From the Bishop, RE: Boy Scout units chartered by local United Methodist Churches

Aug. 27, 2021

Dear Greater Northwest United Methodists of the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences:

We send this letter with heavy hearts, knowing that many young people have been harmed while participating in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), over many decades. While countless young persons have benefited from the different programs and levels of Boy Scouting, some have experienced demeaning and abusive behavior while participating in scouting activities and events and have taken their claims to the courts.

Many local United Methodist churches partner as charter organizations for Boy Scout units across the country. The United Methodist Church (TUMC) is committed to being a safe and nurturing place for all people, to healing harm that has been done and, to partnering with organizations that share this commitment. The United Methodist Church is reviewing its relationship with BSA to ensure that the Church is acting responsibly to protect the safety of children and ensure that it is not responsible for harm done during Boy Scout activities.

BSA Current Reality

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is overwhelmed with potential liability exposure from sexual assault allegations nationwide. The BSA has filed for bankruptcy protection. Under both of the proposed plans that the BSA has suggested as ways to continue after the bankruptcy, they are leaving their chartered organizations out on a limb by themselves. The chartered organizations are the local churches, schools, and civic groups that sponsor or host a Scout Troop, Pack, Crew, or other unit. The details of these plans are still being played out, but the BSA is placing all of our United Methodist churches who have ever been involved in Scouting in a very difficult position.

Despite their consistent past assurances that they held enough insurance to cover their chartered organizations in case of injured scouts, we now know that the BSA did not have enough or sufficient insurance. The local churches are at risk of having to pay significant sums to victims to compensate them for the damages they suffered at the hands of some Scout leaders. In addition, the local churches will have to pay for the cost of their own attorneys to defend those claims. All of this is because the BSA did not fulfill their promise to have enough insurance to protect the local churches.
 
Future Relationship with the BSA

Our team, made up of the Bishop, her GNW Area assistant, and the treasurers and chancellors of the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conferences, recommends that local churches change their relationships with Scouting units.

If your local church currently charters a Scout unit, we recommend that you NOT renew that chartering agreement when it is up for renewal or re-chartering this fall. Instead, we recommend one of three options, the choice of which is up to you:

  1. Tell the local Scout council that you will NOT renew that chartering agreement but will only extend the current agreement until December 31, 2021.  
  2. Tell the local Scout council that you will NOT renew that chartering agreement but will enter into a Facilities Use Agreement with their unit until December 31, 2021.
     
  3. Tell the local Scout council that you will terminate the existing charter agreement and replace it with a Facilities Use Agreement with their unit until December 31, 2021.

In options 2 and 3, the Facilities Use Agreement will act similar to a lease allowing the Scout unit to continue using your space, but they will be responsible for everything else, including the selection of leaders. A proposed agreement template can be found here. Also, please let your Conference Treasurer know if you are currently hosting a scout troop in any of the above described manners.

After December 31, 2021, we should be in a better position to see how the future will unfold. Once a reorganization plan is approved by the bankruptcy court, we will know better how to proceed.

If your local church does not charter a Scout unit at this time, we recommend that you NOT consider chartering a unit until the bankruptcy case is finalized and we have an understanding of how The United Methodist relationship with Scouts will continue in the future.

We understand that these suggestions are dramatic, but we think them to be the prudent course of action at this time. We want to protect our local churches from being accused of contributing to the abuse of children and to the resulting risk of costly litigation.

Closing Thoughts

Boy Scout councils have begun contacting local churches directly that host Boy Scout units. One such letter is attached here. If you receive any communication from a local Scout council or the BSA advising or encouraging you to contact a Boy Scout attorney, please report this at once to Rev. Carlo A. Rapanut, Assistant to the Bishop. His email is carlorapanut@gmail.com.

We know the value of scouting. It has played a very large role in the mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church for a very long time. But the BSA is not proving faithful to The United Methodist Church as they leave us without the protections that they promised. We simply cannot currently commit to the relationship with the BSA as we have in the past. Until we know how the BSA will be organized and operate in the future, we must make some changes. Hopefully, we will be able to continue our long connection with scouting in some way, but we need to make some changes today to help prevent us from being dragged down with the BSA in the future.

May God’s mighty, surprising, Holy Spirit work a miracle of healing in the lives of people harmed by abuse. May God bless and keep us honest, diligent and wise through this process.

