Episcopal Address Part 3 | The United or Untied Methodist Church – shaping the future of the Church?

The United or Untied Methodist Church – shaping the future of the Church?

Episcopal Address Part III  (Part IPart II) | September 16, 2020

Remember February of 2019?

General Conference met in St. Louis, Missouri, with high hopes that The United Methodist Church would adopt “The One Church Plan,” eliminating the prohibitions and punishments which have marginalized and excluded full participation of LGBTQ+ people in the Church and its ministries for nearly 40 years. When the plan failed, hopes crashed and the General Conference ended in open anger and hostility, while conversations began across the church about what needed to happen next.

How can United Methodists who cannot tolerate the exclusive policies and practices resist? Hang banners outside the church, run newspaper ads, withhold apportionments, plan to leave the denomination? Should we try again at another General Conference? Should the denomination plan for an orderly separation with fair division of assets to be presented to the next General Conference? Should we abandon the idea of a global church, and give more autonomy to national or regional churches? One thing we quickly realized is that we needed to intentionally invite into leadership as we shape the future that they will carry forward.

A year ago, I called together a Guiding Coalition of diverse leaders from the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences. It organized into ten working groups that began to look at options for the future. 

And then COVID-19 grabbed our attention, threatening the very health of the nation and world. It became the critical focus as we adjusted every aspect of our lives to keep safe and prevent the spread of the disease. Concern for the future of The United Methodist Church receded into the background. Almost everything we understand as Church moved online. Conferences were cancelled or postponed and conducted remotely like this one.

And then the world saw George Floyd, with a policeman’s knee on his neck, struggle, plead, call for his Mama and die on a street in Minneapolis. Again, the headlines shifted, attention focused on real and present systemic racism in America. People cried out, rose up and poured out into the streets to demand racial justice and equity.

We live in a different world today than we did even a year ago. These movements are overwhelming. They demand all our attention and resources. We are weary. But no rest for the weary.

As wildfires rage across the West, we find ourselves in another crisis in Oregon and Washington, and to a lesser degree, to this point, in Idaho. And the church digs deeper, finds reserves it did not know it had, invents new ways to mobilize to offer relief to people who are evacuated, homeless, and stricken by sooty, ashen air.

Disaster response volunteers are working with district superintendents, local church pastors and laity, our Hispanic ministry coordinator and communicators to provide emergency shelter – a necessary service. They are also responding to the need to store the personal belongings of people who have evacuated in church buildings that have been closed for months. All the while they adopt practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The faithfulness, courage, and generosity of the churches is urgently needed and ready in this time of uncertainty. And the “connections” The United Methodist Church brings to these crises are the blessings of generations of faithful folks who have given, organized, volunteered, prayed, and reached out.

United or Untied: what is the future of United Methodism?

I think about this as a telescoping question, beginning in every local church, and expanding out until it includes the whole global UMC.

At the Center: Local Churches 

At the center of questions about United Methodism is the local church. We know, going back to Paul’s church in Corinth, that every local church struggles to have a center that is strong enough to hold people together despite strong differences of understanding, practice, opinion and actions. This is nothing new, though it looks different in every generation and every location. Churches fight about anything and everything: music, the color of the carpet, worship time, Sunday school curriculum, who should have keys to the building, or the kitchen. And they fight about abortion, gun rights, human sexuality and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in its ministries.  Divisions have become even more intense as attitudes toward the pandemic, racism and LGBTQ+ inclusion have become politicized and threaten to divide congregations that have lived in peace for decades.

First Ring: The Alaska Conference

The Alaska Conference, which is 49 years old, is asking to become a mission district in the Pacific Northwest Conference. This proposal will come before the Annual, General and Jurisdictional Conferences in 2021. What will life together look like if this proposal is adopted next year? What must we be doing now, planning now, changing now to fully embrace Alaska in the PNW?

Second Ring: The Greater Northwest Area – Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences

What does it mean that the area shares one bishop? It’s easy to see it as a burden – less bishop per conference. Even as the churches and communities across the Greater Northwest decline and struggle to connect with new generations and new populations in their communities, we are learning that as we work together across conference lines, we often expand our capacity, our innovation, our community engagement, our connectional strength. Cooperation across conference lines has blossomed during COVID-19 and now in response to the wildfires that are ravaging Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. Crisis response, communications, Grocery Gift Cards for Families and the Fund for Families, all benefited from cross-conference collaboration.

  • Let’s hear it for disaster response volunteers and the district superintendents who have worked as a crisis management team consistently from the earliest days of the pandemic, to learn the best science as it emerged, to listen to the best advice, and to lead our churches to put health and life first, and to adjust and limit their activities to prevent spread of the virus. Oh, and they just secured two $10,000 UMCOR emergency grants, one for Pacific Northwest and one for Oregon-Idaho Conference, to provide relief to victims of the wildfires. And they are working with district superintendents to help local churches that have been closed for months, open to provide emergency shelter and other relief services.
  • Let’s hear it for conference communicators, who have worked tirelessly during COVID-19 to help us keep connected while we were staying at home, closing church buildings, and learning to worship, pray and give online. Communicators from the three conferences have worked together to provide timely updates on the pandemic, host weekly webinars on topics like online worship and giving, providing pastoral care, staying healthy. They promoted the best practices for hygiene, including a campaign to sew and wear masks. They helped local churches learn to use Zoom, Facebook and other platforms for online worship and meetings. They published notices to local churches on staying safe, postponing in-person worship and Reimagining Life Together. They produced online Easter Worship available across the area, and resources for local churches to incorporate into online Pentecost worship.
  • Let’s hear it for the Innovation Vitality (IV) Team, that initiates and supports innovative ministry projects across the area, within existing churches and with new leaders working in communities our churches don’t reach. 

Now take a deep breath. I’m going to ask a question that I mostly hear in whispered tones:

Is it time for the conferences to merge into one?  

Hear me. I know that simply uttering this question causes some blood pressure to rise, and other blood to boil. I have been slow to consider this question until and unless it arises from within the area. Friends, this question is arising from within the area. We can pretend we don’t hear it, but it’s being asked. And as it is asked, I hear two responses: 

  1. This is the time to merge into the Greater Northwest Conference – when everything is disrupted already, and we are working well together, and
  2. Never! The conferences have distinctive cultures, history. We don’t want to lose that. We’ll get lost in a bigger conference.

We owe it to ourselves and to each other to have this conversation, and to ask: Where is God leading us? Where are we finding new life?

The Western Jurisdiction

Our jurisdiction has more unanimity about the divisive questions of LGBTQ+ inclusion than almost any other sector of the Church. LGBTQ+ clergy have been ordained and survived in ministry, and LGBTQ+ weddings have been performed in every conference in the West. So, what does the future look for in the West? If the main branch of United Methodism continues to prohibit and punish LGBTQ+ inclusion, what is to become of the Western Jurisdiction? Can it remain part of a church that excludes or marginalizes LGBTQ+ people, working and praying for another General Conference to solve the conflict? Across the United States and around the world, United Methodists who are LGBTQ+ inclusive look to the Western Jurisdiction to lead. What might that look like? How do we have those conversations? God didn’t lead United Methodists in the West out of the slavery of homophobia to let us wander eternally in the present wilderness. We search for the path to promises fulfilled.

The United Methodist Church

For nearly 40 years our church has struggled to reach a consensus about inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the life and ministry of the Church. But it hasn’t been just about human sexuality. Some strategic people chose this as the issue over which to divide the church. This conflict came to intense and agonizing conflict at the General Conferences held in 2016 and 2019, with no resolution. It does not appear that United Methodists can remain together in the one, global church we have been since 1968. So, what will become of this one great “connectional” church of 12 million members worldwide when the ties that bind us stretch and break? Will it break into national churches? Will it splinter into many small fragments based on worship style, inclusive language, sexual identity and orientation or social policy? Will every local church have to decide who to affiliate with? Or will Annual Conferences make this decision, forcing some local churches to vote to stay or withdraw from their Annual Conference? How will property and other assets be divided? And most importantly, what will the division be for?  What purpose will it serve?  What vision is God leading us toward? Who do we want to be for one another and how does God want us to transform the world? 

The existential question we face in the Greater Northwest is, will we stay together? Do we want to stay together? Do we love each other enough, to stay in communion with one another despite real differences? The annual conferences of the Greater Northwest Area have been LGBTQ+ inclusive for many years. LGBTQ+ inclusion is already part of the identity of United Methodism in the area. And we have had a commitment to include ministries with immigrant people, and to be racially and ethnically diverse. Both urban and rural. Young and old. Red and blue.

But we fall short of our own inclusive aspirations. And we squabble over which diverse communities can stay together and which ones are incompatible. Between now and General Conference in September 2021, we need to test and grow our faith to a deeper level where we trust that Jesus gives us One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism, even though we live out our faith in different ways. At the core we are not divided. Our gifts all serve one Savior, who gives us the grace to live, worship and serve together. We can endure this rough patch if we stay in relationship, if we learn to talk about what we hold most close, if we let love bind us together with cords that cannot be broken. 

A year ago, when I called the Guiding Coalition and its working groups, we started to explore the complicated questions surrounding our United Methodist Future. When COVID hit in the spring, we all shifted our focus from the future of United Methodism to the immediate present. All except one group that called itself “Weaving a Grassroots Connection.” The members of the group continued to experiment with initiating conversations among people in The United Methodist Church about why they are United Methodist. They had a great time doing it. And they want to help us all have these conversations. Watch this first fruit example of their efforts.

They believe, and I believe that if we grow to know and love one another, we will be united and connected in the love and grace of Jesus Christ. What was it Jesus said? “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20). What would Jesus do with us if we gathered in small gatherings, learned to love each other, and asked him what he wants for us? What if the “connection” became personal instead of institutional? What if it was about loving relationships with one another, about how a local church relates to its community or how one local church comes alongside another local church in times of joy and distress – to share each other’s burdens? What if the future of United Methodism rested on a weaving of connections between people who are learning to see, know and love each other? Now that would be a strong connection.

So, my friends, my siblings, and cousins, my neighbors and you who may be strangers – I invite you to be the hopeful, faithful, loving, courageous, audacious, humble people that God, in holy scripture, invites us to be. We can stop the spread of a deadly virus. We can root out racism and create beloved community. We can and we will recover from flood, earthquake, storm, and wildfire. We can be a “big tent” church, where people can journey with each other, in the presence of Jesus, toward a future where everyone has a place, and the parts all fit together. We might even be able to save the planet and all the teaming creatures that call it home.

