and creativity. Rather than a plug and play approach, we should be focusing on contextual problem solving. Instead of trying something that will attract people in our doors, we need to step outside of our walls and engage in deep listening with real people, not just guessing what they want.

Think about this. Jesus was innovative in how he talked. He engaged the cultural language while also, likely, having the ability to speak three languages: Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek. This allowed him to draw upon a number of cultural methods in order to convey his message. Jesus captured the attention of his populist audience through overstatement, hyperbole, pun, metaphor, proverb, paradox, poetry, irony, and the use of questions. Through these devices Jesus connected with people in very powerful and personal ways. He used every tool in his toolbox. He helped people to unlearn and relearn what they have been taught their entire lives. See the Sermon on the Mount.

In fact, in Matthew Chapter 5, de demonstrates this unlearning and relearning activity by saying things like you have heard the law that says this, now I say this. I love verses 43 and 44. Jesus says, “You have heard the law that says ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.” Now that’s a verse that some Christians just simply want to ignore.

We sometimes forget that innovation is about change. The late Steve Jobs was famously quoted saying, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” The next time that you’re tempted to plug-and-play a best practice, what if, instead, you learned from it? Then, stepped outside your doors, engaged the very people you want to reach, and listened carefully for what they don’t know they want. And then you show it to them.

That is innovation. What if you simply showed them faith, hope, and love. Faith, hope, and the greatest of these, love.

What if?


Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson serves as Director of Strategic Faith Community Development for the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church.

This episode of insideout was e-filmed and edited by Rev. David Valera. Valera serves the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church as Director of Connectional Ministries.

Transcript:

Have you ever experienced a tradition or activity that you thought was weird?

Or, simply found yourself saying things like, “I just don’t get it…”

Our tendency is to think that our perspective is the norm for society.

In these moments, we are not acknowledging the lens through which we see the world. We are not taking into account the vast cultures and subcultures of our world, country, region, and neighborhoods.

But this “weirdness” actually represents an inability or an unwillingness to realize that our way is not the only one. But you knew that; right?

We have to be willing to see the world from a different perspective, while checking our own.

In Matthew 13, Jesus teaches about understanding the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven. Those who listen to his teaching are going to be given greater understanding. He goes on to say “Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear.”

Several years ago I was introduced to the teachings and work of Mikhail Bakhtin whose work connects our approach to intercultural competency.

He said, “In order to better understand a foreign culture, one has to step enter into it, forgetting your own, and view the world through the eyes of the foreign culture.”

In other words, we have to be willing to intentionally look at the world around us from a completely different perspective while checking our own biases.

In fact, that is what insideout represents for me. If you haven’t noticed, the “insideout” logo is backwards and that’s intentional.

Think of the logo being printed on the outside of a t-shirt. And as you put that t-shirt on, you look outward through the front. The logo is going to appear backwards. You’re looking from the inside-out.

It’s a reminder that we have to be aware of the lens through which we view the world — those voices and experiences that have shaped our identity — parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, bosses, peers, enemies, etc. And we replay those voices over and over in our heads, don’t we?

To acknowledge and teach through this, I use three simple moves, Those moves are: Discover, Claim, and Live.

1) Discover — which refers to an intentional move to intersect and engage culture — maybe one that seems weird, different or foreign to you.

2) Claim — which asks us to rediscover from Scripture; from the gospels, ways of understanding our world, while claiming Jesus’ example.

And 3) Live — which challenges us to answer the “So, what?” question; a challenge to change and become a living example of Hope and Love to those around us.

Believe it or not, these simple moves, can help you find grace in the strangest of places

Are you interested in making the world a better place? Then that has to start with you and with me…

What if we intentionally looked from a different perspective in order intersect culture, elevate the gospel, and challenge to change?

What if?


Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson serves as Director of Strategic Faith Community Development for the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church.

This episode of insideout was e-filmed and edited by Rev. David Valera. Valera serves the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church as Director of Connectional Ministries.

Special thanks to Rev. Craig and Sharon Parrish.

The increasingly diverse communities we live in can provide great opportunities for personal learning and spiritual growth. Whether our goal is to foster better understanding of our neighbors, or to pursue creative partnerships for the common good, we can only improve the likelihood of positive results through intentional preparation.

This year’s Bishop’s Symposium will focus on the need to develop our capacity for intercultural communication as we experience the possibilities of interfaith relationships. Through a variety of opportunities, we will glean from the wisdom of others to learn what can be gained, and dream a little about what we might ourselves do.

United Methodist clergy and lay persons across the Greater Northwest Area are invited to participate in this year’s Bishop’s Symposium in one of the ways outlined below. Individuals are invited to cross conference boundaries to attend the option that best fits their schedule.

Option 1: No Joke Live – November 4, 2017 – Seattle First UMC

No Joke Live is a dynamic opportunity to learn more about developing interfaith relationships. Aneelah Afzali of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS), noted Christian author and public theologian Brian McLaren, and a rabbi yet to be determined will join the Christian pastor, Jewish Rabbi and Muslim Imam whose story is presented in the documentary entitled No Joke: When People Like Each Other the Rules Change. You can learn more about them and view the trailer (which you can also watch below) for their film on the No Joke Project website.