Faithfully,



Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Greater NW Area
The United Methodist Church

                   




Rev. Carlo A. Rapanut
Assistant to the Bishop
GNW Area of The UMC





Brant Henshaw
Conference Treasurer
Pacific Northwest & Alaska Conferences





Rev. Dan Wilson-Fey
Conference Treasurer/Benefits Officer
Oregon-Idaho
Attached documents:
Facility use agreement template for Boy Scouts of America.
Letter related to BSA sent to pastor at Homer UMC in Alaska.

Stepping forward safely in love and trust

Clergy Siblings in Christ,

Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, 
so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. 
Help each other out. And run for it!–Hebrews 12:12, The Message

Friends, we have been running to care, serve and survive COVID-19 for more than 14 months and the end is not yet in sight. You have been our essential workers in ministry for many months as our buildings have been largely closed and activities severely restricted.

We have not crossed the finished line, though we have learned a lot, adapted incredibly, and experienced the presence of God in ways we never expected. From my heart, thank you for your endurance, your courage and fortitude, your vulnerability, your compassion, your faithfulness in the valley of the shadow of death.

Attached is new guidance for churches as they Stepping forward safely in love and trust, that builds upon, but replaces Reimagining Life Together.& It acknowledges the continuing risk of disease, advances in science, and the increasing capacity of our local church leaders to manage the risk in their contexts. New responsibility falls to local leaders to understand and guide their ministry settings wisely and safely with fewer mandated guidelines.

Some of you will welcome the shift of responsibility to local leaders. Others may dread managing intense differences of opinion within your congregation as you make difficult decisions locally. I want to call your attention to two provisions from the document that may help you lead with strength.

1. “…please remember Saint Paul’s admonition that what is “permissible” is not always “beneficial” to the common good. (I Corinthians 10:23). While some churches may act quickly to adopt new, less restrictive practices, it is always OK for a church or ministry to choose to remain more cautious for any reason.”

2. “A local church is not permitted to hold in-person worship without the approval of the pastor. For local churches, decisions about the use of church property for worship or other gatherings belong to the pastor without interference from the Board of Trustees (Book of Discipline, ¶ 2533).”

Your trusted lay leaders and clergy colleagues, district superintendents and directors of connectional ministry are your partners in ministry as you lead one more challenge in the fight against this deadly disease.

And most of all, GOD IS WITH US.

May God bless and keep you all in your circles of care — members, friends, family, neighbors, strangers — so no one will trip and fall!

Elaine JW Stanovsky
Bishop, Greater Northwest Area
The United Methodist Church

A pastoral update on our COVID-19 response

Dear Siblings in Christ, 

We are making progress, but we are not quite there yet. It has been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted life as we knew it. We continue to persevere, exhausted at times, yet anticipating the day when we can gather, greet each other, share communion and other precious rhythms of life and spiritual practice in person without risking harm to one another. Hopeful also that we now carry with us new learnings and practices, hard lessons of necessity that will continue to connect us in new ways in life and ministry.  

The rapid vaccine rollout gives us hope that we can enjoy more freedom to gather as families and faith communities soon. Vaccinations coupled with continuous strict adherence to safety protocols are expected to lower infection rates, hospitalizations and COVID-19 related deaths. Overall, we have seen the number of cases decline since the winter peak in many places, but progress has been stalled by premature re-openings, the easing of restrictions in some places, resistance by some to being vaccinated and observing simple safety practices: washing hands, social distancing, wearing a mask. I hope that each of us is continuing to follow these practices, as well as being vaccinated, consistent with medical advice, as soon as we are eligible.  

I was surprised by the deep joy that welled up in me when those shots went in my arm, protecting not only me but also everyone I encounter from the dangers of this virus. I’m grateful to every person who is able and willing to join this movement toward health and safety.   

As Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reminded us in a briefing earlier this year,  

“We may be done with the virus, but clearly the virus is not done with us. We cannot get comfortable or give in to a false sense of security that the worst of the pandemic is behind us – not now; not when mass vaccination is so very close.” 

Permissible not Necessarily Beneficial 

In an article for The Atlantic, Dr. James Hamblin of the Yale School of Public Health points out,  

“Our social lives can resume, but only when the whole community is ready. The turning point does not arrive for individuals, one by one, as soon as they’ve been vaccinated; it comes for all of us at once, when a population becomes immune.” 

With this understanding, we are advised that the number of coronavirus cases needs to decrease further before we resume regular activities, especially in light of the arrival of new fast-spreading variants of the virus. A premature reopening, even if allowed by the state, may run the risk of not just stalling but even reversing the recent progress we have already achieved.  