When faced with a very difficult assignment that the disciples did not feel capable of, Jesus said to them, “truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

How do we move forward together?

For the next 15 months, the Greater Northwest Cabinet is committed to focusing our leadership on three ministry foci:

  • Do No Harm

    Fighting COVID-19

  • Do Good

    Dismantling Racism
  • Stay in Love with God

    Weaving a Connectional Future for United Methodism

Alongside these priorities, we will, of course, help our churches provide relief to people harmed by wildfire. And we will always keep our eyes on the horizon to receive what comes our way of blessing or curse and respond with love. This is what love requires. And what is possible – with the faith of a mustard seed.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Greater Northwest Episcopal Area

Responding to Wildfires across the Greater Northwest Area

Responding to Wildfires across the Greater Northwest Area

Friends in the Greater Northwest Area,

United Methodist leaders from across our area have been meeting to monitor and respond to the wildfires ravaging our land and threatening many communities across Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. People in many areas have evacuated or are preparing to evacuate from their homes. If you are not in immediate danger, you may be like many ­others who see and taste these wildfires in smoke-filled skies and with every breath we take.

People of faith want to do good in the face of danger, but we need to work to ensure that the good we intend does not accidentally do harm. Because of the massive evacuations being issued across our states, and because our churches and ministry settings are committed to doing no harm, doing good, and staying in love with God, an addendum has been added to the Reimagining Life Together guidelines for our church and ministry settings to guide United Methodist responses to the wild fire crisis.

As we seek to respond to these wildfires, I acknowledge how weary everyone is right now from these demands, on top of coronavirus, on top of dismantling racism, on top of escalating partisanship that is eroding our ability to work together for the common good. Amazing disaster response teams in the Greater Northwest Area act as the hands and feet of Jesus in communities across the area and in partnership with local churches. When a disaster strikes, survivors often lose so much – the roof over their heads and other property, livelihoods, even loved ones. These wildfires show how devastating these disasters can be. Yet this year it seems like one crisis erupts on top of the next.

And so, we call out to God, seeking mercy. Seeking relief. Seeking just one day when we do not feel danger near at hand and it doesn’t feel like the weight of the world is on each of our shoulders.

ADDENDUM to Reimagining Life Together for 2020 Northwest Wildfire Relief

Effective September 11, 2020

For Wildfire Relief only, this addendum supersedes the Disaster Response guidance in the Reimagining document.

Ministry settings planning to provide relief support in their communities will work with their District Superintendent (local churches) or Director of Connectional Ministries (other ministry settings) to discuss the community need and the request from a local government authority and/or established disaster response agencies (such as the Red Cross) for relief support.  District Superintendents or Directors of Connectional Ministry must approve plans to use church facilities for wildfire relief support activities.

Join me in praying for the safety of our friends and neighbors and for those who have already suffered loss of life. Join me in praying for the first responders and wild land firefighters putting themselves in harm’s way to help others seek shelter, save homes and property. Join me in praying for God’s good creation, that we may tend to her more carefully.

Join me, also, in a call to action through our gifts of financial resources. We know some of our communities have already been decimated by fire and know there are others in potential danger.

I am grateful to report that the Pacific Northwest and Oregon-Idaho Conferences have each received emergency grants of $10,000 from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to support response efforts. But it’s just a drop in the bucket of what will be needed.

In the Oregon-Idaho Conference, you can give online to the Conference Disaster Response Fund.

Give Online to OR-ID Disaster Response Fund

You can also give to the OR-ID Conference’s Disaster Response Fund (Fund #260) through your local church or by sending a check made out to the Oregon-Idaho Conference Treasurer with Conference Advance #260 on the memo line to:

Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Center
℅ Conference Treasurer
1505 SW 18th Avenue
Portland, Oregon, 97201-2524

In the Pacific Northwest Conference, you can give online to the Conference Disaster Response Fund.

Give Online to PNW Disaster Response Fund

You can also give PNW Conference’s Disaster Response Fund (Advance #352) through your local church or by sending a check made out to the PNW Conference Treasurer with Conference Advance #352 on the memo line to:

Pacific Northwest Conference Office
℅ Conference Treasurer
P.O. Box 13650
Des Moines, WA 98198 

Finally, local church leaders, please stay in touch with your District Superintendents if your community is impacted by wildfire. Let your superintendent know what is going on in your community and what your church is doing – or has been asked to do – in response. Your superintendent will coordinate with the conference disaster response coordinator to help support your work during this crisis.

Stay safe my friends, and know the steadfast love of God each day.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Greater Northwest Episcopal Area

Discurso episcopal Parte II

Convirtiéndonos en anti-racistas: desmantelando el racismo

Discurso episcopal Parte II (Parte I) | 8 de septiembre de 2020

En fidelidad al modelo de inclusividad de Jesús sobre el amor y la justicia, como obispa del Gran Área del Noroeste de la Iglesia Metodista Unida, estoy comprometida a liderar a los Metodistas Unidos en la Conferencia de Alaska, la Conferencia de Oregón-Idaho y la Conferencia del Noroeste del Pacífico para desmantelar el racismo sistémico en la iglesia y en toda la sociedad como una prioridad misional de largo alcance.

El Pecado Original es tomar lo que no es tuyo.

Después de estudiar las Escrituras y observar cómo las personas abusan de su poder de muchas maneras ingeniosas, he llegado a creer que el pecado original es tomar lo que no es tuyo. Piense en Adán y Eva en el jardín con abundantes alimentos, animales y plantas, proporcionados por un Creador generoso. Buen clima. Buena compañía. Y todo lo que Dios les pide es que no toquen un árbol. Tu puedes tenerlo todo. Disfruta de todo en este jardín, pero no comas la fruta de este árbol. Pero no pudieron resistir la tentación. Tomaron la fruta que no era de ellos y se la comieron.  

Con este pequeño acto, se rompió todo el equilibrio entre el creador y las criaturas humanas.

Tomar lo que no es tuyo no es solo el pecado original, es un pecado impregnado en toda la familia humana. ¿Qué crees que es la violación o el tráfico sexual, es sino una invasión de los derechos sobre el cuerpo, la privacidad y la autonomía de otra persona?

¿Cuál es la negativa a reconocer el autoconocimiento y la identificación de una persona como LGBTQ? ¿El abuso infantil no le roba al niño/a la inocencia, la confianza y la seguridad? ¿Qué es la confiscación y expulsión de los nativos americanos de sus tierras ancestrales y la represión de sus idiomas y culturas, sino una toma de lo que no es tuyo?  El internamiento de japoneses estadounidenses durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Invasiones y ocupaciones armadas. Piense en la separación de los niños/as de sus padres en la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México. Los empleadores que toman cruelmente la salud de los trabajadores al exponerlos a pesticidas, polvo de carbón o COVID-19. Los seres humanos son astutos en la forma en que se niegan unos a otros la plenitud de la vida que Jesús vino a darnos para que la disfrutemos (Juan 10:10).  Lo que pasa con el pecado original es que es difícil renunciar al dulce sabor de la manzana robada.

Hoy quiero hablar con ustedes sobre el pecado original de la esclavitud y su legado perdurable de racismo, especialmente, aunque no exclusivamente, el racismo anti-negro en Estados Unidos.

Una palabra profética para mis hermanos que son victimas del racismo sistémico

Isaías 54

11 ¡Oh, afligido, azotado por la tormenta y no consolado,….
13 Todos tus hijos serán enseñados por el Señor,
    y grande será la prosperidad de tus hijos.
14 En justicia serás establecido;
    estarás lejos de la opresión, y nada tendrás que temer;
    y el terror se apartara de ti, porque no se acercará a ti.
15 Si alguno suscita contiendas,
    no ser de mi parte;
    el que suscita contiendas contigo
    caerá ante ti….
17 Ningún arma que se forme contra ti prosperará,
    y refutarás toda lengua que se levante contra ti en juicio.
    Esta es la herencia de los siervos del Señor
    y su reivindicación de mí, dice el Señor.

Amigos, les hablo primero a ustedes que sufren a manos de los opresores, a ustedes, a quienes no se les ha mostrado dignidad y respeto, ni se les han otorgado los derechos que Dios soplo a cada miembro de la familia humana en la creación.

Me dirijo, en particular, a aquellos que llevan la carga acumulada de siglos – generaciones – de supremacía blanca, y que diariamente sienten la mirada de la desconfianza, la sospecha, la acusación, la exclusión, el odio, el rechazo.

Estoy aprendiendo a escuchar y ver que en Estados Unidos, los sistemas que llamamos iguales, justos y equitativos – igualdad de oportunidades, justicia penal, vivienda justa – tienen injusticias y prejuicios incorporados. Estoy aprendiendo a escuchar y ver que el prejuicio racial implícito, [i] omnipresente entre la gente blanca en Estados Unidos, asegura que la policía blanca, maestros, jueces, oficiales de libertad condicional, congresistas, funcionarios electorales, asistentes de estacionamientos, vecinos y extraños lleven a cabo su trabajo y vidas con sospecha de las personas de color y con una preferencia que no es favor de los pobres y marginados, sino por los blancos. Esto es lo que se llama privilegio blanco.

Estoy aprendiendo a oír y ver que durante más de 500 años, la iglesia cristiana ha concedido a los exploradores europeos permiso para “invadir, buscar, capturar, vencer y someter” a todos los musulmanes, paganos y enemigos de Cristo, “los reinos, los duques”. , principados, dominios, posesiones y todos los bienes muebles e inmuebles que posean para reducir a sus personas a la esclavitud perpetua … y convertirlos para su uso y beneficio ”. [ii]

Estoy aprendiendo cómo en Estados Unidos, la esclavitud de los cuerpos negros no terminó con la abolición de la esclavitud y la emancipación de las personas esclavizadas, sino que la esclavitud continuó a través de la segregación de Jim Crow y la negación del voto a los ciudadanos negros. Cuando las Leyes de Derechos Civiles y Derecho al Voto desmantelaron la segregación de Jim Crow en la década de 1960, no se erradicó el control de los cuerpos y las vidas de los negros, se incrustó en otros lugares: la Guerra contra las Drogas, detención, registro, arrestos desproporcionados, condenas de negros ciudadanos, especialmente hombres, y en la negación de acceso a programas de asistencia pública, y el derecho a votar o servir en un jurado para delincuentes condenados. [iii]

Los teléfonos inteligentes y las redes sociales han abierto una ventana a la opresión racial en Estados Unidos; que había sido negada, ocultada e ignorada durante generaciones.

