Installment # 2:  Already, but Not Yet

Dear United Methodist friends in the Pacific Northwest,

Top of 2018 to you! I pray that God will lead us on a good path this year, that

shines light
cultivates life
and showers joy

into the world through our lives, our ministries and our churches.

Last June, the Annual Conference voted to reduce by one the number of districts in the Pacific Northwest. We are in the process of living into this re-assignment of churches to districts. I want to let you know how the process is unfolding, and what to expect in the months ahead.

Officially, but invisibly, churches were ALREADY assigned to the new MISSIONAL districts as of January 1, 2018 to avoid confusing mid-year budgetary and administrative changes. I say “invisibly,” because local churches won’t notice much, if any change – NOT YET!

We are emphasizing that districts are MISSIONAL because every church is called to reach beyond itself to engage its community in life-giving, world-transforming ways. Districts help established congregations to think beyond themselves and to innovate in ways that create new places for new people with the potential to transform lives, communities, and even the world.

The district superintendent you had in 2017 will continue to supervise your pastor and consult with your congregation until Annual Conference in June. If you have a pastoral change, the district superintendent you’ve had in the past will introduce your new pastor and work with you through the transition.

During the first half of 2018 district superintendents will work with elected leaders to create and implement an organization and identify officers for the new missional districts. By July 1, 2018 all organizational units and officers should be aligned to the new missional district boundaries. Also on July 1 pastors and churches will begin to identify with their new missional district assignment and to its district superintendent.

During Annual Conference we will have opportunity to mark the shift and meet as colleagues and friends within our new district affiliations.

In the fall someone asked me, what does “Crest” in Crest to Coast refer to?
The Pacific Crest Trail runs from the US border with Mexico in the south, north along the backbone of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges and across the US border into Canada. The “crest” is the crest of the mountains. On one side of the crest rivers run to the east. On the other side of the crest rivers run to the west. The Crest to Coast district runs from the Cascade Crest to the Pacific Coast.

My question is, who’s gonna organize the Crest to Coast relay to inaugurate the new district?

 


If you have questions or concerns during this transition, the district superintendents are prepared to respond.

Change comes with challenges. There will undoubtedly be some unexpected bumps and grinds. I pray that each of you will help us make this transition as smooth as possible. With your good will (and humor) and God’s grace, we’ll make it.

Living in Faith,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky 

Read Installment #1 – New West-Side Districts

I call upon all who hear this message to give public witness to your love of God and neighbor this Martin Luther King, Jr. week by 1) participating in public commemorations, 2) advocating for racial, social and economic justice with elected officials and 3) serving human need in your community.


The last 24 hour news cycle presented me with four puzzle pieces that did not fit into a picture that made sense to me.

1. Dignity

President Trump issued his Martin Luther King Jr. Day message to the nation this morning. He taped it yesterday. It is well-crafted and high-minded:

…Dr. King opened the eyes and lifted the conscience of our nation. He stirred the hearts of our people to recognize the dignity written in every human soul. Today we celebrate Dr. King for standing up for the self-evident truth that Americans hold so dear – that no matter what the color of our skin or the place of our birth, we are all created equal by God….Today …we pledge to fight for his dream of equality, freedom, justice and peace.

2. Degradation

But, last evening the President of the United States may have profanely said Haiti, African and other nations produce people who are worthy of the dung heap. We don’t know if the reports are true. But we do know that the President has consistently pursued immigration policies aimed at excluding or disadvantaging persons based on his evident religious or racial bias.

3. Earthquake Anniversary

Today is the anniversary of the earthquake that devastated Haiti on January 12, 2010. Watch my interview with UMCOR’s Rev. Jim Gulley, who was trapped for 55 hours in a collapsed hotel.

4. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, commemorating the world-changing life of a man who helped lead our nation to recognize and address its deep injustices.

When I first set these pieces next to each other I felt confused, and then I got pretty mad. It was righteous, faith-based anger. God gave me this anger as companion to love of neighbor. Don’t be messing with my neighbors!  It makes me MAD!

Let me introduce you to some of my beloved neighbors:

Haiti 

In October of 2011, I led United Methodists from the Mountain Sky Area on a mission trip to Haiti. It was nearly two years after the earthquake of 2010 devastated that island nation. The United Methodist Volunteers in Mission (UMVIM) team boarded a flight in Miami that was chock full of teams like ours, as nearly every flight at that time was: young and old volunteers, wearing brightly colored mission team T-shirts –   Christian groups, civic organizations, and student service clubs – all flocking to Haiti to help.

