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
Friends in the Greater Northwest,
Yesterday Bishop Bruce Ough led us back to a principle that has guided Methodism throughout our history: God always leads Christians into ministry on the margins with the poor and outcast.
As the Council of Bishops meets to receive and consider the report of the Commission on the Way Forward, receive Bishop Ough’s sermon as a message of courage and hope for the whole Church. Please hold us in prayer, as we seek to lead the church on a path of faithfulness and obedience to God.
Friday, nearly 50 leaders from the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences will gather to be equipped to lead “Table Talks” across the area where United Methodists can seek unity in the church that is deeper than our different understandings and attitudes about human sexuality. The differences are undeniable. They have strained the Church for more than 40 years. In these conversations we hope to understand what informs our differences from one another, so that we can respect one another, learn from one another, and continue to be members of one, undivided Church as we continue to listen to God’s leading through these differences.
The Table Talks will occur throughout the spring. I hope to see you there, to hear your voice, and to prayerfully, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, see the ways to live together in peace.
This is powerful, difficult spiritual work — worthy of the sober self-reflection of Lent. Any time we pause, turn to one another and God, and pray, we live in the promise of new life, revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I pray that as we gather, humbly and prayerfully, there will be enough light to show us the way.
With hope in the resurrection,
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater NW Area
Ash Wednesday 2018
Today is marked by HEARTS and ASHES. Valentine’s Day celebrates the union of two people by love. Ash Wednesday leads us into the 40-day journey with Jesus through death to resurrection with a reminder that we are one with the stuff of the earth – dirt, ash.
Charles Wesley wrote that:
Love, like death, hath all destroyed,
Rendered all distinctions void;
Names and sects and parties fall;
Thou, O Christ, art all in all.[I]
Both love and death erase boundaries that separate us from one another. Receiving ashes smudged on a forehead, or a hand, is a humbling of self and a reminder that we live because God breathes life into dust. We are at once nothing, and one-with-everything.
This is the mystic mystery of living as creatures in relationship with the Creator. We are undeniably distinct individuals at the same time that we participate in a deep and inescapable unity with all of creation.
So, I celebrate both.
First, I receive ashes, which keep me from thinking more highly of myself than I ought to think (Romans 12:3) and to find my common humanity with all I meet. Second, I receive roses and a poem from my life partner, Clint, who draws me out of myself in so many ways and enters my solitude when I have retreated.
May you know your precious, existential uniqueness this day. And may you humbly receive the gift of shared life with others. Both are God’s gracious gifts.
The United Methodist Church continues its search for unity despite differences that threaten to divide us. Please read the following letter from Bishop Bruce Ough (CLICK HERE), President of the Council of Bishops of our Church, and pray for our church as we continue to seek unity that is deeper than our differences. Hear these hopeful words of John Wesley:
Many are we now, and one,
we who Jesus have put on;
there is neither bond nor free,
male nor female, Lord, in thee.
May we all “put on” Jesus again, and anew, this holy season.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater Northwest Area
[i] “Christ, from Whom All Blessings Flow,” by Charles Wesley, The United Methodist Hymnal, 1989, #550.
Image Credit: Foreheads on Ash Wednesday by Kelsey Johnson via CreationSwap.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43: 19 NRSV
God’s doing a new thing. The Church is trying to keep up!
Take a minute and just enjoy.
The Oregon-Idaho, Pacific Northwest and Alaska Conferences have worked collaboratively to cultivate vital ministries since Rev. Stephan Ross (Oregon-Idaho) and Rev. Dr. William Gibson (Pacific Northwest) started working together and across conference boundaries a couple of years ago. We’re breaking down silos to work collaboratively across conference lines, and across traditional staff job descriptions. Today an Innovation Team is taking shape to work in collaboration with district superintendents and local leaders to create new places for new people who are not finding authentic faith community in our churches as they are right now.
