Author: Greater NW Communications

Starting this Advent, the Greater Northwest Area will begin a CrossOver year study together. Groups and individuals will work their way through short readings of Brian McLaren’s book We Make the Road by Walking over the 12 months that follow. This study will be complemented by short reflections and creative pieces offered regularly throughout the year, like this one republished with permission from Steve Garnass-Holmes.

As we consider the journey ahead in this CrossOver year, how will we bring Jesus with us? That is a question Garnass-Holmes’ piece begs of us. What else does it evoke in you?

Learn more about the study and subscribe to future posts.


Just as he is

They took him with them in the boat, just as he was.
 — Mark 4.36

Not the holy, jewel-encrusted Jesus,
not the Son of God believe-it-or-else Jesus,
but the teacher from Galilee, plain, just as he is.

No emblems, no gesture, no crown.
No doctrine, no special powers.
Just his presence, his open heart, his willing flesh.

Let him go with you. Take him as he is.
He will change your journey (You will be frightened.)
Just get in the boat.

   —  June 21, 2018

By Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson

The church has been making headlines as of late but not for the best of reasons. On the unsettling political front we hear conservative political pundits (along with some conservative evangelicals) using Scripture to justify some of the administration’s most divisive policies. And now with the formation of a Justice Department task force announced this past week by United Methodist and US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, devotion to defend religious liberty has reached new heights.

The Trump Administration is doubling down on building walls between people and protecting white privilege. Amid a war on immigrants and people of color, families have been torn apart, causing irrevocable psychological damage to many young children in the process. And while many progressive churches are fighting back and organizing strategically, much of Evangelical Christianity continues its slippery slide into alignment with an administration, trading the Church’s responsibility to act as a force for the common good for political access and gain.

So, in a season when like-mindedness, political affiliation, and fake news represent skewed affinity, what is the Church’s responsibility when it comes to its own culpability? After all, we have built an Empire on affinity. And, as I have argued before, we need to check ourselves and reconcile the church’s role in building a culture of exclusion.

Much of the existing strategies for congregational development across our denomination elevates the consideration of affinity between pastors/leaders and the mission field/communities to which they are appointed. However, I want to de-emphasize this notion. And, yes, I am aware that there will be folks who disagree. Regardless, here is my argument.

First, strategies around leveraging affinity groups are based on the Church Growth Movement (CGM), which came into view in the 1960s. The 1950s and 1960s represented years of significant upswing in church attendance and engagement. The CGM was actually birthed by Donald McGavran at Northwest Christian College in Eugene, Oregon. I find it ironic that the CGM was given life in our context; what is today (as you now know) called the “None Zone,” where there are more people outside of the church/Christian community than anywhere in the United States.

Essentially, in the 1960s, alarm bells were going off around the exiting of young adults from the church, much like today. In the midst of a twentieth-century crisis there was a struggle for Christian identity, which found devision among races. During these years, and in the midst of a fight for civil rights, white supremacist hate groups, most of which undauntedly claimed a legacy of Nazism, radically promoted their belief that white Christians were God’s chosen people.1 Though the ideologies of these groups varied, history shows that these groups primarily directed their vindictiveness toward Jews, homosexuals, and other minority persons of color, especially African Americans.

Upon this backdrop there grew strategic considerations for church growth within Evangelical Christianity. Resulting from scientific principles and set on 30 years of missionary experience in India, McGavran founded the Institute of Church Growth around the vision that congregations must be formed from homogeneous groups of people, and that it was important for folks to feel comfortable and “at home” with others. People with similar skin color, beliefs, priorities, fears, hopes, etc. would successfully grow in community together. McGavran expressed his theory on the sociological implication of Christian community development, by stating:

“[People] like to become Christians without even crossing racial, linguistic or class barriers… It has been found that where cultural obstacles are recognized and new converts nurtured in churches of their own culture, the evangelistic efforts are far more effective…”2

The base premise was that because people indeed have prejudices, that these biases should be used and made as an aid to Christianity, drawing individuals together in comfortable and like-minded groups.3  This was based on the idea that church growth professionals believed that in the struggle for Christian identity, and the overall Christian movement, most opposition in society was not theological, but instead sociological. A broad example is that Sundays contained the most segregated hour of the week.