Recuerdo y vuelvo a decir sus nombres: Trayvon Martin, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Freddy Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland y muchos más que nunca llegaron a los titulares. Los desesperados últimos suspiros de George Floyd, grabados en video, y la implacable crueldad del oficial de la ley que le quitó la vida cuentan una historia innegable.  Ocho minutos y 46 segundos; cuando la rodilla del oficial presionó el cuello de George Floyd contra el pavimento, hubo mucho tiempo para que el oficial se detuviera, pensara y reevaluara la situación. Era tiempo suficiente para reconocer que el Sr. Floyd no era una amenaza para él, para reconocer que la presunta ofensa era una insignificancia comparada con la sentencia de muerte que el oficial ejecutó – mucho tiempo para escuchar la voz de Dios, y las voces de los transeúntes gritando: ” ¡DETENENTE! Este es mi hijo amado. Lo estás matando “. Y Ahmaud Arbery, perseguido por hombres que tenían un plan, lo acecharon y lo mataron. Rayshard Brooks, asesinado a tiros por la policía en un drive-thru de Wendy’s. Breonna Taylor, en su propia casa durmiendo. Jacob Blake, siete disparos por la espalda. Su disparo fue seguido unos días después por un justiciero blanco, armado con un arma semiautomática, que disparó y mató a dos manifestantes e hirió a un tercero. Que regresó a casa sin haber sido confrontado ni interrogado por la policía.

Una palabra profética para mis hermanos blancos

Isaías 55

6 Busquen al Señor mientras pueda ser hallado,
    llámalo mientras está cerca;
7 Dejen los impíos su camino,
    y los injustos sus pensamientos;
    que se vuelvan al Señor, para que él tenga misericordia de ellos,
    y a nuestro Dios, el cual será amplio en perdonar.
8 Porque mis pensamientos no son los tuyos,
    ni tus caminos son los míos, dice el Señor.
9 Porque así como los cielos son más altos que la tierra,
    así son mis caminos más altos que los tuyos
    y mis pensamientos que los tuyos.

Dios miró al pueblo escogido de Dios y vio su pecado. Lo nombró y los llamó a rendir cuentas. Mientras leo este pasaje, escucho la voz de Dios hablando a los estadounidenses de la cultura dominante y a mí en esta temporada de levantamiento contra el racismo, diciendo: “Mis pensamientos no son tus pensamientos. Mis caminos no son los tuyos “.

Lo torcido se enderezará y los caminos ásperos se allanaran (Lucas 3: 5). Deja el camino torcido que has recorrido todos estos años. Esto es una carga severa. Es difícil mirar hacia atrás a su vida, a las enseñanzas de su familia, escuela, iglesia y decir: “Espera un minuto. Quizás nos hemos equivocado en esto. Quizás necesitemos mirar de nuevo, pensar de nuevo, escuchar de nuevo. Tal vez la forma en que se ha ordenado nuestro mundo, todas las cosas que damos por sentado no están bien.

Estoy aprendiendo a escuchar y ver que los estándares, normas y hábitos que me enseñaron a valorar no son universalmente compartidos por todas las personas de todas las culturas.  Lentamente, estoy aprendiendo que como líder, si simplemente, inconscientemente, dirijo de acuerdo con las normas culturales que son naturales para mí, inadvertidamente, inconscientemente perpetuaré formas de trabajar y relacionarme que no funcionan para muchos de sus miembros. Y continúo prácticas que silencian los dones, las percepciones y la sabiduría de personas criadas en diferentes contextos culturales. Estoy aprendiendo a reconocer que los blancos y los negros no comparten las mismas experiencias de vida o la misma memoria generacional e interpretación de la historia. Estas diferencias significan que vemos las formas del mundo que compartimos de manera muy diferente. Y cuando escucho a alguien decir algo desde una perspectiva diferente que no tiene sentido para mí y es contrario a cómo siempre lo he pensado, tal vez quiera decir, “¡eso es ridículo!” “Estás loco.” “Déjame mostrarte en qué estás equivocado”. “El mundo simplemente no funciona de esa manera, ¡no puede funcionar de esa manera!” “Déjame enseñarte de la manera correcta”.

Ve, hasta que aprenda a tener oídos para oír, no puedo ver más allá de mi propia perspectiva cultural. Esto es lo que se llama normatividad cultural. [iv]

Un momento revelador

Una noche, tarde, me encontré viajando en un automóvil que le habían pedido prestado a un amigo nativo americano, que se lo había pedido prestado a un pariente.  El conductor era un colega negro con una mujer blanca rubia en el asiento del pasajero. Me senté con un joven filipino y un joven hispano gay en la parte de atrás. En una carretera rural oscura y remota de Oklahoma, nos detuvieron por una luz de la parte de atrás del carro que estaba rota. Ninguno de nosotros era de Oklahoma. Ni siquiera dos de nosotros éramos del mismo estado. No sabíamos el nombre de la persona de la cual estaba registrado el automóvil. En ese momento, experimenté algo de lo que no sabía nada: conducir cuando eres negro. Nuestro entrenamiento de conducción repentinamente serio y atento se puso en marcha:

  • Sea callado y respetuoso
  • Nadie habla excepto yo
  • No actúes. Nada de bromas
  • Sin movimientos rápidos

No pasó nada malo esa noche, pero era fácil ver cómo podría haber sucedido, si el registro del automóvil o la licencia de conducir habían expirado, si había una multa de estacionamiento sin pagar o no había varios clérigos en el automóvil. Supongamos que nuestro conductor hubiera estado solo en el coche. Supongamos que el oficial hubiera estado de mal humor. ¿Quién hubiera sabido y dicho la verdad? Nunca dudaré del peligro real y el miedo de conducir mientras eres de la raza negra.

Sin los videos, las inaceptables acciones policiales que presenciamos en ciudades de todo Estados Unidos nunca hubieran visto la luz del día. Se habría tejido una historia que “justificaba” acciones policiales injustificables:

  • el sospechoso estaba amenazando
  • la policía actuó en defensa propia o pensó que había un arma
  • la evidencia se pierde, se manipula o se suprime
  • los testigos no son creíbles
  • o simplemente no se presentan a testificar

Debido a que los teléfonos inteligentes se han convertido en algo común, las personas pueden arrojar luz sobre un patrón de abuso de poder que no se ha reconocido ni abordado durante demasiado tiempo. El racismo endémico y sistémico ahora se enfrenta a los estadounidenses blancos que han podido fingir que no existía o que lo han tratado de explicar.

Este año, en esta temporada, mientras vemos protestas que continúan después de cuatro meses, cada uno de nosotros tiene que decidir si prestar atención a la evidencia y reevaluar si el racismo está vivo y coleando en nuestro mundo, o si continuaremos engañándonos al negar la evidencia.

¿Continuaremos minimizando el papel del racismo en los eventos que vemos y adoptaremos teorías de conspiración que nos protegen de tener que enfrentar un pecado duro y profundo en nuestra sociedad?

Por eso les hablo de esto hoy. Estados Unidos se ha roto desde que se podía ganar dinero secuestrando, encarcelando, enviando como cargamento a través del océano y literalmente entregando desde África cuerpos negros al nuevo mundo, llevando africanos, para venderlos a los que los esclavizaban para que construyeran la nación más rica del mundo a sus espaldas. Y todos estos años después, las profundas heridas causadas por ese pecado original no han sanado.

Pero hoy tenemos la oportunidad, en esta generación, de aprender a escuchar y ver lo que no hemos querido admitir: que nuestra nación no es justa, los derechos no son iguales y los sistemas no son justos. Y tenemos la oportunidad de caminar con Jesús por un camino recto que podría conducir a una comunidad justa, equitativa y amada.

¡Quiero ser parte de ese proyecto! ¿tu no?

Y sin embargo, incluso cuando digo que quiero ser parte del proyecto de desmantelar el racismo en el Gran Noroeste, en la Iglesia Metodista Unida, en la familia humana, puedo sentir un poco de miedo en mí. Tendré que renunciar a algo por la justicia. La justicia no me habría dado todas las ventajas de las que disfruto. La justicia de Dios enaltecerá a los humildes y humillará al resto de nosotros (Lucas 1: 52).

¿Qué pasa si yo, si nosotros, nos aventuramos fuera de los valores, creencias y formas de vida que he pasado toda mi vida aprendiendo?

¿Qué pasa si no podemos encontrar un camino a seguir? ¿Y si es un desierto y no una tierra prometida? Bueno, amigos, ya estamos en el desierto, ¿no crees? ¿Tenían razón los israelitas al dejar la esclavitud en Egipto en busca de algo mejor?

¿Y sabes lo que Dios nos dice a nosotros mismos que estamos temerosos? No le tengas miedo a la naturaleza. Has estado ahí antes. Hay una forma mejor que como están las cosas ahora. Te mostraré el camino. Da un paso hacia el camino de la relación correcta.

No temáis. El amor perfecto echa fuera el miedo.

Los miembros de su gabinete y yo estamos dando un paso adelante en el amor, y espero que los Metodistas Unidos de Alaska, Iritis Columbia, Idaho, Oregon y Washington se unan a nosotros en una caminata del miedo al amor.

Desmantelando el racismo y creando una comunidad amada

Filipenses 2:1, 3-5

Si, entonces, hay algún aliento en Cristo, algún consuelo del amor, alguna participación en el Espíritu, alguna compasión y simpatía…. No hagáis nada por egoísmo o engreimiento, sino consideraos con humildad a los demás como mejores que vosotros. Que cada uno de ustedes no mire por sus propios intereses, sino por los intereses de los demás. Sea en ti la misma mente que estaba en Cristo Jesús …

Cuando la Primera Iglesia Metodista Unida de Boise, conocida como la Catedral Rocosa, fue construida y dedicada en 1960, incluía un vitral con la imagen de Robert E. Lee junto a George Washington y Abraham Lincoln. Robert E. Lee fue el general de la Guerra Civil que lideró la lucha para proteger y preservar el derecho legal de esclavizar a las personas en los Estados Unidos. En los últimos años, los ataques letales contra los estadounidenses negros atrajeron una renovada atención hacia esto y se plantearon la cuestión de si era apropiado elevar a Robert E. Lee a la compañía de Washington y Lincoln.