I was on a team that went to the small town of Mellier, where the local church and school had crumbled to the ground. We worked for a week in a long series of teams to clear the rubble, frame foundations, haul rock and concrete in wheelbarrows to build a new church and school. We worked hand in had with local residents, hired with our financial contributions so that the reconstruction work not only used volunteer labor, it also benefitted local workers. And, we brought crafts and soccer balls and led and learned songs and skits with the children of the school, who were meeting in temporary plywood rooms erected by an earlier mission team from Europe. Our food was cooked on a wood stove by local women. Our drivers, and interpreters were all Haitian. Every one of them lived in poverty. Every one had a story of how they and their loved ones had been affected by the earthquake.

We all fell a little “in love” with Haiti, the first black republic in the world, with its rich culture and generous, gracious people, despite centuries of colonial violence, chronic poverty, meager natural resources, and corrupt public administration. We experienced people living in piles of rubble, who nonetheless walked, worked and welcomed us with self-evident and irrepressible dignity.

Africa

In 2011, Imagine No Malaria brought me in a delegation to Angola in West Africa to distribute anti-Malaria bed nets to protect families from the deadly disease. Here, too, we experienced lovely, industrious people, struggling to live well, to get an education and to care for one another under circumstances of extreme difficulty. Not one of them belonged on a dung heap.

My Piece of the Puzzle

These seem like dangerous times, when core principles of human decency and social justice are in question. The puzzle pieces don’t fit together by themselves. I have a place in the puzzle.

So, this morning I renewed my personal commitment to bearing public witness to my love of God and neighbor. I figured out which public events I will participate in to honor the life, ministry and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend. I see it as my job as God’s partner in creating the “new king/kin-dom.” Clint and I will join a public commemoration in Seattle, to join a community of people who recognize and work for the dignity of all God’s people.

Where will you be?

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice.

 Isaiah 60: 1, 5

Epiphanya moment of sudden or great revelation or realization.

We were shaken awake in 2017 in America – with the sudden realization that sexual abuse and harassment by powerful people of less powerful people is rampant in American society. Most common is abuse of women by men: Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, and so many more. But it can be anyone who uses their advantage to intimidate and exploit someone at a disadvantage. As we know, abuse isn’t always by men of women, it can be between two people of the same sex, women of men, adults abusing children or youth, the rich abusing the poor, or as was reported just this week, parents trafficking their own children for sex to finance their opioid addictions.[i]

Sexual harassment and abuse occur when a person has an inflated sense of their own importance and a distorted sense of their place in the world, which leads them to go where they don’t belong and take what is not theirs. You can hear their distorted thinking, when abusers say, “I thought the feelings were mutual,” or “I thought the sex was consensual.”  The first (original) sin the bible tells us about is taking what isn’t yours. That’s what happened in the Garden of Eden, when Eve and Adam plucked and ate the fruit that wasn’t theirs to eat.

In October I was with clergy and other professional ministers in Alaska, when we began to hear about the gross abuses of film producer, Harvey Weinstein. I found myself talking with clergywomen about the inappropriate ways laymen and clergy colleagues treat them. Hugs that turn into gropes. Suggestive comments about personal appearance or physical fitness.  A “stolen kiss.” What is a “stolen kiss” if not one that wasn’t given?

Though I am constantly aware of these dynamics at work in our lives, I had fallen into complacency and given up hope of change. To shake myself awake again, I began a personal “Me Too” journal of the encounters in my life that crossed boundaries. I have 18 items so far. As I began to write, lost memories returned.  I didn’t think there would be so many. They fall far short of criminal actions. I think of them as encounters that taught me to be wary – to watch out for unspoken intentions, for hidden messages, for intrusions into my personal space.

And then I began to count the cases of clergy sexual abuse I have had a role in responding to as a district superintendent or bishop. More than 25, overwhelmingly men who used the trust of their office to gain sexual access to vulnerable women.

Today, as we remember that God repeatedly shines new light and calls people out of darkness, I want to share three messages.