There are several “church growth” models, many of which are present still today in strategies for congregational development. These bear witness to the CGM and include the following examples: mega-church, cell church, Alpha course, Natural Church Development, seeker sensitive, soul-winning, and other similar programs and methods. It is absolutely true to state that our natural human tendency is to be drawn to others who are just like us in every way. We have what Parker Palmer calls an ancient fear of “the other.” This is embedded in our humanness, so it would make sense to leverage this for some sort of gain, right? That is what the CGM proposed to capture; a formulaic approach for the Christian movement. And, as the CGM began to cross from the twentieth to the twenty-first century, methods leveraged our dominant American consumer culture, drawing upon marketing and sales strategies.

As good as this sounds, when we consider embracing the “Good news that will bring great joy to all people” (Luke 2:10, NLT), sacrificing the theological position over sociological truths is contrary to the gospel. The gospel subverts such a posture. The gospel reaches cross-culturally and reflects the “kin-dom” of God, representing all races and ethnic groups equally. The gospel breaks down the barriers that divide us, for “there is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For we are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28, NLT).

In short, Jesus desires to subvert these natural human tendencies in us, nudging us toward “the other” with whom we, more often than not, do not share a common affinity.

Is there a time when this makes sense? Yes. I believe that affinity is most important when it relates to persons of color who find themselves in a dominant white culture. Cultivating a safe space around affinity in this instance is absolutely appropriate and very much needed in this current season. And, white leaders in the church need to not only become advocates and allies, but we need to use our privilege to equal the playing field. As leaders, if we do not allow Jesus to subvert the tendency we have in our own lives to default to what’s most comfortable, and then model what it looks like to step into unfamiliar relationships with others, how do we expect our communities of faith — new and old — to do the same?

While affinity appears natural in developing safe and courageous spaces, I do not believe it should, today, be a primary consideration for how we foster Christian community. Instead, I believe that we should more readily embrace intercultural competence as the primary lens through which we understand ourselves and then see and engage the world around us. This is an inside-out move that would begin to provide visible evidence of an invisible grace working within each of us.

How will you allow Jesus to subvert what might be hidden deep within, so that you can be more effective at breaking down walls? The lives of your neighbors depend on it.


1. John Butler, Grant Wacker, and Randall Balmer, Religion in American Life: A Short History, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 443.

2. Martyn Percy, “How to Win Congregations and Influence Them: An Anatomy of the Church Growth Movement,” Modern Churchman, 34 (1992): 25.

3. Ralph H. Elliott, “Dangers of the Church Growth Movement: Is it possible to maintain our identity as the church and to be a ‘successful’ institution as the same time?” The Christian Century, 98 (August 1981).

By Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson

Don’t you think it’s about time to embrace innovation, for a change? Actually, what we sometimes forget is that innovation is about change. Culture is always emerging — the ever-ticking clock ticks — and it would be an understatement to say the church doesn’t do well to keep up. “The times they are a-changin’,” — always — to reference the poetic genius of Bob Dylan. If you can stomach it, simply look at your news feed for glimpses of the upside-down world of “alternative facts,” “fake news,” and the minute by minute, widening political and theological divide.

No misunderstandings intended here; I am not inferring that the church is suppose to become culture… What I am saying is that we — as the church — have been slow to engage culture, move beyond  think-out-of-the-box conversations, and actually do more that would accurately reflect innovative ways to influence culture. In our current climate, we’ve got to shift beyond carving out “safe space” and now create more “courageous space,” to riff off one of my ministry team partners, Kristina Gonzalez.

So, what does it mean to be innovative?