Después de la cruel muerte de George Floyd, cuando la exhibición pública de monumentos de la Guerra Civil y banderas confederadas fue desafiada en todo el país, las críticas a la ventana de la primera Iglesia de Boise estallaron en las redes sociales. Los líderes de la iglesia decidieron que se debería remover la ventana. En julio, Clint y yo manejamos a Boise, Idaho, para participar en una pequeña reunión socialmente distanciada para un acto de desconsagración,  de esta ventana mientras los trabajadores la retiraban permanentemente. [v]

En este acto de desconsagración, hice un llamado a los Metodistas Unidos en el gran área del noroeste para entrar en una temporada de autoexamen, confesión, arrepentimiento y limpieza de la casa en nuestras iglesias.

Un llamado a desmantelar el racismo

En el Gran Noroeste, reconocemos y luchamos por la “inclusión” como una de las tres prácticas de una iglesia vital y saludable. Mientras dirijo a la iglesia en su misión de ayudar a las personas a convertirse en discípulos de Jesucristo para la transformación del mundo, hago un llamado al clero Metodista Unido y a los laicos del Gran Noroeste para promover una mayor equidad e inclusión cultural y racial en nuestras comunidades de fe. Llamo a todos los pastores y miembros laicos de las Conferencias Anuales para que dirijan a sus iglesias a:

  1. Conozca la historia y la realidad actual del racismo, la lucha contra la negritud, la exclusión de los nativos americanos, las actitudes antiinmigrantes, el prejuicio racial implícito y la supremacía blanca.
  2. Examine las imágenes visuales presentes en los espacios e instalaciones de culto, los boletines informativos, en busca de imágenes que sean culturalmente tendenciosas o excluyentes.
  3. Reflexione sobre las tradiciones, la toma de decisiones y los estilos de comunicación que asumen y privilegian la cultura y los valores euro-céntricos.
  4. Examine los valores y las personas priorizadas en los presupuestos y actividades de la iglesia.
  5. De palabra y de hecho, aprecie y honre intencionalmente la bondad dada por Dios a una familia humana diversa.
  6. Dar la bienvenida intencionalmente a la amplia diversidad de los hijos de Dios en una voz, un liderazgo pleno y auténtico en nuestras iglesias.
  7. Iniciar y formar asociaciones con grupos de la comunidad que ahora no están presentes en cada congregación.

Durante las conferencias de cargo de este otoño e invierno, los superintendentes de distrito trabajarán con las congregaciones para comenzar a enfrentar estos desafíos.  Dios nos ha abierto una puerta para que escuchemos, crezcamos y honremos a las personas que traen variadas experiencias de vida en América. Dios nos está guiando en este trabajo, para sanarnos y ayudar a nuestras iglesias a profundizar su discipulado, ampliar su compromiso con las personas racialmente diversas en sus comunidades y convertirse en lugares donde el amor inclusivo de Jesucristo será evidente para las personas de todas las razas y  que están en diferentes caminos de la vida.

Podemos hacer esto. Dios está en esta obra. Jesús abre el camino. El Espíritu Santo está con nosotros para animarnos. Debemos hacerlo.

Obispa Elaine JW Stanovsky
Área Episcopal del Gran Noroeste


[i] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-think-about-implicit-bias/

[ii] “The Bull Romanus Pontifex, English translation:  www.doctrineofdisovery.org/dum-diversas/, cited in Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah, Unsettling Truths:  The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery, (Downers Grove, Illinois, Intervarsity Press, 2019 page 15.

[iii] Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, (New York, The New Press, 2010.

[iv] https://thewitnessbcc.com/denominational-diversity-cultural-normativity/

[v] https://www.umoi.org/newsdetail/boise-idaho-church-deconsecrates-and-removes-stained-glass-window-depicting-confederate-general-robert-e-lee-as-it-repents-of-racism-14145799


Translated and adapted by: Rev. Cruz Edwin Santos, Director of Hispanic/Latinx Ministries Office of Connectional Ministries Pacific Northwest Conference

Episcopal Address Part 2 | Becoming Anti-Racist – Dismantling Racism

Becoming Anti-Racist – Dismantling Racism

Episcopal Address Part II  (Part I) | September 8, 2020

In faithfulness to Jesus’ model of inclusive love and justice, as bishop of the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church I am committed to leading United Methodists in the Alaska Conference, Oregon-Idaho Conference and Pacific Northwest Conference to make dismantling systemic racism within the church and throughout society a long-term missional priority.

The Original Sin is taking what isn’t yours.

After studying the scriptures and observing how people abuse their power in many inventive ways, I have come to believe that the original sin is taking what isn’t yours. Think of Adam and Eve in the garden abundant with food, animals, plants, provided by a generous Creator. Good climate. Good company. And all God asks of them is to leave one tree alone. You can have it all. Enjoy everything in this garden — just don’t eat the fruit of this one tree. But they couldn’t resist temptation. They picked the fruit that wasn’t theirs and ate it. By this one small act, the entire balance between creator and human creatures was disrupted. 

Taking what isn’t yours is not only the original sin, it is the pervasive sin throughout the human family. What is rape or sex trafficking if not an invasion and claiming of rights to another person’s body, privacy, autonomy? What is the refusal to acknowledge a person’s self-knowledge and identification as LGBTQ? Doesn’t child abuse rob the child of innocence, trust, security? What is the confiscation and removal of Native Americans from their ancestral lands and repression of their languages and cultures if not a taking? The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Armed invasions and occupations. Think of the separation of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Employers callously take workers’ health by exposing them to pesticides, coal dust or COVID-19. Human beings are cunning in the ways they deny each other the fullness of life Jesus came for us to enjoy (John 10:10). The thing about original sin is that it is hard to give up the sweet taste of the stolen apple. 

Today I want to talk with you about the original sin of enslavement and its enduring legacy of racism, especially, though not exclusively, anti-Black racism in America.

A prophetic word for my siblings who are targeted by systemic racism

Isaiah 54

11 O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted,….
13 All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
    and great shall be the prosperity of your children.
14 In righteousness you shall be established;
    you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear;
    and from terror, for it shall not come near you.
15 If anyone stirs up strife,
    it is not from me;
    whoever stirs up strife with you
    shall fall because of you….
17 No weapon that is fashioned against you shall prosper,
    and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
    This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord
    and their vindication from me, says the Lord.

Friends, I speak first to you who suffer at the hands of oppressors – you, who have not been shown dignity and respect, and afforded the rights God breathed into every member of the human family at creation. I address, particularly, those who bear the accumulated burden of centuries – generations – of white supremacy, and who daily feel the eye of distrust, suspicion, accusation, exclusion, hatred, rejection.

I am learning to hear and see that in America, systems that we call equal, just and fair – equal opportunity, criminal justice, fair housing – have injustice and bias baked into them. I am learning to hear and see that implicit racial bias, [i] pervasive among white people in America, ensures that white police, teachers, judges, parole officers, congresspersons, election officials, parking lot attendants, neighbors and strangers carry into their work and lives, suspicion of people of color, and preference – not for the poor and outcast, but for white people. This is what is called white privilege. 

I am learning to hear and see that for more than 500 years, the Christian church has granted European explorers permission “to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue” all Muslims, pagans and enemies of Christ, “the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery….and to convert them to their use and profit.” [ii]

I am learning how in America, enslavement of Black bodies didn’t end with the abolition of slavery and emancipation of enslaved people, but that enslavement continued through Jim Crow segregation and the denial of the vote to Black citizens. When the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts dismantled Jim Crow segregation in the 1960s, control of Black bodies and lives wasn’t eradicated, it became embedded elsewhere: the War on Drugs, stop and frisk, disproportionate arrests, convictions, and sentencing of Black citizens, especially men, and in the denial of access to public assistance programs, and the right to vote or serve on a jury for convicted felons. [iii]  

Smart phones and social media have opened a window on racial oppression in America; denied, hidden and ignored for generations.

I remember and say their names again: Trayvon Martin, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Freddy Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and many more that never made the headlines. George Floyd’s desperate last breaths, caught on video, and the relentless cruelty of the officer of the law who took his life tell an undeniable story. Eight minutes and 46 seconds; when the officer’s knee pressed George Floyd’s neck into the pavement, there was plenty of time for the officer to pause, think, and re-evaluate the situation. It was time enough to recognize that Mr. Floyd was no threat to him, to recognize that the suspected offense was a trifling compared to the death sentence the officer carried out – plenty of time to hear God’s voice, and the bystander’s voices shouting – “STOP! This is my beloved son. You are killing him.” And Ahmaud Arbery, hunted down by men who had a plan, stalked him, and killed him. Rayshard Brooks, shot and killed by police at a Wendy’s drive-thru. Breonna Taylor, in her own home asleep. Jacob Blake, shot seven times in the back. His shooting was followed a few days later by a white vigilante, armed with a semi-automatic weapon, shooting and killing two protesters and wounding a third. He returned home without ever being confronted or questioned by police. 

A prophetic word for my white siblings

Isaiah 55

Seek the Lord while he may be found,
    call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
    and the unrighteous their thoughts;
    let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

God looked at God’s chosen people and saw their sin. He named it and called them to account. As I read this passage, I hear the voice of God speaking to dominant culture Americans and to me in this season of anti-racism uprising, saying, “My thoughts are not your thoughts. My ways are not your ways.” The crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways smooth (Luke 3:5). Leave the crooked path you have walked all these years. It’s a severe charge. It’s hard to look back over your life, over the teachings of your family, school, church and say, “Wait a minute. Maybe we’ve got this wrong.  Perhaps we need to look again, think again, listen anew. Maybe the way our world has been ordered, all the things we take for granted aren’t right.” 

I am learning to hear and see that the standards, norms and habits I was taught to value are not universally shared by all people from every culture. Slowly, I am learning that as a leader, that if I simply, unconsciously, lead the Church according to the cultural norms that are natural to me, I will inadvertently, unconsciously perpetuate ways of working and relating that do not work for many of its members. I will continue practices that silence the gifts, insights and wisdom of people raised in different cultural contexts. I am learning to recognize that white people and Black people do not share the same life experiences or the same generational memory and interpretation of history. These differences mean that we view the ways of the world we share very differently. And when I hear someone say something from a different perspective that doesn’t make sense to me and is contrary to how I have always thought of it, I may want to say, “that’s ridiculous!” “You’re crazy.” “Let me show you how you are wrong.” “The world just doesn’t work that way – it can’t work that way!” “Let me teach you the right way.”