I am reminded of Saint Paul’s admonition that things that are “permissible” are not necessarily things that are “beneficial” to the common good. (I Corinthians 10:23).  

While we should celebrate the good news of vaccines providing a layer of protection already for a significant number of members in some of our congregations, the church does not belong solely to those who are vaccinated. Especially as we have just now reached a time when all adults are eligible to receive a vaccine, we must continue to be patient to allow them the privilege of receiving this gift of security before we consider letting our guard down. At the same time, we will need to find ways to protect and include children in church life while continuing to wait for vaccination eligibility to be extended to them. 

As the church, God calls us always to do things that are beneficial because we bear responsibility towards the well-being of others, especially the most vulnerable among us.  

A Posture of Hopeful Caution 

The progress we see in vaccinations, tempered by the potential threat of variants we race, leads me toward a posture of hopeful caution; we are almost there but not quite there yet. Even as our hope is renewed with the increasing percentage of those vaccinated, our decisions and actions must continue to manifest the utmost concern for one another as an act of love in response to Jesus’ command for us to love one another as he had loved us (John 13:34).  

Accordingly, I am asking churches to remain vigilant in their planning and decision-making processes. The COVID-19 Response Team, made up of lay and clergy members from across the area, is continuing to review and amend its guidance to local churches. By May 5th, we will release updated guidelines for Phase 3, shifting more responsibility to local leaders to guide their congregation’s, camp’s or other ministry setting’s COVID-19 response.  

I am grateful for each of you and your faithfulness and commitment, especially during this long time of physical separation due to this pandemic. May the hard lessons learned as we have persevered, and new skills developed as you have adapted, empower our work together and witness to God’s love which never fails us. 

“Those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40:31) 

With love and grace, 

Elaine JW Stanovsky 
Bishop, Greater Northwest Episcopal Area 

Offered in consultation with the COVID-19 Response Team, as currently composed: 

  • Rev. Alyssa Baker, pastor, Open Door Churches of Salem-Keizer, OR-ID Conference 
  • Laurie Day, OR-ID Conference Director of Connectional Ministries 
  • Rev. Jim Doepken, pastor, Moose Pass & Seward Memorial UMCs, Alaska Conference 
  • Rev. Mark Galang, Puget Sound District Superintendent, PNW Conference 
  • Rhondalei Gabuat, Executive Assistant for Bishop Stanovsky Greater Northwest Episcopal Area  
  • Rev. Karen Hernandez, Sage District Superintendent, OR-ID Conference 
  • Rev. Pat Longstroth, pastor, Bremerton UMC, PNW Conference 
  • Becky Platt, lay member, Boise (ID): Whitney UMC, OR-ID Conference 
  • Patrick Scriven, PNW Conference Director of Communications 
  • Jim Truitt, lay member, Renton (WA): Fairwood Community UMC, PNW Conference 

Two important announcements for the Greater Northwest Area

Beloved in Christ, 

I write to you today with two announcements that will impact the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church this year.

On Epiphany, I requested voluntary retirement as a bishop in The United Methodist Church, effective December 31, 2021. Today, I share this news with you.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

It seems too early to announce my retirement long before it arrives, but the many steps that proceed the assignment of a new bishop demand it. This is truer this year, with denominational strife, the ongoing pandemic, and the financial consequences of each creating additional uncertainty for our United Methodist connection.

While I regret that my retirement may add to the burden of others, I am convinced that this is the right time and the right action for me personally. I will continue to work diligently with conference leaders through the year to prepare for whatever and whoever comes next. And I trust that God continues to move in the hearts of the faithful to raise up leaders for the next stage of the journey.

The other news I share is less personal but will impact us all the same.

Given the continuing presence of COVID-19 in our communities, we now expect to hold Annual Conference 2021, once again, remotely online.

While a date change is possible, please continue to hold the announced dates, June 9-12, 2021, as we explore alternative possibilities — including multiple virtual sessions. We expect to know more soon as decisions are made about plans for delayed general and jurisdictional conferences.

We’ll let members of each Annual Conference know more information as it becomes available.

Despite the many challenges and transitions life brings, in faith, we know that love lives on. Please know that I continue to hold the people and ministries of the Greater Northwest Area in my prayers as we witness this truth together, though still apart from one another.

With gratitude and hope,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Church as Beloved Community

Church as Beloved Community


A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky • January 2021

To the majority white United Methodists in the Greater Northwest Area, with an invitation to others to listen in and join the conversation.