Meet the Greater Northwest Innovation Cultivation team, as it is taking form:
The newest member of the team is Dr. Leroy Barber, newly hired Congregational Developer for Vitality for the Oregon-Idaho Conference.
Dr. Barber joins Pacific Northwest staff, Rev. Dr. William Gibson, who will lead the team (Gibson shares some of his thinking in a recent video series), Kristina Gonzalez, a gifted trainer in cultural competency, coaching and leadership development, and Rev. Shalom Agtarap. I invited Agtarap to be one of our preachers for the 2017 Annual Conference; you can hear her message online. We plan to add a specialist who will help churches at the lower boundary of sustainability to explore options for the future. Stay tuned.
Together these innovation cultivators, working with the Congregational Development Team (CDT) in Oregon-Idaho, the Board of Congregational Development (BOCD) in Pacific Northwest, the New Church and Faith Community Development Committee in Alaska and the district superintendents are dedicated to leading a new season of vital ministry across the Greater Northwest through:
- Innovation: starting new ministries, new churches, new faith communities
- Multiplication: existing ministries in new places, and
- Inclusion: reaching across racial and cultural differences to engage a wider variety of people in faith communities.
Together, this team has first-hand experience in starting new churches, multi-cultural ministry, adaptive change, reconciling ministries, re-energizing and leading existing churches into their neighborhoods, and community organizing. They bring urban, rural and suburban experience. Together there is breadth, strength and wisdom that is the miracle of community. Please pray with me for this team as it forms, and the members listen to one another, and share their passion for vital ministries, and learn to work creatively across Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. As this team’s work evolves, look for upcoming stories that will detail how you and your congregation can access these resources.
Do we really have to? Yes. God – who last time I checked was as old as the hills – is all about making things new. So, it’s time to move, to shake off, to leave behind. And as much as we may like things as they are (or were!), God’s way is ahead of us, and if we want to be part of what God’s up to, we’ve got to get moving. What are you willing to give up so new people can be part of a life-giving, world-changing community?
I’m humming Curtis Mayfield’s 1965 anthem for the change God is working –
People get ready, there’s a train a-comin’
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’
You don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater NW Area
I call upon all who hear this message to give public witness to your love of God and neighbor this Martin Luther King, Jr. week by 1) participating in public commemorations, 2) advocating for racial, social and economic justice with elected officials and 3) serving human need in your community.
The last 24 hour news cycle presented me with four puzzle pieces that did not fit into a picture that made sense to me.
President Trump issued his Martin Luther King Jr. Day message to the nation this morning. He taped it yesterday. It is well-crafted and high-minded:
…Dr. King opened the eyes and lifted the conscience of our nation. He stirred the hearts of our people to recognize the dignity written in every human soul. Today we celebrate Dr. King for standing up for the self-evident truth that Americans hold so dear – that no matter what the color of our skin or the place of our birth, we are all created equal by God….Today …we pledge to fight for his dream of equality, freedom, justice and peace.
But, last evening the President of the United States may have profanely said Haiti, African and other nations produce people who are worthy of the dung heap. We don’t know if the reports are true. But we do know that the President has consistently pursued immigration policies aimed at excluding or disadvantaging persons based on his evident religious or racial bias.
3. Earthquake Anniversary
Today is the anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti on January 12, 2010. Watch my interview with UMCOR’s Rev. Jim Gulley, who was trapped for 55 hours in a collapsed hotel.
4. Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, commemorating the world-changing life of a man who helped lead our nation to recognize and address its deep injustices.
When I first set these pieces next to each other I felt confused, and then I got pretty mad. It was righteous, faith-based anger. God gave me this anger as companion to love of neighbor. Don’t be messing with my neighbors! It makes me MAD!
Let me introduce you to some of my beloved neighbors:
In October of 2011, I led United Methodists from the Mountain Sky Area on a mission trip to Haiti. It was nearly two years after the earthquake of 2010 devastated that island nation. The United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) team boarded a flight in Miami that was chock full of teams like ours, as nearly every flight at that time was: young and old volunteers, wearing brightly colored mission team T-shirts – Christian groups, civic organizations, and student service clubs – all flocking to Haiti to help.