You see, until I learn to have ears to hear, I cannot see beyond my own cultural perspective. This is what is called cultural normativity. [iv]

An Eye-Opening Moment

Late one night, I found myself riding in a car we had borrowed from a Native American friend, who had borrowed it from a relative. The driver was a Black male colleague with a blonde, white woman in the passenger’s seat. I sat with a young Filipino man and a young gay Hispanic man in the back. On a dark, remote rural Oklahoma highway, we were pulled over for a broken tail light. None of us was from Oklahoma. No two of us were from the same state. We didn’t know the name of the person the car was registered to. In that moment, I experienced something I knew nothing about – driving while Black. Our suddenly serious and vigilant driver’s training kicked in:

  • Be quiet and respectful
  • No-one speaks but me
  • No acting up. No jokes
  • No quick movements

Nothing bad happened that night, but it was easy to see how it might have, if the car registration or the driver’s license had been expired, if there was an unpaid parking ticket, or there hadn’t been several clergy in the car. Suppose our driver had been alone in the car. Suppose the officer had been in a bad mood. Who would have known and told the truth? I will never doubt the real danger and fear of driving while Black.

Without the videos, the brazen police actions we witness in cities across America would never have seen the light of day. A story would have been woven that “justified” unjustifiable police actions: 

  • the suspect was menacing
  • police acted in self-defense or thought there was a weapon
  • evidence is lost, tampered with or suppressed
  • the witnesses aren’t credible
  • or they just don’t show up to testify

Since smartphones have become commonplace, individuals can shine a light on a pattern of abusive power that has gone unacknowledged and unaddressed for far too long. Endemic, systemic racism now confronts white Americans who have been able to pretend it didn’t exist or have explained it away. 

This year, in this season as we watch protests that continue after four months, each one of us has to decide whether to pay attention to the evidence and re-evaluate whether or not racism is alive and well in our world, or whether we will continue to kid ourselves by denying the evidence.

Will we continue to minimize the role of racism in the events we see, and adopt conspiracy theories that protect us from having to face a deep, hard sin in our society?

This is why I am talking to you about this today. America has been broken since there was money to be made by kidnapping, imprisoning, shipping like cargo across the ocean and literally delivering people with Black bodies from Africa to the New world to be marketed to enslavers who built the wealthiest nation in the world on their backs. And all these years later, the deep wounds caused by that original sin have not healed.

But we have a chance today, in this generation, to learn to hear and see what we have not wanted to admit – that our nation is not fair, rights are not equal, and systems are not just. And we have the opportunity to journey with Jesus on a straight path that might lead to a just, equal, fair and beloved community.

I want to be part of that project! Don’t you?

And yet, even as I say that I want to be part of the project of dismantling racism in the Greater Northwest, in The United Methodist Church, in the human family, I can feel a little fear rising in myself.  I will have to give up something for justice.  Justice would not have given me all the advantages I enjoy.  God’s justice will lift up the lowly and humble the rest of us (Luke 1: 52).

What if I – if we – venture outside the values, beliefs and ways of living that I have spent a lifetime learning? What if we can’t find a way forward? What if it’s a wilderness and not a promised land? Well, friends, we’re in the wilderness already, wouldn’t you say? Were the Israelites right to leave slavery in Egypt in search of something better? 

And you know what God says to our fearful selves? Don’t be afraid of the wilderness. You have been there before. There is a better way than the way things are now. I will show you the way. Take a step on the path of right relationship.

Fear not. Perfect love casts out fear.

Your cabinet members and I are stepping out in love, and I hope that United Methodists in Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon and Washington will join us on a walk from fear to love.

Dismantling Racism and Creating Beloved Community

Phillipians 2:1, 3-5

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy…. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…

When Boise First United Methodist Church, known as the Cathedral of the Rockies, was built and dedicated in 1960, it included was a stained-glass window with the image of Robert E. Lee alongside George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  Robert E. Lee was the Civil War general who led the fight to protect and preserve the legal right to enslave people in the United States. In recent years lethal attacks on Black Americans brought renewed attention to this widow and raised the question whether it was appropriate to elevate Robert E. Lee to the company of Washington and Lincoln.

After George Floyd’s cruel death, as the public display of Civil War monuments and confederate flags was challenged across the country, criticism of the window at Boise First flared up on social media. Church leaders decided the window should be removed. In July, Clint and I drove to Boise, Idaho, to participate in a small, socially distanced gathering to deconsecrate this window as workers removed it permanently. [v]

At the deconsecration, I issued a call to United Methodists in the Greater Northwest Area to enter a season of self-examination, confession, repentance and housecleaning in our churches.

A Call to Dismantle Racism

In the Greater Northwest, we recognize and strive for “inclusion” as one of three practices of a vital, healthy church.  As I lead the church in its mission of helping people become disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, I call upon the United Methodist clergy and laity of the Greater Northwest Area to promote greater cultural and racial equity and inclusion in our communities of faith.  I call every pastor and lay member of the Annual Conferences to lead their church(es) to:

  1. Learn the history and current reality of racism, anti-blackness, Native American exclusion, anti-immigrant attitudes, implicit racial bias and white supremacy.
  2. Examine the visual images present in worship spaces and facilities, newsletters, for imagery that is culturally biased or exclusionary.
  3. Reflect on traditions, decision-making, and communication styles that assume and privilege Euro-centric culture and values.
  4. Examine the values and people prioritized in church budgets and activities.
  5. In word and deed, intentionally to appreciate and honor the God-given goodness of a diverse human family.
  6. Intentionally to welcome the wide diversity of God’s children into full, authentic voice and leadership in our churches.
  7. Initiate and enter into partnerships with groups in the community that are not now present in each congregation.

During Charge Conferences this fall and winter, district superintendents will work with congregations to begin to engage these challenges. God has opened a door for us listen, to grow and to honor people who bring varied experiences of life in America. God is leading us in this work, to make us whole, and to help our churches deepen their discipleship, broaden their engagement with the racially diverse people in their communities, and become places where the inclusive love of Jesus Christ will be evident to people from all races and walks of life.

We can do this. God is in this work. Jesus leads the way. The Holy Spirit is with us for encouragement. We must do it.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Greater Northwest Episcopal Area


[i] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-think-about-implicit-bias/

[ii] “The Bull Romanus Pontifex, English translation:  www.doctrineofdisovery.org/dum-diversas/, cited in Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah, Unsettling Truths:  The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery, (Downers Grove, Illinois, Intervarsity Press, 2019 page 15.

[iii] Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, (New York, The New Press, 2010.

[iv] https://thewitnessbcc.com/denominational-diversity-cultural-normativity/

[v] https://www.umoi.org/newsdetail/boise-idaho-church-deconsecrates-and-removes-stained-glass-window-depicting-confederate-general-robert-e-lee-as-it-repents-of-racism-14145799

Mensaje Episcopal Parte I y aviso número 8 sobre COVID-19.

El discurso de la obispa Stanovsky para las Conferencias Anuales virtuales de septiembre de 2020 se publicará por escrito en tres partes antes de las sesiones programadas para el 15, 16 y 17 de septiembre.  Hoy recibes la Parte 1, que también es el aviso número 8  sobre COVID-19. En las próximas semanas recibirán la Parte 2: Desmantelando el Racismo y la Parte 3: Re-imaginando el Metodismo Unido: Alaska, el gran área del Noroeste, la Jurisdicción del Oeste y La Iglesia Metodista Unida. La obispa ofrecerá una descripción general en línea durante las sesiones de la conferencia anual.  Envíe sus comentarios o preguntas a bishop@greaternw.org  escribiendo en el encabezamiento: “Dirección episcopal”.

Continue reading

Episcopal Address Part I and COVID-19 Notice no. 8

Bishop Stanovsky’s address to the September 2020 online Annual Conferences will be issued in written form in three parts before the sessions scheduled for September 15, 16 and 17 [link].  Today you receive Part 1, which is also COVID-19 Notice #8. It will be followed in coming weeks by Part 2 – Dismantling Racism, and Part 3 – Reimagining United Methodism:  Alaska, the Greater Northwest, the Western Jurisdiction and The United Methodist Church.  The bishop will offer an online overview during the conference sessions.  Please send comments or questions to her at bishop@greaternw.org with the subject line: “Episcopal address.” 

For the Love of God,

STAY AT HOME 
WEAR A MASK 
KEEP PHYSICAL DISTANCE 

BUT DON’T HUNKER DOWN

business sign in Rosalyn, Wash.
A sign outside a business in Rosalyn, Wash.

Yesterday was the six month anniversary of my first pastoral notice regarding COVID-19. We didn’t know much about the coronavirus and the pandemic it would cause on February 27. We didn’t know we would celebrate Easter online. That General Conference in May would be postponed, Annual Conferences in June cancelled, Jurisdictional Conference in July. We couldn’t imagine movie theaters closing. Restaurants open only for take-out. Loved ones being isolated from visits in hospitals or nursing homes. We didn’t imagine that we would pass spring and summer and enter fall with restrictions on social gathering, travel, economic activity and schools. We find ourselves in a wilderness. The bible knows what wandering in the wilderness is like. The bible is full of stories, laments, encouragements, admonitions, guidelines for people who, from time to time find themselves wandering, discouraged, uncertain, lost. So, people of God, listen up. God has not abandoned us.

DON’T STOP LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  
– John 15: 12-13

Sacrifice personal liberty to save lives

To save lives, prevent long term health effects, slow the spread of COVID-19, and to promote long term, sustainable economic recovery, United Methodists in the Greater Northwest will continue to praise God and serve their communities under the provisions of Reimagining Life Together  for the foreseeable future. 

The risk from the coronavirus isn’t behind us. While the spread of the disease is declining in some areas, it is increasing in others, as waves of community spread carry it into previously untouched rural communities and some experts predict new spikes this fall in areas where schools and other social gatherings restart in person, and as temperatures drop, people move indoors and another cold and flu season begins.

At the same time, an “increasing numbness to the virus’s danger”[i] means that our collective sense of risk is abating and leading to careless behavior that promotes spread of the disease.  This is a predictable, natural occurrence:  “The more we’re exposed to a given threat, the less intimidating it seems…. Because risk perception fails as we learn to live with COVID-19,…researchers…see… strict social distancing, enforced masking outside the home and stay-at-home orders as perhaps the only things that can protect us from our own faulty judgment….Our tendency to view risk through the prism of emotion… hurts us during a pandemic.”