But now, thanks to Christ Jesus, you who once were so far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ…. He broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us…. So now you are no longer strangers and aliens. Christ is building you into a place where God lives through the Spirit.

Ephesians 2, Selections

Beloved in Christ, I have carried you in my heart and prayers every waking moment through these seasons of pandemic, racial reckoning, civic unrest and violent attack on the U.S. Capitol. As we lament the image of a flag of the Confederacy waved brazenly in the Capitol, and brace for more extremist violence there and in state capitols across the country, the burden is heavy on people of conscience, who live in faith, hope and love through such demanding events.

I pray for the outgoing president, Mr. Trump, and for the incoming president, Mr. Biden, for elected and appointed government servants in every place and role. May the good in each prevail, and their sin be quenched. 

A word to People and Pastors of Color in The United Methodist Church

But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way…into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

Ephesians 4:15-16

We have a long journey ahead. It is a testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit that you know and offer your gifts to the whole body of the church. It is not your responsibility to endure disrespect in the church, or to teach me and my white siblings how our words and actions harm and exclude. And yet, out of your love of God and in undying hope of a new day, you generously continue in relationship as the Church strives to grow in faith, service and witness. May God build the church up by showing us how our parts can work properly together in love.

I pray for our nation and its people. May values of respect, freedom, equity and fairness lead the way through our present distress and danger. I pray for people whose anger has spilled out in violence, anger over things both righteous and evil.

I want to bring a hopeful message to the Church. But the hope of this season is only visible through thick clouds. May we walk by the light of faith, in service to love until hope rises again, unobstructed.

As we celebrate the life and leadership of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I bring you a message that I know will be hard. It is rooted and grounded in my love for our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, and my love of all God’s people.

NOW IS THE TIME. THIS IS THE PLACE. WE ARE THE PEOPLE to overturn white privilege and supremacy in our hearts, our minds and in our communities and to build a beloved community of racial justice and equity.
NOW IS THE TIME to dismantle oppressive systems of institutional racism, which
  • violate the dignity and sanctity of God’s creation
  • divide communities
  • deform the body of Christ
  • isolate local churches from their neighbors and
  • silence the prophetic witness of Christians to God’s justice and equity.

White racism arrived in the New World with Christopher Columbus in 1492, long before the Pilgrims or the Declaration of Independence elevated the value of freedom. It took root and has not been rooted out. It is alive and well in America. Now, cell phone videos of police violence against unarmed Black people expose persistent racism for all to see. Race is on the public agenda in a new and urgent way. Protests, demands, personal testimonies, documentaries and webinars have opened a window into how pervasive racism is in the life of our nation.

Compared to people of color, white people enjoy the “good life” disproportionately by nearly every measure: education, health care, environmental health, criminal justice and incarceration, voting rights, business ownership, employment, income, housing, and life expectancy, to name some. This is the privilege white people enjoy in America. The patterns of privilege and poverty in America are embedded in institutions, norms, practices and systems that do not depend upon individual bias, hatred or mistreatment. They have a life of their own.

THE CHURCH IS THE PLACE… to wake up and courageously face the sin of racism and to create beloved community. 

God gives people of faith a vision of diverse human beings living together in right relationship with one another. But through history, the Christian Church has often created and maintained systems of racial inequity in America and around the world. Today, the church is called to recognize and dismantle its own racism and join a movement of racial reckoning and reconciliation in every place.

When the communities where the church is located experience transition especially identified as economic and/or ethnic, the local church shall engage in deliberate analysis of the community change and alter its program to meet the needs and cultural patterns of the new residents.  The local church shall make every effort to remain in the community and develop effective ministries to those who are newcomers, whether of a cultural, economic, or ethnic group different from the original or present members.

¶ 212, Book of Discipline

By the year 2045, white people will be a minority of the U.S. population. In the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, nearly every town and city is rapidly becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, but our United Methodist Churches in the region are predominantly white, middle class, aging and declining. For the most part, our churches are not adapting to the changing population by welcoming or engaging the growing number of their neighbors who come from different national, racial or ethnic heritages.

The UMC recognizes that the sin of racism has been destructive to its unity throughout its history.  Racism continues to cause painful division and marginalization.  the UMC shall confront and seek to eliminate racism, whether in organizations or in individuals, in every facet of its life and in society at large.  The UMC shall work collaboratively with others to address concerns that threaten the cause of racial justice at all times and in all places. 

