Give the emperor the things that are the emperor’s,
and God the things that are God’s.
– 
Matthew 22:21b

Greater Northwest United Methodists,

In the wake of yesterday’s announcement regarding DACA, I’m asking myself, what is the emperor’s and what is God’s? Matthew reminds us that the really important things belong to God and that what we owe to civil authorities is limited by what belongs to God.

Advocates for Dreamers attend a press conference and rally in Portland, Oregon following the Trump Administration’s DACA announcement. Photo by Mira Conklin.

Yesterday the White House announced an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy threatening to cause the deportation of 800,000 youth and young adults who were brought to the United States without documents when they were children. Today I remember that:

“The alien who resides with you shall be as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:34

It’s not right even to threaten to deport peaceful, tax-paying immigrants who have lived here for decades, and know no other home. Doing so violates the teachings of the Bible.

Love of God demands that we speak out for our neighbors to government officials who have authority over their lives. Love of God might demand that we act boldly to protect threatened people and families as fiercely as we would protect our own.

The moral imperative to love the alien in our land is clear, though each person and each church will find its own way to love God and neighbor in their place and circumstance. I hope you will find ways to have serious conversations with people who are affected by this end to DACA, and to discern what God is leading us to do in the months ahead.

Pray for people who fear that their lives may be uprooted, and their families torn apart.  Pray for our government authorities. Pray that Christ will guide and lead the church to a season of clear witness and courageous action.

With faith in Christ, and confidence that love will win,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater Northwest Area


Resources

Visit greaternw.org/welcome for more DACA information and a list of ideas and resources to help us love one another, love our neighbors and love the stranger. On the page titled “Links for Further Information” you’ll find links to organizations active in supporting refugees and immigrants in each state (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington) alongside national and interfaith groups. Please send other local (to you) resources that you are aware of to the Rev. Lyda Pierce at lpierce@pnwumc.org for possible inclusion.

 

Greater Northwest United Methodists and people of compassion everywhere,

LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, SOUL, STRENGTH AND MIND,

AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF

                 DO THIS AND YOU SHALL LIVE. ~ Luke 10: 27

Flodding evacuation

A team from Christ United Methodist Church, in Sugar Land, Texas, evacuated by boat the family of the Rev. R. DeAndre Johnson, a member of the church staff. Johnson said his home had taken on close to a foot of water on Aug. 27, when he made the decision to evacuate. (Chappell Temple photo)

Hurricane Harvey is devastating Texas and Louisiana, stretching all systems of relief and recovery beyond their limits. We’ve watched as tiny babies, venerable elders, and people of every condition of life have had their lives swept away by the floods. Local United Methodists surrounding the affected area are already providing shelter, food and comfort to people in distress.  They need us to support their work with “love made liquid” through prayer and offerings. And we’ll be sending Early Response Teams (ERT) from the Greater Northwest Area as early as October.

I am calling every church, fellowship group, Sunday School class, choir, coffee klatch, walking, or yoga group in the Greater Northwest Area (Oregon-Idaho, Pacific Northwest, and Alaska Conferences) to love God and neighbor in the following ways:

  1. Pray for the people affected by the flood and those who work tirelessly to respond, and
  2. Receive a special offering for HURRICANE HARVEY FLOOD beginning this Sunday, and each Sunday in September. And when you donate, invite someone outside your group to donate, too. Donations will support United Methodist Committee On Relief (UMCOR) US Disaster Response fund* and travel costs for Early Response Teams from the Greater Northwest Area that will go to Texas and Louisiana.

Miracles happen when people share what they have. Thank you.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater Northwest Area

* 100% of donations support UMCOR recovery and relief with no administrative overhead.  UMCOR has the highest (4 ★★★★) rating by Charity Navigator.