This numbing to the reality of risk has combined with an emphasis on individual rights to fuel rebellion by some against restrictions on social gathering, refusal to wear face coverings and calls for removal of public officials who advocate such measures. Individual liberties activists even carry guns to protests and to government offices to make their point. 

Developing tolerance to risk is a good coping strategy if you have a crippling fear of heights or crowds or closed spaces. It is dangerous if it results in risky behavior that causes more community spread of a virus that leads to further spikes in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. 

Ask yourself, WHAT WOULD JESUS DO? Wash your hands with soap or hand sanitizer.  Stay at home as much as you can. Wear face coverings in public.  Keep socially distant.  Don’t gather in large groups. And be gracious about it! Do not look dismal (Matthew 6: 16). These are small, life-saving sacrifices in the face of a pandemic that has killed 180,000 people in the United States and is far from finished. Think of them as acts of love for God, self and neighbor. 

As you encounter other people on the street or in the grocery store, whether or not their faces are covered, let your eyes meet their eyes, as an affirmation that you see them, maybe say at least “hello” and offer a silent prayer: “May God bless and keep you.” This is how Christians behave as they try to obey God’s reverence for life. 

Deepen Relationships of Spiritual Depth and Care

The pandemic poses risks besides those from infection by the coronavirus.  Long term social isolation and anxiety are dangers to mental, spiritual and social health.  We hear reports of increased domestic abuse, crime, substance abuse, depression and other mental illnesses. Job loss and economic instability put strains on individuals, families and communities.    

Most of our churches have adapted very quickly to provide ways for the community to gather remotely – online, drive-in, distanced outdoor, on the phone, by sending written sermons and bulletins. Some have activated telephone trees. It’s been amazing.

In addition to group gatherings, as we move into autumn and winter, how will our churches foster networks of human connection for as long as distance and isolation continue?  What is our long-term plan to encourage relationships of spiritual companionship, encouragement and prayer among people who may have limited social networks? How do we ensure that no-one in our communities of care are left without human contact day by day and week by week? 

Could we develop networks of Companions on the Journey (COJ), who commit to keep in weekly touch with each other, and to be available to one another as needed between scheduled contacts?  Might a team of people in a congregation search out lines of powerful, prophetic scripture, hymns, poetry, prayers, to post on the church website or Facebook page to feed the spirits of people.

LOVE GOD WITH HEART, SOUL, MIND, STRENGTH

Don’t Hunker Down Spiritually

We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now;
and not only the creation, but we ourselves…groan inwardly while we wait….
The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sights too deep for words. 
– Romans 8:22-26  

 To combat declining mental, emotional and spiritual health experienced by many during the COVID-19 pandemic, I call United Methodists to return to the deep well of God’s love and grace, revealed in Jesus Christ, as we remember, refresh and reclaim the spiritual strength and courage of our faith preserved in the scriptures, hymns, prayers, teachings, and practices of our Church.  And I call on new generations to lead us into new expressions and practices that have the power to bless people in this pandemic with fortitude and resilience. 

Nothing is the same in our churches since COVID-19 first forced us to “hunker down” with stay at home orders in March and April and I asked the churches of the Greater Northwest Area (Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conference) to suspend worship and close their buildings beginning March 13.  No handshakes, no communion, no friendship circles, no laying on of hands, no sardines, no passing of the peace, no singing, no meetings, no potlucks, no coffee hour, no hospital visits, home visits, prayer circles, child care, food banks, AA meetings. 

I hear from some of our churches an urgency to gather again in person, in the sanctuary, in our familiar pews, to sing our beloved songs as if our Christian love for one another would wither and die without its familiar forms — as if God isn’t present except when the community is gathered. As if we cannot support one another without physical proximity. As if even one of the breaths we take is not filled with the life-giving breath of the Holy Spirit. Our dependence on sensory signs creates in us a tendency to hunker down and wait until we can celebrate in the ways we are used to finding comfort in.

The United Methodist Church has worked very hard to embody the love of God in our gatherings for worship, study and fellowship, in our volunteer service, advocating for just public policy, providing meals, welcoming new immigrants, caring for families. We have a strong focus on faith in the flesh, faith at work in the world that you can see, hear, smell, taste and touch. We believe that faith was alive in the physical presence of Jesus as he walked through villages, touched and healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, called forth demons, shared the bread and wind in the Upper Room and a breakfast of fish. And we believe our faith has concrete physical expressions. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17).  And yet, beneath or behind the world of our senses, there is another reality.  The bible calls it the world of “unseen things.”[ii]  Outward facing faith need to be balanced with a theology of spirit that affirms that there is more to faith than what we can see, touch, taste, hear and smell.  There is also an inwardness to faith.  Beneath all sensory evidence, our hearts are touched by God in experiences so immediate and powerful that they cannot be dismissed.

We must grow deeper roots.  We must not settle for a faith that lets us down when times are tough and the way is hidden in shadows. The Christian Church must strive to be a beacon of hope in the very darkest of times. When we can see no evidence of God’s redeeming grace whatsoever, the “eye of our heart” sees what is not seen. When no encouraging word is to be heard, the Holy Spirit speaks to our inner being.  When we cry, “Abba!  Father!” it is that very Spirit [of God] bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, of God and joint hers with Christ. (From Romans 8: 15-17).

When you read in the bible about light, dawn, lamp, fire, radiance, sun, it’s talking about the way God opens our eyes and enlightens us to see the things of the spirit that cannot be seen.

  • Open my eyes that I might see…
  • Open the eyes of my heart, Lord…
  • Ye blind, behold your savior come…
  • Be Thou my vision, O lord of my heart…
  • Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path…

Some of us have read and sung these words our whole lives.  Now is the time to call them forth, and shine them into the dark days of disease, isolation, fear and division.  We learned them for a time like this.

My faith is not dependent on in-person gathering, on the elements of communion and baptism, on the laying on of hands, or the kiss of peace.  I love all of these, and they enrich my faith, and they certainly help keep my participation in the community of faith alive and immediate.  But, in the midst of a pandemic, sitting at my desk in the corner of my isolated bedroom as I write, God lives in me, speaks to me, gives me hope, cajoles me to action, quickens my heart.  “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  (Hebrews 11:1)

In the year ahead I promise to lead the Greater Northwest Area to invite its members and friends to broaden and deepen their spiritual lives, not in a way that turns us inward, away from our communities and the world, but in a way that strengthens our hearts with courage to engage with our families, neighbors and strangers during times when evidence of God’s presence and goodness are scarce.

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will shine 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.                     
– Luke 1: 78-79                              


Bishop, Greater NW Episcopal Area

[i] “How our brains numb us to COVID-19’s risks – and what we can do about it,” Elizabeth Svoboda, The Washington Post, published in The Seattle Times, August 24, 2020

[ii] Romans 8: 18-25, 2 Corinthians 4: 18, Hebrews 11:1

A Message from Bishop Stanovsky on Juneteenth 2020

24 February, 1791

Balam. England

Dear Sir:

Unless the divine power has raised you up to be as “Athanasius against the world,” I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy, which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them stronger than God? O be not weary of well-doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.

Reading this morning a tract wrote by a poor African, I was particularly struck by the circumstance, that a man who has a black skin being wronged or outraged by a white man, can have no redress; it being a LAW in all of our Colonies that the OATH of a black man against a white goes for nothing. What villainy is this!

That He who has guided you from youth up may continue to strengthen you in this and all things is the prayer of, dear sir,

Your affectionate servant,

John Wesley[i]                        

Juneteenth, 2020

To the People Called Methodist,

BLACK LIVES MATTER
BLACK VOTING RIGHTS MATTER
BLACK VOICES MATTER

Since George Floyd died beneath the crushing knee of a police officer, the cry for justice has been heard around the world, with new urgency. The cry and demand for racial justice can be found in the very origins of the Methodist movement, in John Wesley’s letter encouraging William Wilberforce to persevere in the seemingly hopeless battle against the “execrable villainy” of racial injustice embedded in the law and practice, trusting that, “if God be for you, who can be against you?”

Nearly 230 years later, this villainy has not been rooted out, but embedded in systems that we mask with words. A new generation of activists for the just treatment of Black people joins generations who have fought for decades and centuries to put right what is so very wrong and corrosive of the principle that all are created equal. The struggle is long and hard, and many people who benefit from the injustice work to perpetuate the unequal, cruel and even lethal treatment of Black Americans.

Today is celebrated as Juneteenth, remembered as the day emancipation of slaves was announced to the last state in the United States on June 19, 1865, following the Civil War. I pray that God continues in the midst of the struggle, with people in police departments, courtrooms, on the streets, in worship, attending funerals, behind prison bars. I pray that God is using the people called “Methodist” in our day to continue the struggle. 

May all who see the injustice, say what we see, share what we see and never “never be worn out by the opposition of men and devils” who stand against justice. God is with all who stand and speak and work for racial justice.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

                                                      Hebrews 12:12

But let justice roll down like waters,
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Amos 5: 24

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky


[i]  John Wesley’s last letter before his death, sent to William Wilberforce, quoted in https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/wesley-to-wilberforce/

Aviso #7, de parte de nuestra Obispo en relación con el COVID-19, 16 de Junio de 2020

Estimados líderes pastorales del Gran Área Noroeste de la IMU, 

Ha sido una bendición ver a las iglesias del Gran Noroeste responder al COVID-19 con gran precaución, compasión y creatividad. No ha sido fácil suspender la adoración en persona durante tres meses, pero has estado a la altura de las circunstancias y has ejercido una gran precaución por la salud y el bienestar de tus vecinos. Muchos de ustedes han desarrollado la capacidad de ofrecer adoración en línea. Otros envían boletines impresos y sermones cada semana. Has encontrado formas de ofrecer compasión distribuyendo tarjetas de regalo, haciendo máscaras faciales, ofreciendo cajas de comida, celebraciones de cumpleaños y ceremonias de graduaciones en autos. Su creatividad ha dado lugar a círculos de oración, grupos de estudio y reuniones de niños virtuales. Has dirigido con abundante gracia a través de un tiempo muy difícil y limitado. 

Aún así, no es posible reunirse para la adoración en línea en todos los lugares donde se encuentran nuestras iglesias. Y no es posible organizar campamentos de verano de forma segura. Es desgarrador no poder sostener la mano de un ser querido moribundo o reunirse y honrar a los que han fallecido en un servicio memorial. 