I was on a team that went to the small town of Mellier, where the local church and school had crumbled to the ground. We worked for a week in a long series of teams to clear the rubble, frame foundations, haul rock and concrete in wheelbarrows to build a new church and school. We worked hand in had with local residents, hired with our financial contributions so that the reconstruction work not only used volunteer labor, it also benefitted local workers. And, we brought crafts and soccer balls and led and learned songs and skits with the children of the school, who were meeting in temporary plywood rooms erected by an earlier mission team from Europe. Our food was cooked on a wood stove by local women. Our drivers, and interpreters were all Haitian. Every one of them lived in poverty. Every one had a story of how they and their loved ones had been affected by the earthquake.
We all fell a little “in love” with Haiti, the first black republic in the world, with its rich culture and generous, gracious people, despite centuries of colonial violence, chronic poverty, meager natural resources, and corrupt public administration. We experienced people living in piles of rubble, who nonetheless walked, worked and welcomed us with self-evident and irrepressible dignity.
In 2011, Imagine No Malaria brought me in a delegation to Angola in West Africa to distribute anti-Malaria bed nets to protect families from the deadly disease. Here, too, we experienced lovely, industrious people, struggling to live well, to get an education and to care for one another under circumstances of extreme difficulty. Not one of them belonged on a dung heap.
My Piece of the Puzzle
These seem like dangerous times, when core principles of human decency and social justice are in question. The puzzle pieces don’t fit together by themselves. I have a place in the puzzle.
So, this morning I renewed my personal commitment to bearing public witness to my love of God and neighbor. I figured out which public events I will participate in to honor the life, ministry and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend. I see it as my job as God’s partner in creating the “new king/kin-dom.” Clint and I will join a public commemoration in Seattle, to join a community of people who recognize and work for the dignity of all God’s people.
Where will you be?
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice.
Isaiah 60: 1, 5
Epiphany –a moment of sudden or great revelation or realization.
We were shaken awake in 2017 in America – with the sudden realization that sexual abuse and harassment by powerful people of less powerful people is rampant in American society. Most common is abuse of women by men: Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, and so many more. But it can be anyone who uses their advantage to intimidate and exploit someone at a disadvantage. As we know, abuse isn’t always by men of women, it can be between two people of the same sex, women of men, adults abusing children or youth, the rich abusing the poor, or as was reported just this week, parents trafficking their own children for sex to finance their opioid addictions.[i]
Sexual harassment and abuse occur when a person has an inflated sense of their own importance and a distorted sense of their place in the world, which leads them to go where they don’t belong and take what is not theirs. You can hear their distorted thinking, when abusers say, “I thought the feelings were mutual,” or “I thought the sex was consensual.” The first (original) sin the bible tells us about is taking what isn’t yours. That’s what happened in the Garden of Eden, when Eve and Adam plucked and ate the fruit that wasn’t theirs to eat.
In October I was with clergy and other professional ministers in Alaska, when we began to hear about the gross abuses of film producer, Harvey Weinstein. I found myself talking with clergywomen about the inappropriate ways laymen and clergy colleagues treat them. Hugs that turn into gropes. Suggestive comments about personal appearance or physical fitness. A “stolen kiss.” What is a “stolen kiss” if not one that wasn’t given?
Though I am constantly aware of these dynamics at work in our lives, I had fallen into complacency and given up hope of change. To shake myself awake again, I began a personal “Me Too” journal of the encounters in my life that crossed boundaries. I have 18 items so far. As I began to write, lost memories returned. I didn’t think there would be so many. They fall far short of criminal actions. I think of them as encounters that taught me to be wary – to watch out for unspoken intentions, for hidden messages, for intrusions into my personal space.