Contacts:

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News – Harvey Floods hit Houston Churches

News – Churches Pitch in as Harvey Crisis Continues

United Methodists and all others who strive for peace at home and around the world,

I hope you will join me, the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, and many others in praying for peace on the Korean Peninsula this Sunday, August 13th. You’ll find Rev. Dr. Henry-Crowe’s invitation copied below.

Wars and rumors of wars trouble these days with threats of nuclear attack. Seventy two years after the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, I’d like to invite you to meditate anew on these words found at the Nagasaki Peace Park, a memorial to that fearsome day.


Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater Northwest Area

June 2, 2017

People of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference,

We know the capacity of the human spirit to wander off and lose itself. It happens all the time, resulting in self-destructive behavior, and other-destructive behavior. This week we saw what happens when societal norms seem to give permission for people who have wandered away from basic civil behavior, to speak and act on their hatred. Young women on a train are harassed, and three men who stand to protect them are stabbed, two to death.

Remarks as prepared for the Press Conference following the United Methodist Judicial Council oral arguments on April 25, 2017 in Newark, NJ. Click here to watch the press conference in its entirety.

I’m Elaine Stanovsky, bishop of the Greater Northwest Area, and speaking on behalf of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops today.  My colleagues, Robert Hoshibata, Minerva Carcaño and, of course, Karen Oliveto are here today as well.

Friday a gay colleague reminded me that some people are listening for a good word today and may be profoundly discouraged. If you are one of them, hear this affirmation: God “formed [you] in [your] inward parts, knit [you] together in [your] mother’s womb. [You] are fearfully and wonderfully made.” Read Psalm 139. No-one can take that away from you.

Thank you to the Judicial Council for the care with which it has prepared for this day, and for setting an appropriate tone for today’s oral arguments.

Thanks to everyone who came today to support the Western Jurisdiction and Bishop Oliveto as our church continues its journey to live out the Gospel as Jesus intends us to do – by caring for each other, regardless of sexual orientation, as long as we are “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17).

Bishop Elaine Stanovsky speaks at a news conference after oral hearings at the Judicial Council in Newark, NJ on April 25, 2017.

Deep gratitude to Rich Marsh, who so ably argued on behalf of the Western Jurisdiction today, and to Llew Pritchard, his co-counsel. They have represented us well.

As Rich said, we believe the Constitution and the Discipline of our church give the authority to determine eligibility and elect bishops to each jurisdiction and central conference. This exclusive right of jurisdictions has allowed the church to adapt to its ministry context in each region. The variety that results makes it difficult to live together as one church.  But it was the key to the healing Methodism’s division over slavery in the 19th century. The autonomy of jurisdictions to elect their own bishops is at the heart of our unity-in-diversity.

Bishop Oliveto – as an elder in good standing – was eligible for election. She was elected on the 17th ballot by 88 out of 100 delegates. We celebrate her election as a gift of the Holy Spirit to the whole Church. Every bishop in the Western Jurisdiction claims Bishop Oliveto as an esteemed colleague. We recognize God at work in her life, in her marriage with Robin, and through her ministry as a bishop.

The Western Jurisdiction is not so different from the rest of The United Methodist Church. We love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. We try to follow Jesus’s commandment to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. This love is breaking down the dividing walls of prejudice, taboo and fear of LGBTQI people. This love has led many in the West to advocate for full inclusion of LGBTQI people in the membership and ordained ministry of the Church. The Western Jurisdiction has not been guided by a spirit of defiance, but by a spirit of obedient love of God and neighbor. Today we are blessed to have followed where love led.

It was a moving moment earlier, when representatives of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops walked into the meeting room with Bishop Karen, her wife, Robin, and her mother, Nellie. Mrs. Oliveto was the one who fed her daughter’s hunger for a relationship with God. She took her and her sisters to church, to Youth Fellowship, and encouraged young Karen when she began to notice God’s presence calling her to ministry.