Como su obispo, he luchado toda la semana pasada en saber cuál es la mejor manera de dirigir, atender las necesidades de tantas iglesias y comunidades a las que ustedes sirven, enfrentando circunstancias tan variadas. La “curva” de los nuevos casos de COVID-19 se ha incrementado desde que las restricciones fueron flexibilizadas en relación con la interacción social en la mayoría de los estados en el mes de mayo y después del fin de semana del “Memorial Day”. Se desconocen los impactos que tendrán las grandes protestas públicas por la justicia racial desde la muerte de George Floyd el 25 de mayo. Los profesionales de la salud están muy preocupados de que podamos estar viendo el comienzo de otro pico que podría amenazar con colapsar a los sistemas de atención médica. 

A pesar de las serias reservas, efectivo de inmediato, estoy flexibilizando las restricciones sobre el culto en persona y el cierre de edificios que permiten la transición de la Fase 1 a la Fase 2 de “Re-imaginando nuestra vida juntos”. Esto significa que SI …

  1. los planes de reapertura de una iglesia han sido aprobados por su superintendente de distrito (o, en el caso de otro entorno ministerial, por su director de ministerios conexiónales), y
  2. el plan es consistente con la guía de salud pública local y estatal,

ENTONCES … la iglesia puede implementar su plan para entrar en la Fase 2.

Además, en respuesta a las solicitudes de aclaración, las siguientes enmiendas e interpretaciones están vigentes durante las Fases 1 y 2:

  1. Para la protección contra COVID-19, se recomienda que los adultos vulnerables y las personas con condiciones de salud previas no se reúnan con otros en las instalaciones de la iglesia o para actividades de la iglesia. Sin embargo, respetando el derecho de los adultos a elegir el nivel de riesgo que aceptarán, ningún adulto puede ser excluido de las actividades de la iglesia debido a su edad o condiciones de salud que pueden hacerlos vulnerables a la enfermedad. Las iglesias deben tener un proceso establecido para que las personas sean conscientes de que ingresar al edificio y participar en las funciones de la iglesia puede exponerlos al COVID-19. Una vez conscientes, no deben excluirse únicamente por su protección.
  2. Las personas pueden ser excluidas de ingresar a las instalaciones de la iglesia o participar en actividades de la iglesia si hay razones para sospechar que pueden estar infectadas con el virus y estarían poniendo en riesgo a otros por su presencia, o si se niegan a cumplir con los protocolos de higiene y distanciamiento especificados en el plan de re-apertura de la iglesia. El distanciamiento social y el uso de una cubierta facial no son protección suficiente para permitir la participación de una persona que haya dado positivo, haya estado expuesta o muestre síntomas del virus.
  3. Estas pautas no pretenden evitar que se ofrezcan servicios esenciales en el edificio de la Iglesia con la condición de que se observen los protocolos de distanciamiento e higiene.     

Siguiendo caso por caso, los superintendentes de distrito pueden aprobar los planes de la iglesia local para la Fase 2 que incluyen lo siguiente:

  1. Adoración desde los automóviles, sin acceso al edificio de la iglesia.
  2. Adoración al aire libre, sin acceso al edificio de la iglesia.
  3. Grabaciones musicales individuales para la adoración en línea, incluyendo canto e instrumentos de viento, en el santuario de la iglesia siguiendo las medidas de precaución.

A medida que las congregaciones vuelven a imaginar la vida en común juntos y consideran cómo y cuándo reabrir, cada congregación todo líder metodista unido debe considerar las tendencias alarmantes y el grave daño potencial de abrir demasiado pronto o sin una preparación adecuada. Mientras reflexiona con otros líderes de su iglesia, tome una visión amplia y de largo alcance del impacto de sus decisiones y acciones.

La investigación en ciencias sociales y ciencias de la salud es motivo para tener precaución.  Veintiún estados, incluyendo los estados de Alaska, Oregón y Washington en el Gran Área Noroeste, están experimentando un aumento en los casos desde la apertura y como consecuencia de la socialización durante el fin de semana del “Memorial Day”.  Aún se desconoce el impacto que las grandes protestas públicas por la justicia racial van a tener en la propagación del virus.  

Las prácticas de prueba y el rastreo de los casos son inconsistentes en nuestra área e insuficientes en algunas áreas. La capacidad de atención médica esta distribuida de manera desigual en toda el área y está en peligro de verse abrumada si COVID-19 vuelve a resurgir. 

Las personas que prestan servicios esenciales, las personas de color y las personas pobres son desproporcionadamente vulnerables a contraer la enfermedad, de tener una atención médica no adecuada y a tensiones económicas que esto provoca. Las decisiones de aceptar los riesgos que conlleva la reapertura con la esperanza de cosechar los beneficios de una mayor libertad individual, interacción social y recuperación económica tienen el efecto de privilegiar a los mas privilegiados y hacer que los mas vulnerables sean los mas perjudicados.

Las expresiones de urgencia para reabrir provienen de varios motivos. Algunos están preocupados por el presupuesto de la iglesia.  Algunos están preocupados por la economía. Algunos sobre la pérdida de miembros por una iglesia vecina que ha abierto para la adoración. Todos reconocen la necesidad emocional, mental y espiritual de la interacción humana, y lo ven como la misión de la Iglesia de reunir personas para apoyo, oración, aliento y consuelo. Algunos escuchan el llamado al testimonio profético, la acción en la Iglesia, y sienten que este momento de la historia nos obliga a reunirnos, organizarnos y salir a las calles para abogar por la justicia y la misericordia racial.  Los cristianos enfrentamos dilemas morales bien extraordinarios en este tiempo tan complejo.

La salud física y la salud económica son intereses mutuamente dependientes.  La salud no es simplemente un valor progresivo.  La estabilidad económica no es simplemente un valor conservador. Si la pandemia continúa extendiéndose, la economía no se recuperará.  Si ponemos en marcha la economía alentando a las empresas a abrir y a las personas a regresar al trabajo antes de que sea seguro, esto aumentará el número de casos de muertes, y nuevamente la economía sufrirá.   

Ninguna iglesia debería alinearse simplemente con un lado u otro de la actual división política en Estados Unidos. Los cristianos deberían estar dispuestos a ser capaces de sacrificarse ahora por tener un resultado a largo plazo que beneficiara a toda la familia humana.  No solo mi familia, mi congregación, mi ciudad, mi condado, mi estado, las personas que se ven, piensan o votan como yo. Amar al prójimo como a uno mismo significa, actuar ahora de una manera que intentamos dirigirnos a la meta de una espiritualidad completa y proclamamos la sanidad de la casa de Dios.

Algunos de ustedes se preguntan acerca de la adoración al aire libre con cubiertas faciales y distanciamiento social. ¿Qué dilemas morales podría presentar la adoración al aire libre?  ¿Cómo evalúa la bendición de reunirse como comunidad de fe contra el posible daño de la exposición a la enfermedad? ¿Qué motiva el deseo urgente de reunirse nuevamente? ¿Es para atender las necesidades de las personas en la iglesia? ¿También sirve al público en general?  ¿Qué mensaje se envía si la gente ve la iglesia reunida al aire libre? ¿Tal reunión alentaría a las personas a continuar limitando sus interacciones sociales, o podría dar la impresión de que el peligro ya pasó?

“Re-imaginar la vida juntos” alienta a cada congregación a dejar a un lado algunas costumbres y tradiciones que han servido durante una temporada, y a descubrir y experimentar nuevas y diferentes formas de vida congregacional. El impulso urgente de reunirse nuevamente, darse la mano, abrazarse, cantar juntos, partir el pan juntos en la mesa de la comunión o en la mesa de la comida, surge de un anhelo de volver a los hábitos que nos hacen sentir cómodos, pero quizás a costa de la seguridad de otros. ¿Podríamos pensar en COVID-19 como una temporada de estar en “ayuno” de formas y hábitos familiares de la iglesia? ¿Podría ser este el momento en el que revisamos los “armarios” de nuestra iglesia para ver qué sigue encajando o trabajando, qué se ve bien y qué está desactualizado, en mal estado o simplemente ya no encaja? 

Sé que liderar una congregación es un desafío durante un momento de tales amenazas a la salud y la interrupción de las rutinas normales. Sé que hacer las adaptaciones necesarias para llevar a cabo las funciones básicas del ministerio es estresante y requiere aprender formas completamente nuevas de relacionarse. 

Mis primeros videos de “selfies” en la temporada de COVID-19 fueron grabados en mi teléfono, sostenido en un estante por hilo y una banda elástica. Con paciencia y buen humor (tienes que reírte o seguramente llorarás) he aprendido relajadamente, y dejo que lo que soy capaz de producir sea lo suficientemente bueno . 

Recuerdo las supuestas últimas palabras de John Wesley: “ 

“Lo mejor de todo es que Dios está con nosotros” en la risa, la frustración, las lágrimas y los preciosos momentos de santidad. 

Oro para que puedan tener el poder de comprender, junto con todos los santos, cuán ancho y largo, alto y profundo es el amor de Cristo; en fin, que conozcan ese amor que sobrepasa nuestro conocimiento, para que sean llenos de la plenitud de Dios.

Efesios 3:18-19

Obispa Elaine JW Stanovsky
Area Episcopal del Gran Noroeste


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

Traducido y adaptado por el Rev. Cruz Edwin Santos, Director de Ministerios Hispanos/Latin@s


COVID-19 Statistical Reports

Bishop’s COVID-19 Notice #7, June 16, 2020

Bishop’s COVID-19 Notice #7, June 16, 2020

Dear pastoral leaders of the Greater Northwest Area of The UMC,

It has been a delight to see churches across the Greater Northwest Area respond to COVID-19 with great caution, compassion and creativity. It hasn’t been easy to suspend in-person worship for three months, but you have risen to the occasion and exercised great caution for the health and well-being of your neighbors. Many of you have developed the ability to offer online worship. Others send printed bulletins and sermons out each week. You’ve found ways to offer compassion by distributing gift cards, making face masks, offering curbside food boxes, and drive-by birthday and commencement celebrations. Your creativity has given rise to online prayer circles, study groups and kid’s gatherings. You have led with abundant grace through a very difficult and constrained time.

Still, it’s not possible to gather for online worship in all the places our churches are located. And it’s not possible to host summer sleep-over camps safely. It’s heartbreaking not to be able to hold the hand of a dying loved one or to gather and honor the dead at a memorial service.