One of the most influential books I read as a young, rookie business entrepreneur was Peter Drucker’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Practice and Principles (Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. 1985). In the opening chapters, Drucker explained that entrepreneurs can’t help but be innovative. Entrepreneurs innovate. Period.

From Drucker’s perspective, innovation wasn’t a technical activity. It was economic or social. In other words, innovation was wonderfully nuanced by the emotional temperament of humanity. It engaged the deep recesses of our creativity (both producers and consumers), which was often suppressed by sensibility and certainty.

Over the years, the church has tried to embody innovation through the business phrase “best practices.” For the business world, “best practices” were about maintaining quality and establishing benchmarks. In the church, however, we’ve had a tendency to see “best practices” as program options that will ensure our success. If they worked in that church, then surely they will work in our church. A tempting argument.

The problem — as I have alluded — is that the church is not as adaptive as Corporate America. We don’t like change. We are drawn into it kicking and screaming. Or, at the very least, we are so guarded that our fear of change keeps us from operating out of the box.

In 2011, I stumbled upon a valuable little book written by Stephen Shapiro. In Best Practices Are Stupid: How to Out-Innovate the Competition, Shapiro argues that the time has come to be more innovative about the way we innovate. His core argument rests upon this premise:

“Following in the footsteps of  others is the fastest way to irrelevancy. Instead, create your own path. Find new and creative ways of staying ahead of the competition. Only through repeated, rapid, and efficient change can an organization survive and thrive in today’s volatile marketplace” (pp. 6).

Neither Shapiro or myself are saying that we should ignore “best practices;” not at all. In fact, it is extremely important to understand what is working in a particular context and why it is working. There are always nuggets that may spark something that works in our setting. But… It’s a mistake to think that a “best practice” is a silver bullet answer for a declining church that lacks creativity and innovation. We’ve got to move beyond a “plug and play” approach to “best practices” and start focusing on what I call contextual problem solving. This is the more robust pathway toward creativity and innovation in ministry.

“It’s a mistake to think that a ‘best practice’ is a silver bullet answer for a declining church that lacks creativity and innovation.”

Many argue that “best practices” for the church allow the church to at least do something. This is true. However, we want to move us from “at least doing something” to actually advancing the mission of the church; to make disciples for the transformation of the world. I desire to make a difference; to change the crazy world in which I find myself. My hope (and assumption) is that you do as well.

So, what would it look like for you and I to be more innovative in our work? What would it look like to engage culture, elevate the gospel above the noise of this world, and challenge ourselves (and others) to change? That will take a very different and practical approach. It’s risky. It’s kind of like… No; I would say it is exactly like “walking by faith.”

I hope you’ll check out our web presence on the Greater Northwest Area website. You’ll learn more about the values undergirding our work and can find resources and ideas to spark movement in you and your mission fields; ideas that help shift your work toward being a contextual problem solver. If we are going to create new places for new people, especially considering our current political and theological climate, then we are going to have to embrace such a time as this. It’s time to innovate for change.

To United Methodists in the Greater Northwest and all who read these words, wherever you are:

Between last week’s HOSANNA! and Easter’s ALLELUIA! we watch as Jesus walks to his death at the hands of secular and religious authorities, but emerges on the other side, victorious by the power of love at work in the world.

If we haven’t already cast the story with bunnies, daffodils and butterflies, we will recognize this story wherever hope breaks forth from despair. In the crowds of young people in the streets of America, marching, pleading, promising to claim their chance to live without the fear of being stalked and killed at school or at home, or in the neighborhood.

We will recognize the story among immigrants, who have left everything behind, travelled at great peril across deserts, war zones, oceans, boundaries, to arrive in foreign, often hostile lands in hopes of living in freedom, security and opportunity.

We will recognize the story among the poor and homeless who live every day like birds or tiny fur friends in hidden corners, and under bushes, in alleys, behind abandoned walls, in defiance of the powers of death that hem them in before and behind.

We will recognize the Jesus story in our own lives every time we break free from habits of thought and practice that do not serve us well – routines, sorrows, low expectations, petty grievances that we give safe harbor, allowing them to dull our senses and lower our gaze.