For 45 years The United Methodist Church has talked about LGBTQI people, while refusing to hear the voices of the very people who could help the church grow in its love of neighbor. The request before the Judicial Council this morning never named Bishop Oliveto. The arguments were about principle, law, and precedent. Nothing about Karen, her love, call, faith, service, sacrifice, mercy. She sat in silence. It wasn’t about her.

And yet, the very stones would cry out, if we did not let her speak.

I’m going to turn the microphone to Bishop Oliveto now, so we can hear her voice.

After she speaks, we’ll answer your questions, but we are not going to get into great detail about the Judicial Council, or speculation over what the Council may or may not do. We are going to respect this process, and continue to pray for God to lead the Council, and our Church, on the path towards justice, reconciliation, and understanding that in our denomination, all should mean all.

Bishop Karen Oliveto, sister in Christ…

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Greater Northwest Area
The United Methodist Church

To the people called Methodists within the Greater Northwest Area:

Grace and Peace to you in the name of our Risen Savior, Jesus.

I write to keep you informed of an important matter involving the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church. It is important to keep you apprised of developments in the questions raised over Bishop Karen Oliveto’s election last July.

Just after she was elected by the Western Jurisdiction Conference, the South Central Jurisdiction asked our denomination’s top court, the Judicial Council, to rule on the validity of her election. The Judicial Council will hear arguments in the matter when it meets in Newark, N.J. on April 25, with a ruling expected within days. This process is outlined in our Book of Discipline.

The bishops of the Western Jurisdiction believe that Bishop Oliveto’s election and assignment to the Mountain Sky Area is valid. It is our prayer that the Judicial Council will confirm this position. Nonetheless, we know there are several potential outcomes. We know the ruling will have implications for the entire denomination, but Bishop Oliveto and the Mountain Sky Area will be affected most.

Accompanying this letter is an information sheet prepared by the Western Jurisdiction. We ask pastors and church leaders to make this letter and the accompanying material available to congregations as soon as possible. After the ruling, we will provide more information and guidance for our churches and leaders.

No matter what the decision is, we know some among us will not agree.  Some will feel hurt. Some will feel distanced from the church. That is why we must be in prayer for one another and for our church. We ask you to pray for Bishop Oliveto, the Cabinet and conference leaders of the Mountain Sky Area, members of the Judicial Council, and all who will participate in the hearing on April 25.

We do not believe agreement, even on major issues like this, has ever been a requirement for loving each other and remaining one family in Christ Jesus who, in the week of his death and resurrection, prayed that we may be one. (John 17:21)

Although the Council’s decision could have significant implications on our life together, we have faith that the Resurrection of Jesus is what most determines our future. The United Methodist Church, and its predecessors, have faced many challenges and disagreements in the past and has lived to witness to the grace of God in Jesus Christ through our distinctive Wesleyan voice we offer the world. We know God will see us through this time as well.

Yours in Christ,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Click here to view a Q & A document about the Judicial Council.

Click here to view a Printable Version of this letter.

Yesterday I went to the bank, where my “universal banker” was a young immigrant from Afghanistan. When her father died, her mother was left to raise five daughters in a war-torn nation where women have few economic avenues. Her uncles in America sponsored the family’s migration to the U.S. When I commented that her language skill must be an asset at the bank, I learned that she speaks Farsi, Hindi, Russian and English, and she is working on Spanish. Her face shined as she told me how she loves being able to help other immigrants, who don’t speak English. Her story is a story of hope, despite much travail.

Today is Epiphany, the day we honor the foreign (from the East) wise ones who saw a new star appear in the night sky. Believing it to be a sign of great new hope for the world, they followed the star to Jesus. The local king, Herod, wanted them to tell him where the baby was so he could “eliminate” a potential political rival. But, being wise, they returned home by “another way” to avoid Herod; Mary and Joseph secreted the baby Jesus away to Egypt to protect him from the slaughter of the innocents that was to come. This is how hope came into the world in Jesus.