Tickets for the event are $32. Space will be limited, so be sure to buy your tickets quickly.

Tickets will only be on sale exclusively for United Methodist clergy and lay persons for one week starting October 5th. This will be a public event, co-sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Conference and Jim Henderson Productions. Click here to purchase tickets online!

Option 2: NLI+ – March 7-9, 2018 – Boise First UMC

Brian McLaren, nationally renowned pastor, activist and author, will be the keynote speaker at the 2018 Northwest Leadership Institute (NLI) hosted by the Cathedral of the Rockies (aka Boise First UMC) on March 8-9, 2018.

While details are still being worked out, we are negotiating an additional day with Brian McLaren and/or the No Joke Project for United Methodists on March 7.

Mark your calendar and watch for registration information.

Option 3: No Joke, Your Town – Flexible Dates – DIY

No Joke is a documentary film about the unique friendship shared between Imam Kamil Mufti, Rabbi Daniel Bogard and Pastor Jim Powell, all of Peoria, Illinois. In it, they explain three basic practices that have been essential in navigating their differences. Available soon to borrow from the Regional Media Center, or directly for purchase from the  No Joke Project website, your church, a cluster of churches, or a district group can host a viewing of the film, and create a learning event around it.

You might even consider making it a public event, inviting local leaders from other faith traditions to participate with you. A small group study guide for the film is being created.

Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky sent a letter on Monday to Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski thanking her for her recent vote against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Referencing the United Methodist belief that health care be understood as a basic human right as found in our Social Principles, the bishop encouraged the senator to continue to work with other members of Congress “to find a solution to the very complex problem of providing health care … for all the citizens in our United States.”

Click here to read the letter.

Rachel Fitzgerald

Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky is pleased to announce the hiring of the Rachel Fitzgerald as administrative assistant for the episcopal office of The Greater Northwest Area, effective May 8, 2017. Working out of Des Moines, Washington, Fitzgerald will provide administrative leadership for the episcopal office as it coordinates the mission, ministries, and leadership resources of The United Methodist Church across the area.

“Rachel’s kind and steady approach to work and human relationships will serve us well,” said Bishop Stanovsky. “She enjoys people, has a high ethic of confidentiality, and believes in the mission of the Church as it finds expression in the Greater Northwest.

Fitzgerald currently supports the ministries of Mason United Methodist Church in Tacoma, Washington as Office/Project Manager and Media Specialist. She also works part-time providing office support at the Annie Wright Day School. She brings a wealth of experience in administrative duties and technical capability with her to the position. Thirty years of involvement with the theatrical arts in a variety of roles have helped Rachel to value adaptability and lifelong learning.

The Greater Northwest Area provides leadership for the Alaska United Methodist Conference, and the Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conferences. The Greater Northwest is the largest geographic episcopal area in the United States serving United Methodists in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and small parts of Montana and Canada as well.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky, spokesperson for the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops

April 28, 2017

The Judicial Council ruled today on challenges to the election of an out gay bishop in The United Methodist Church. The ruling is long and complicated, reinforcing the reality that the church is not of one mind about inclusion of LGBTQI people and sexual practices outside heterosexual marriage. We thank the Judicial Council for allowing the Commission on A Way Forward to do its work. We have said from the beginning that we trust the commission to find new ways for United Methodists of varying perspective to live and serve God together.

Karen Oliveto, is still a bishop of The United Methodist Church, assigned to the Mountain Sky Area, with all the rights, privileges, responsibilities and protections that every clergy person enjoys. The decision refuted the claim that bishops have the right and responsibility to declare a candidate for election as a bishop ineligible without due process.

On the other hand, the Judicial Council expanded the definition of “self-avowed practicing homosexual,” making it clear that the church is still not open to full LGBTQI inclusion.

While the Judicial Council ordered a review of Bishop Oliveto’s qualifications for ministry, the Western Jurisdiction is already in the process of responding to complaints that were filed after her election. This process will continue according to the provisions of our Book of Discipline.

We will have more to say about this ruling as the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops gathers this week during the Council of Bishops meeting. We will be in prayer, conversation, and consultation with leaders of the Western Jurisdiction and the Council of Bishops.

Dear Brothers, Sisters, and Siblings in Christ:

Later this month, the United Methodist Judicial Council will gather to consider a question related to last July’s election of Bishop Karen Oliveto, who was assigned by our Western Jurisdiction to serve the Mountain Sky Area. The conferences of that Area are holding a prayer vigil between April 23 and 30 and we are writing you today, that you might consider adding your prayers to theirs.

The Western Jurisdiction’s election of the church’s first openly lesbian bishop has created a sense of uncertainty for some people across our United Methodist connection. The apostle Paul addresses such feelings in his letter to the emerging early church at Phillipi, writing in the fourth chapter:

“Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.” – CEB

It is with this attitude of prayer that the jurisdiction’s delegates undertook the election of Bishop Oliveto. Should we not continue to pray with the same perspective trusting that God hears us, loves us, and heals our wounds?