We will recognize Jesus, alive and well every time we hear the unlikely – miraculous story, really – of someone walking out of the valley of the shadow of death into the dazzling light of a new day.

You see, the Jesus story isn’t about Jesus, really. His death and resurrection weren’t about him at all. They were about us. They were about God’s magnificent creation, coming out from behind a cloud. Jesus lived and loved and died and rose to open our hearts, our minds and the doors of our small lives to the way God’s love in and through us can make all things new. This is the body of Christ, broken for you. This is the cup of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many.

May new hope dawn in your life, in our nation, and on this precious, precarious planet. May a way open that you thought was closed. And may you discover unimagined blessing.

So shall we shout, Alleluia!

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater NW Area

Bishop Stanovsky
Bishop Elaine Stanovsky leads communion for the Table Talks facilitator training training held in Portland in early March.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky is inviting United Methodists in the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences to participate in Table Talk conversations on human sexuality, the upcoming report of the Commission on a Way Forward and special called session of the General Conference in February 2019. The conversations will be held in various settings across the Greater Northwest Area.

Early in March, 47 leaders from the three conferences were trained to convene these conversations in a worship-full context. In her invitation to these leaders, Bishop Stanovsky shared that the United Methodist Council of Bishops is encouraging similar “conversation in each annual conference to further our life together around matters of human sexuality and church unity.” This facilitator training allowed them to experience and offer feedback on a model for conversation that they will take out to other groups across the area.

Noted worship designer and leader Dr. Marcia McFee resourced attendees at the training held at Christ United Methodist Church, west of Portland, Oregon. Worship is an essential element of how we work together as the Church and McFee was brought in to offer creative guidance and insight. Nancy Tam Davis, Pacific Northwest Conference lay leader, and the Rev. Donna Pritchard, Senior Pastor at Portland’s First United Methodist Church and Commission on a Way Forward member, also provided facilitation and insight.

Trainees gathered with a spirt of curiosity, hopefulness, and anticipation. Bishop Stanovsky, Pritchard, and others offered insight to participants on the state of the larger church’s conversation before they experienced the time of meal, worship and conversation that they are being asked to replicate and lead.

What to Expect at Table Talks

The Table Talk design allows for a safe place for conversations about topics that may be difficult or divisive. According to McFee, “Surrounding the conversations in worship is a way to ground ourselves in the story of our faith and our own hearts.”

Before entering discussion, participants will be invited to commit to a simple covenant. In short, the covenant asks them to: (1) Stay Curious, (2) Be Kind, and to (3) Listen with the same amount of passion with which they want to be heard.

Rev. Carlo Rapanut, Alaska Conference Superintendent and a member of the design team asked the questions, “How did Jesus deal with conflict?” Then citing Luke 22:14 he pointed out that, “Jesus would start a difficult conversation by gathering for a meal.” So most of the Table Talk sessions will include some sort of meal time to allow for connection and conversation.

Table Talk
Jan Nelson, OR-ID Conference Lay Leader, shares with other facilitators at the training.

Facilitators learned that there isn’t a specific outcome expected from the conversations, but rather that there be a forum and process for respectful dialog. According to Stanovsky, “Table Talks aren’t an attempt to make everyone think or believe alike. But they are an opportunity to ask if our differences need to drive us apart? Or is there a way that we can honor one another, stay together, and continue at one table, in one conversation as we continue to seek to understand God’s will?”

Oregon-Idaho Conference Lay Leader Jan Nelson is one of the facilitators. She reflects that, “There are many issues that we avoid discussing even with our friends and families. It’s important for us in the church to model a way to talk about things that divide us. In this way, both laity and clergy can be witnesses to God’s love.”

While it is intended that all Table Talks provide a place to grow in understanding, each conversation will take on a certain character of its own. It is intended that they take place in districts, church clusters, ethnic caucuses, and within other groups and existing networks. Some Table Talks may include 40-50 persons while others may be relatively small in number. The questions and beliefs of participants will inevitably shape the conversation to some degree as well.