To women and others who have learned to be wary. I’m sorry. You can be the beautiful, whole, beloved daughters (children) of God. Own and honor the integrity of your personhood: body, mind and spirit. If you feel unsafe around someone, don’t “be nice.” Protect yourself. If you feel another person may want something from you that does not belong to them and that you are not offering, don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. If a person invades your space, your security, or acts without your consent – tell someone. Do not become compliant or make excuses for your abuser if your personal integrity is under assault.

To anyone who has been sexually harmed by a Church leader. Sexual abuse, misconduct and harassment by a clergy person violates a sacred trust. As your bishop, I take reports of misconduct by clergy very seriously. If you have been harmed by a member or officer of a local congregation, I encourage you to share your experience with your pastor, or other trusted leader in the church. If you have been harmed by a clergy person, or an employee or elected officer of the Conference, report your experience to a district superintendent or other trusted Conference leader, who will work with my office to restore the sacred trust of the ordained ministry, and to find a just resolution to your concerns.

To clergy and others in trusted leadership in the Church. Do not confuse self-giving love with self-serving love. It is never OK for you to become sexually involved with people in your care. It is always your responsibility to maintain healthy professional boundaries. Don’t put yourself in a situation where your intentions might be misunderstood. The Church has given its stamp of approval to you as a safe, trustworthy spiritual guide and companion at the boundaries of life and death. Just as you have the power to heal, you also have the power to harm.  Your sexual attentions are not a form of ministry, or therapy. If there is something in your life that you can’t share with anyone – you may be a danger to the people in your care. Find a spiritual advisor, counselor, or mentor to help you sort through your “stuff” and ensure that you are a trustworthy pastor. If you do not or cannot maintain the sacred trust of your office, for the love of Christ, step out of ordained ministry.

Let this season of awakening open us to a new way of being in relationship, in which men and women of all sexual identities and orientations, and regardless of power or wealth, honor one another, until the radiance of God’s glory shines upon us.

Send me your thoughts.


Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater Northwest Area


[i] NPR – W.Va. Officials Warn Of Increased Cases Of Human Trafficking

 

Installment #1: New West-Side Districts

The purpose of the annual conference is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by equipping its local churches for ministry and by providing a connection for ministry beyond the local church; all to the glory of God.[i]

Making disciples of Jesus Christ can be a tough mission in the midst of generational change, religious pluralism, and political polarization. The Pacific Northwest Annual Conference is trying to be good stewards of the resources we have and put all our energy into ministries that change lives and the world to reflect God’s vision of abundant life. Last June the Conference acted to reduce the number of districts from 6 to 5, even as we are learning new ways to strengthen ministry both through existing congregations and by starting new ministries.

The reduction in districts will occur on the west side of the Cascade Mountains. The new districts will become reality on January 1, 2018 but you won’t notice much change until July 1, 2018. At that time we will add the word “Missional” to the name of each district, as a reminder that churches exist not only to support their members, but also to engage their context. Every church, fellowship and ministry is on a mission frontier, where people hunger and thirst for spiritual community.

Your district superintendent, and district programming will continue as they are now through the end of June, 2018, to coincide with the pastoral appointment year. Current district superintendents will continue in place through June, 2018, and they will continue to relate to churches and clergy in their present districts through the  2017-2018 appointment season. Beginning July 1, 2018, there will be one fewer district superintendent and churches and clergy will align to the new districts.

The assignment of churches to districts creates a new urban SeaTac Missional District, with the intention of developing specific initiatives for missional engagement in these growing urban areas, with their extreme economic disparities. Across the conference your staff is committed to both helping existing churches to engage their communities in new and life-giving ways, and to cultivating bold, new ministries that create new places for new people to become disciples of Jesus.

During 2018 churches will be aligned in districts as follows:

Inland Missional District:  no change
Seven Rivers Missional District:  no change
Puget Sound Missional District:  [Click here for the list
SeaTac Missional District: [Click here for the list]
Crest to Coast Missional District:  [Click here for the list]

Click here to view a dynamic Google map of the new missional districts. An embedded version of this can be found at the bottom of this page.

Between January and June district superintendents will work with current leadership of groups like UMW, district lay leaders, district boards of church location and building, and disaster coordinators to adapt to the new district alignment. District superintendents are prepared to help you find answers to your questions.

God is saying, “Behold, I am doing a new thing…. Do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43: 19). We’re trying to do a new thing with God. I hope you will bring your patience and creativity to this time of transition.

May God guide and guard us through this change,

Living in Faith,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater Northwest Area


[i] The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2016, ¶ 601.

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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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

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.

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