Western Jurisdiction delegates believe something sacred took place in Scottsdale, Ariz., as they responded to the movement of the Holy Spirit and elected Bishop Karen Oliveto. The video that accompanies this letter (LINK) shares the thoughts of several. They understand the burden of their decision within the church they love, and pray for God to lead us into a unity that includes all of our Lord’s children.

The core questions before the Judicial Council focus on the actions of the delegates and the bishops that laid hands on Bishop Oliveto to consecrate her. The Western Jurisdiction’s response, grounded in church law and precedence, strongly affirms the vote and the bishop’s consecration.

The Judicial Council will conduct their oral hearing on the election of Bishop Oliveto on Tuesday, April 25 starting at 6:00 a.m. Pacific, lasting approximately three hours. The hearing will be open to the public but no live broadcasts or recordings will be allowed. Attendees will be prohibited from posting to social media or text during the hearing. While some reporting might be expected later that day, a decision is not expected until the full meeting of the Judicial Council concludes at noon (9:00 a.m. Pacific) on Friday, April 28.

Our Bishop, Elaine Stanovsky, will be present at the Judicial Council on April 25, to support Bishop Oliveto and as a member the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops.

We share these details with you as they provide a good time of focus for our prayer. The following Prayer Template from the Mountain Sky Vigil is being offered to people across the Jurisdiction as one possible way to construct prayer time. Feel free to adapt it for yourself, your local congregation, or group.

  • 5 minutes of centering prayer and opening to the movement of the Spirit.
  • 15 minutes of prayer for the persons directly involved in the proceedings, the Judicial Council members, those representing the South Central Jurisdiction that filed the case, those representing the Western Jurisdiction, including the College of Bishops and its counsels, and Bishop Karen Oliveto and her spouse, Robin Ridenour.
  • 15 minutes of prayer for those who will be immediately affected by whatever decision comes from the Judicial Council.
  • 15 minutes of prayer for the people and churches of the Mountain Sky Area and the Western Jurisdiction as we work to discern how we will move forward, no matter what the decision may be.
  • 10 minutes of prayers of thanksgiving for the work God has done and continues to do in The United Methodist Church as we seek a place of unity.

Since her assignment starting last September, Bishop Oliveto has exhibited a leadership style and Christ-focused vision for the people of the Mountain Sky Area. Many there would like to continue to see what her leadership will foster. Please hold the people and churches of this area in your prayers as well and reach out to offer your prayerful support during this time of uncertainty.

Click here to acknowledge your commitment to be in prayer and to send a short message to Bishop Karen and the people of the Mountain Sky Area.

In gratitude for every opportunity to be in ministry with you across this Greater Northwest Area,


Rev. Carlo Rapanut
Conference Superintendent
Alaska Conference


Rev. Lowell Greathouse
Mission and Ministry Coordinator
Oregon-Idaho Conference


Rev. David Valera
Director of Connectional Ministries
Pacific Northwest Conference

Prayer IS Action!  Here’s a word of hope and action in face of President Trump’s recent Immigration Order. Steve Sprecher is interim Cascadia district superintendent in the Oregon-Idaho Conference. We can all pray with Muslims around the world at noon on Friday.  One God, many names!  – Bishop Elaine

Sisters and brothers in Christ,

It is no secret that we are living in a tumultuous and disturbing time of social and political upheaval. Almost every newscast or conversation starts with a phrase like, “we’ve never seen anything like this before.”

Rev. Steve Sprecher

But in fact we have. This is not the first time in our history that dark forces have attempted to build walls of division between people, to label and demonize others, and to use these wedges to persecute those “others” who are different from us. Examples of such prejudice and xenophobia are, sadly, too numerous to mention.

Today we are in a different country with different players, but the underlying forces are the same. Attempts to play to our fears instead of our hopes, to emphasize divisions instead of the commonalities which are the strength of our communities have brought us to a moment of truth when we have the opportunity and responsibility to decide who we want to be in the future – as Americans, and especially as Christians – and where we want to look for guidance to lead us forward.

By Rev. Steve Ross

Vision is the word I use to describe why a congregation exists. The big huge purpose of the church is making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. But that mission statement is a purpose bigger than any congregation can fulfill on its own. Vision is the particularization of the mission in a specific community of Christians at a specific time. It deals with two questions that have real, but constantly evolving answers.

  • Who are the specific people we called to engage in the life of discipleship?
  • What is the specific transformation we are called to bring now?

Creating Space

By Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson

Most of us desire a sense of belonging and purpose in the world. And during difficult seasons, such as our current political climate, we long for safe spaces to find hope. This season presents a unique opportunity for the church.

Many, if not all, church leaders and laity I encounter across our church hold a common thread: A large majority would love to have more young people in their churches. But does our corporate desire translate to creating space within our church families for these long-lost siblings?

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