Every season is a season of uncertainty. As people living in an uncertain world, we have a choice to cower in fear, or to step out in faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). When, day by day, we see the fall of ancient cities, mass migration of refugees, racial tensions and violence, the degradation of the natural environment and depletion of natural resources, it takes faith to live in hope. And yet, this is the special calling of people of faith – to live lives of hope despite all evidence to the contrary.

My word of hope for you today springs from an unseen place, where the Holy Spirit speaks to my spirit: God is at work in our lives and in the wide world, nurturing hope, protecting promises, inspiring courage. We are part of God’s plan and promise for the world. In prayer, listen for the still, small voice, watch for the star that shines in the darkness and let them be your strength.  Then, be a keeper, a protector, a reflector of hope against all odds. Find ways to keep hope alive in your home, your heart, in your conversations with the people you meet by chance. Be wise, trust the unseen presence of God, and follow where it leads.

 

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Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky


Photo Credit:Hope” by Flickr user Steve Snodgrass, CC BY 2.0.


advent41

Herod did his deed early this year – killing and wounding innocents in Aleppo, Berlin, and Zurich; exacting revenge in Ankara; disrupting the Christmas Market in a city still healing from the wounds of war, and the deep divide of THE WALL.

I know the place where the Berlin attack occurred.  It’s a long block from the Hotel Palace, where the Council of Bishops met a year and a half ago.  Our gathering opened in an ecumenical worship service at the new Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, dedicated on the third Sunday of Advent, 1961.  It shines as a blue beacon of peace in the shadow of the old church, which was built in 1895, bombed in 1943 and 1945, and opened as a peace memorial 1987.

“Joy to the World. . .  Let earth receive her king. . .”

Isaac Watts, 1719

On the question of who’s in charge, the Bible is clear. All kinds of foolishness and evil occur in human lives and human history, but God is in charge. The one who finds the lost, forgives sin, makes highways straight, deserts bloom and shines light in the darkness. The way we know that God is in charge, isn’t because everything is fine. Bad stuff happens all the time.  We know that God is in charge because the values of peace, justice, kindness are woven into the fabric of our being and an alarm sounds when the ways of the world stray too far from the way of Jesus.

And so we sing JOY! in every season because even in the darkest times, God tugs people to grace and truth, unfailingly, eternally, and will not rest until creation thrives, people enjoy abundant life, and justice is as natural and unstoppable as a river.

There’s a lot of anxiety about the recent presidential election.

  • The role of fake news in shaping public opinion
  • The intrusion of Russia into the process
  • The statements by the FBI director
  • The role of the electoral college
  • The depth of dissatisfaction of Americans with government (19% in Nov. 2015)
  • The depth of distrust in the President-elect (41-48% since election)
  • Will the president-elect really carry through on all the promises he made

“He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness, and wonders of his love.”

Truth, grace and love find their way through an uncertain time.  Sing for JOY!

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Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it?
I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness. – Isaiah 43: 19

Watching scenes of Aleppo, a beautiful, ancient city, lying in rubble, with a river of refugees – young, old, burdened, lost – pouring out into the wilderness, the horror passes understanding. It is beyond belief, beyond comprehension. I search for peace to match the horror.

We will never experience peace equal to the horror if we keep tuned to the news. It is people sitting in darkness who can see a great light (Isaiah 9:2). So, turn off the news, not to avoid the harsh realities of war. Turn off the news so you can hear a different word, see a vision of abundant life, and be led along a good way. Participating in worship is a choice to be part of an alternative, intentional community of resistance to sin and death. When God’s people gather where a candle burns and music swells, the rhythm of God’s peace resonates in our hearts and finds expression through our lives and the world is changed. Not in earth-shattering ways, but in life-affirming ways.

Pray for the people of Aleppo, and every place of horror on the earth. Come, Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace. Quell warring madness so that people will no longer be forced from their homes to become strangers wandering the earth. In the meantime, show us how to become community for your lost sheep. We know this is your will. Show us the way. Make us witnesses to the peace that passes understanding.

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Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

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