As your bishop I’ve struggled this past week to know how best to lead and tend to the needs of so many churches and the communities they serve, facing such varied circumstances. The “curve” of new COVID-19 cases has turned upward since the loosening of restrictions on social movement across most states in May and following Memorial Day weekend. Impacts of the large public protests for racial justice since George Floyd’s death on May 25 are unknown. Health care professionals are very concerned that we may be seeing the beginning of another spike that could threaten to overwhelm health care systems.

Despite serious reservations, effective immediately, I am loosening restrictions on in-person worship and building closures that allow transition from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of Reimagining Life Together. This means that IF

  1. a church’s plans for reopening have been approved by their district superintendent (or, in the case of another ministry setting, by their director of connectional ministries), and
  2. the plan is consistent with state and local public health guidance,

THEN… the church may implement its plan to enter Phase 2.

In addition, in response to requests for clarification, the following amendments and interpretations are in effect during Phases 1 and 2:

  1. For protection against COVID-19, vulnerable adults and persons with underlying health conditions are discouraged from gathering with others in church facilities or for church activities. However, respecting the right of adults to choose the level of risk they will accept, no adult may be excluded from church activities due to age or health conditions that may make them vulnerable to the disease. Churches should have a process in place to make individuals aware that entering the building and participating in church functions may expose them to COVID-19. Once aware, they should not be excluded solely for their protection.
  2. Individuals may be excluded from entering church facilities or participating in church activities if there is reason to suspect they may be infected with the virus and would be putting others at risk by their presence, or if they refuse to abide by the hygiene and distancing protocols specified in the church’s Reimagining plan. Social distancing and wearing a face covering are not sufficient protection to allow participation of a person who has tested positive, has been exposed or shows symptoms of the virus.
  3. These guidelines are not intended to prevent essential services from being offered in the Church building on the condition that distancing and hygiene protocols are observed. 

On a case-by-case basis, district superintendents may approve local church plans for Phase 2 that include the following:

  1. Drive-in worship, no access to the church building.
  2. Outdoor worship, no access to the church building.
  3. Recording solo music performance for online worship, including singing and wind instruments, in the church sanctuary with precautionary measures.

As congregations Reimagine Life Together, and consider how and when to reopen, every United Methodist congregation and leader should consider alarming trends and the serious potential harm of opening too soon, or without adequate preparation. As you reflect with other leaders in your church, take the long and wide view of the impact of your decisions and action.

Social science and health science research give ample cause for caution. Twenty-one states, including Alaska, Oregon and Washington states in the Greater Northwest Area, are experiencing an increase in cases since opening up and increased socialization over Memorial Day weekend. As yet unknown is the impact that large public protests for racial justice may have on the spread of the virus. Practices of testing and case tracing are inconsistent across our area, and insufficient in some areas. Health care capacity is unevenly distributed across the area, and in danger of being overwhelmed if COVID-19 rebounds.

People providing essential services, People of Color and poor people are disproportionately vulnerable to contracting the disease, to inadequate health care and to economic strains. Decisions to accept the risks that come with reopening in hopes of reaping the benefits of increased individual freedom, social interaction and economic recovery have the effect of privileging the privileged and render the vulnerable expendable.

Expressions of urgency to reopen come from various motives. Some are concerned about the church budget. Some are worried about the economy. Some about losing members to a church down the street that has opened for worship. All recognize the emotional, mental and spiritual necessity of human interaction, and see it as the mission of the Church to gather people for support, prayer, encouragement and comfort. Some hear the call to prophetic witness and action in Church, and feel this moment in history compels us to meet, organize and take to the streets to advocate for racial justice and mercy. Christians face extraordinary moral dilemmas in this complex time.

Physical health and economic health are mutually dependent interests. Health is not simply a progressive value. Economic stability is not simply a conservative value. If the pandemic continues to spread, the economy will not recover. If we jump-start the economy by encouraging businesses to open and people to return to work before it is safe, the number of cases and deaths will increase, and again the economy will suffer. No church should simply align with one side or the other of the present political divide in America. Christians should be willing and able to sacrifice now for the long-term outcome that benefits the whole human family. Not just my family, my congregation, my town, my county, my state, people who look or think or vote like me. Loving neighbor as self means acting now in ways that we intend to lead to the long term goal of wholeness and healing in the household of God.

Some of you wonder about outdoor worship with face coverings and social distancing? What moral dilemmas might outdoor worship present? How do you weigh the blessing of gathering as a community of faith against the possible harm of exposure to the disease? What motivates the urgent desire to gather again? Is it to serve the needs of people in the church? Does it also serve the general public? What message does it send if people see the church gathered outdoors? Would such a gathering encourage people to continue to limit their social interactions, or might it give the impression that the danger is past?

Reimagining encourages each congregation to let go of some customs and traditions that have served for a season, and to discover and experiment with new, different forms of congregational life. The urgent push to gather again, shake hands and hug, to sing together, to break bread together at the communion table or the potluck table grows out of a yearning to return to habits that make us comfortable, but perhaps at the cost of safety. Could we think of COVID-19 as a season of “fasting” from familiar forms and habits of church? Could this be a time when we go through our church “closets” to see what still fits, and what looks great, and what is outdated, shabby, or just plain doesn’t fit anymore?

I know that leading a congregation is a challenge during a time of such health threats and disruption of normal routines. I know that making the adaptations necessary to carry on basic ministry functions is stressful and requires learning whole new ways of being in relationship. My own first selfie videos in the season of COVID-19 were taped on my phone, held in place on a step stool by two spools of thread and a rubber band. With patience and good humor (you have to laugh or you’ll surely cry) I’ve learned and relaxed, and let what I am able to produce be good enough. I am reminded of John Wesley’s purported last words, “The best thing of all is God is with us” in the laughter, frustration, tears, and precious moments of holiness.

I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:18-19

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Greater NW Episcopal Area


COVID-19 Statistical Reports

Greater Northwest COVID-19 Timeline

March 5, 2020 (Link)
Church can put people at risk. Be cautious. Follow expert advice.

March 13, 2020 (Link
Hygiene, social distance, stay home if ill, suspend worship.
Resist harassment of persons of Asian descent.
Suspend in-person worship and gatherings of more than 10 people.

March 19, 2020 (Link)
General Conference postponed.
Discontinue serving Communion

March 24, 2020 (Link)
Close church facilities.
Care for vulnerable people.
Pre-recorded Easter Worship
Weekly webinars

April 2, 2020 (Video)
Bishop discusses online Communion

April 23, 2020 (Link)
Support your local church financially
Give to the Fund for families to serve vulnerable people
Pass along your stimulus check

April 24, 2020 (Link)
Extend building closures and suspended in-person 
 
May 13, 2020 (Link)
Wear face coverings
Cautionary stories of virus spread at choir and church events
Churches should prepare now to re-open

May 13, 2020 (Video)
Bishop discusses her decision-making process and responsibility

May 20, 2020 (Link)
Reimagining Life Together: 
requirements for reopening and gathering
4-Phase plan to reopen 
3 conditions for advancing to the next phase:

  1. Bishop relaxes restrictions 

  2. State and local public health guidance permits activities in the next phase 

  3. Local ministry plan for reopening approved District Superintendent or Director of Connectional Ministries

Approaching Pentecost with heavy hearts

United Methodists of the Greater Northwest,

My heart is heavy with the weight of another killing of an unarmed Black man at the hands of a white policeman. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit gave humanity a miracle as the Church was born: the ability to understand each other, even though they came from different cultures and spoke different languages.

This Sunday, please join me in praying for George Floyd, whose breath was stolen from him, and for his family as they mourn. Pray that God’s Holy Spirit will give us, in our time, the gifts of understanding, respect, and peace among the peoples of this nation, blessedly diverse in race, culture, and language.

Below, find the pastoral statement by Bruce Ough, bishop of the Minnesota and Dakotas Annual Conferences. 

Please also join me next Wednesday for a webinar at our usual time (8 am AKDT, 9 am PDT, 10 am MDT) titled “Confronting the Sin of Racism.”

While this is a shift from our planned topic, I hope you will join me in this important conversation. If you have already registered for next week’s webinar, the link from your confirmation email will still be valid.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

——–

Bishop Bruce R. Ough issued the following statement following the death of George Floyd. Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 in the custody of Minneapolis police after an officer was shown pinning him down while he struggled to breathe. 

There is more than one pandemic ravaging Minnesota and our country at this time. In addition to fighting COVID-19, we are besieged by a pandemic of racism, white supremacy, and white on black or brown violence. The tragic, racially charged, and unnecessary death of George Floyd at the hands of four Minneapolis police officers is only the latest flare-up of this pandemic—and Mr. Floyd is only the latest victim. The list of Black lives who have been needlessly killed grows each day. The pervasive culture of racism and white supremacy, increasingly incited by political rhetoric, grows each day. The fear among parents of Black children grows each day. The flaunting of our laws against racial profiling and discrimination grows each day.

I applaud Mayor Jacob Frey and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo for acting decisively and quickly to fire the police officers. I am grateful the FBI is launching a civil rights investigation. I join with many others in demanding that justice prevail in this situation. I am praying for the Floyd family and the police officers and their families.

Now, it is our responsibility as persons of faith, and particularly as followers of Jesus in the Methodist tradition, to address this pervasive pandemic of racism. We are compelled to address this pandemic with the same intensity and intentionality with which we are addressing COVID-19.

We begin by acknowledging that racism is sin and antithetical to the gospel. We confess and denounce our own complicity. We take a stand against any and all expressions of racism and white supremacy, beginning with the racial, cultural, and class disparities in our state and country that are highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic. We sound the clarion call for the eradication of racism. We challenge governmental leaders who fan the flames of racial division for political gain. We examine our own attitudes and actions; all change begins with transformed hearts continually yielding to the righteousness and love of God.

Let us not turn away or ignore the disease that has been tearing our country apart and destroying lives for centuries. This disease—the sin of racism and white supremacy—denies the teachings of Jesus and our common, created humanity. Let us renew our efforts to eradicate the disease that truly threatens our ideals and the lives, livelihoods, and dignity of so many of our neighbors.

I urge you to join me in continuing to pray for the Floyd family as well as the many families whose lives were tragically altered or whose fears have been heightened as a result of this inexcusable tragedy. May God’s grace, peace, justice, and vision of the Beloved Community overpower the forces of evil and death.

Bishop Bruce R. Ough
Resident Bishop, Dakotas-Minnesota Area
The United Methodist Church