The Commission on a Way Forward

Commission on a Way Forward logoThe Commission on a Way Forward was proposed at the 2016 General Conference by the Council of Bishops “to do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.” The proposal was approved, and a 32-member commission was named in October of 2016. You can learn more about their composition, vision, and how they are structuring their work here. The Bishops have also called a Special Session of the General Conference to be held be held February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri limited to acting on the report from the Council “based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward.”

In December, the Commission on a Way Forward filed a report with the Council of Bishops outlining three “sketches” or possible models for how the denomination might move beyond the current impasse regarding the inclusion of LGBTQ persons. The Commission met again in January to continue its work on these sketches after receiving input from the Council. Following the most recent Council of Bishop’s meeting, it was reported that there are two plans under consideration.

How to participate

Dates for Table Talks will be published as they are made available on the Greater Northwest Area Website. They will also be on their respective Annual Conference calendar. If you don’t see one near you, check back later as more may be added.

Using the vivid example of creative problem solving featured in the movie Apollo 13, the Rev. Dr. William (Bill) Gibson offers a fresh look at the feeding of the multitudes in Matthew’s Gospel discovering a message for today’s church. Gibson argues that too often in the church, we allow our anxieties to shift our own thinking away from “what God is already up to” toward what he calls “the scarcity of the moment” to the detriment of what is possible.

Transcript:

There is no question, that in what is emerging as a post-Christian America, that there are challenging times for the church.

But it’s in these anxious moments when we’re trying to navigate a 21st-century landscape of how to do church differently that we become anxious; we talk about what we don’t have rather than what we do have. We say we don’t have enough money, we don’t have enough people, we don’t have the right facilities, it’s not possible. We get caught up in the scarcity of the moment rather than the abundance of God.

I’m reminded of this story – I don’t know if you remember this or not, Apollo 13. Now if you are a movie buff you probably seen the movie with Tom Hanks in it, right? This is a mission to the moon, and on the way to the moon they have this problem with the spacecraft.

Three of the four Apollo 13 Flight Directors applaud the successful splashdown of the Command Module “Odyssey.”

After the famous words, “Houston, we have a problem,” Gene Kranz gathers all the NASA engineers into this room to begin this problem-solving exercise. All this chaos ensues and everybody’s arguing about which problem should take priority. There’s just this lots of noise that it’s an engine issue, it’s an oxygen issue, it’s all these kinds of things.

And finally Gene Kranz says, “cut it out! Just be quiet. Can we start with what on the spacecraft is working?” And once they turn their attention away from the problems and issues to the assets on the spacecraft they begin to problem solve in a way that became one of NASA’s greatest accomplishments. They brought three astronauts safely back to Earth.

The same thing happens in the church. We get caught up; our anxiety drives us to begin to think about what’s not possible and it turns our attention away from the things we’ve been blessed with.

Matthew chapter 14 also is a story where Jesus is there on the side of the shores of the sea of Galilee and this large crowd has gathered. And it’s getting late and the disciples come to Jesus and they say, “Hey, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, the sun is going down. We need to send these people home. You need to ask them to go home because they’re going to have to eat.”

And Jesus said, “That won’t be necessary, you feed them.”

The disciples look at each other, like, “he’s crazy, right?” And they say to Jesus, “That’s not possible. I don’t know if you are aware of this but we only have these two stinking fish and these five loaves of bread.”

Jesus, in that moment, recognizes a teaching opportunity. He says, “bring them here.” So Jesus essentially says bring me what you have and he takes what the disciples are offering and he blesses it and it multiplies enough to feed a multitude of people.

Our anxiety causes us to turn our attention away from what God is already up to. It causes us to focus on the scarcity of the moment. What if we were to turn our attention to the abundance of God? What if we were to bring Jesus what we have?

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.

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.

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