And then I began to count the cases of clergy sexual abuse I have had a role in responding to as a district superintendent or bishop. More than 25, overwhelmingly men who used the trust of their office to gain sexual access to vulnerable women.
Today, as we remember that God repeatedly shines new light and calls people out of darkness, I want to share three messages.
To women and others who have learned to be wary. I’m sorry. You can be the beautiful, whole, beloved daughters (children) of God. Own and honor the integrity of your personhood: body, mind and spirit. If you feel unsafe around someone, don’t “be nice.” Protect yourself. If you feel another person may want something from you that does not belong to them and that you are not offering, don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. If a person invades your space, your security, or acts without your consent – tell someone. Do not become compliant or make excuses for your abuser if your personal integrity is under assault.
To anyone who has been sexually harmed by a Church leader. Sexual abuse, misconduct and harassment by a clergy person violates a sacred trust. As your bishop, I take reports of misconduct by clergy very seriously. If you have been harmed by a member or officer of a local congregation, I encourage you to share your experience with your pastor, or other trusted leader in the church. If you have been harmed by a clergy person, or an employee or elected officer of the Conference, report your experience to a district superintendent or other trusted Conference leader, who will work with my office to restore the sacred trust of the ordained ministry, and to find a just resolution to your concerns.
To clergy and others in trusted leadership in the Church. Do not confuse self-giving love with self-serving love. It is never OK for you to become sexually involved with people in your care. It is always your responsibility to maintain healthy professional boundaries. Don’t put yourself in a situation where your intentions might be misunderstood. The Church has given its stamp of approval to you as a safe, trustworthy spiritual guide and companion at the boundaries of life and death. Just as you have the power to heal, you also have the power to harm. Your sexual attentions are not a form of ministry, or therapy. If there is something in your life that you can’t share with anyone – you may be a danger to the people in your care. Find a spiritual advisor, counselor, or mentor to help you sort through your “stuff” and ensure that you are a trustworthy pastor. If you do not or cannot maintain the sacred trust of your office, for the love of Christ, step out of ordained ministry.
Let this season of awakening open us to a new way of being in relationship, in which men and women of all sexual identities and orientations, and regardless of power or wealth, honor one another, until the radiance of God’s glory shines upon us.
Send me your thoughts.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater Northwest Area
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!
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.
Give the emperor the things that are the emperor’s,
and God the things that are God’s.
– Matthew 22:21b
Greater Northwest United Methodists,
In the wake of yesterday’s announcement regarding DACA, I’m asking myself, what is the emperor’s and what is God’s? Matthew reminds us that the really important things belong to God and that what we owe to civil authorities is limited by what belongs to God.
Yesterday the White House announced an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy threatening to cause the deportation of 800,000 youth and young adults who were brought to the United States without documents when they were children. Today I remember that:
“The alien who resides with you shall be as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:34
It’s not right even to threaten to deport peaceful, tax-paying immigrants who have lived here for decades, and know no other home. Doing so violates the teachings of the Bible.
Love of God demands that we speak out for our neighbors to government officials who have authority over their lives. Love of God might demand that we act boldly to protect threatened people and families as fiercely as we would protect our own.
The moral imperative to love the alien in our land is clear, though each person and each church will find its own way to love God and neighbor in their place and circumstance. I hope you will find ways to have serious conversations with people who are affected by this end to DACA, and to discern what God is leading us to do in the months ahead.
Pray for people who fear that their lives may be uprooted, and their families torn apart. Pray for our government authorities. Pray that Christ will guide and lead the church to a season of clear witness and courageous action.
With faith in Christ, and confidence that love will win,
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater Northwest Area
Visit greaternw.org/welcome for more DACA information and a list of ideas and resources to help us love one another, love our neighbors and love the stranger. On the page titled “Links for Further Information” you’ll find links to organizations active in supporting refugees and immigrants in each state (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington) alongside national and interfaith groups. Please send other local (to you) resources that you are aware of to the Rev. Lyda Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org for possible inclusion.
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.