¶ 5, Book of Discipline

The executive staff team of the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church recognizes inclusion as an essential practice of a vital church. We are building this practice into our own leadership teams and agendas. At every meeting, we participate in intercultural competency training and applying what we learn to our team and its work. We are intentional about inviting people of color into pastoral leadership of our churches to recognize and engage with the variety of people in their neighborhoods.

Racism persists in our churches.

Racism can exist without racial hatred. In many places, our churches are passive participants in racist systems that we have inherited and may not even be aware of. If we, the white majority, simply continue to do what we have always done – as the community changes and becomes more diverse – we will, silently, and without even recognizing it, perpetuate white privilege and supremacy.

This is why in my episcopal address to Annual Conference in September, I charged every local church to examine the images in your buildings, the priorities in your budgets and the people making decisions for the church, to see whether a rich variety of cultures and voices are present. Decisions are different if different perspectives are included in decision-making. In response to this charge, district superintendents initiated conversations about racism in every local church as part of its charge or church conference.

Sadly, we have begun to notice a pattern of overt racism within several congregations. This pattern is present in all three conferences and all four states. Some expressions of it include:

  • criticizing pastors for preaching about racial justice
  • denying the authority of the pastor over worship
  • withholding respect, deference and trust that are usually extended to pastors
  • criticizing the pastor’s grammar or pronunciation, especially in the case of a pastor for whom English is a second or third language
  • expecting a pastor of color to adopt the cultural norms of the congregation without curiosity, question or discussion
  • refusing to include a variety of cultural expressions within the worship life of the congregation

Sometimes congregations have even refused to accept a pastor I have appointed, due either to overt or more often subtle reasons of race.

As I hear these stories and discuss them within my cabinet, I am sorry to report that these attitudes are present, though often not predominant, in almost all of our churches. Any pastor of color who is appointed to any mostly white congregation can expect to encounter overt or implicit racist resistance, both personally and professionally.

Responsibilities and Duties of Elders and Licensed Pastors – To lead the congregation in racial and ethnic inclusiveness. 

¶ 340.2.c)(4)


Racism has no place in the Church.

The Church is the body of Christ. We cannot allow racism to infect the body by tolerating these behaviors because they are inhospitable and dangerous for the beloved of our Savior. None of us can rest as long as our churches participate actively or passively in the sin of racism.

At Christian baptism, we pledge to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. Whether hot and hateful or gentle and well-intentioned, these comments and attitudes are harmful and they reinforce the narrow, fixed and insular scope of our congregations. Whatever good our churches do, it is necessarily compromised by the shadow cast by attitudes and habits that spring from normative white cultural assumptions.

Open itineracy means appointments [of clergy] are made without regard to race, ethnic origin, gender, color, disability, marital status, or age. 

¶ 425.1

Throughout our lives, Jesus introduces us to new experiences, new people, fresh ideas. When our life paths cross with people from different parts of the world, with different life experiences, different cultural experiences, different aspirations that do not match our own, and may make us uncomfortable, our discomfort is often God at work, stretching and strengthening our love. Jesus invites us to set aside judgment and proceed to curiosity, asking: how is Jesus working through a new relationship to deepen our faith and strengthen the church or community?

The church must not value the familiar, traditional or comfortable over what is right, nourishing, emerging, and hopeful. God says “Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? (Isaiah 42:19a. Embracing the new people and things God sends our way is a spiritual practice that breathes life into the church and through the church, into the world.

 Your bishop watches over you in love.

My charge, as your bishop, is to oversee the spiritual and temporal affairs of the church. I name what I see and encourage the leaders and congregations under my care to grow in faith and witness for the kingdom/kin-dom of God. I see our spirits are not strong enough to follow Jesus into the beloved community he invites us to, nor do we have the courage to speak truth to a world that is awash in lies.

The United Methodist Church can and must become a movement that is awakening, learning, growing and moving toward racial awareness, intercultural competency and inclusive community.

In faithfulness to our baptismal vows, my cabinet and I are committed to working with pastors and laity to re-form our churches to recognize and acknowledge our sin and enter into a journey toward racial equity, justice and inclusion. Just as the members of the cabinet have a monthly discipline of intercultural competency training, the cabinet will develop a process for working with congregations to assess and recognize attitudes and behaviors that give preference to white culture within the church, and to take steps to become more aware and competent in inter-cultural and cross-racial relationships.

Cross-racial and cross-cultural appointments are made as a creative response to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the church in its leadership.  Cross-racial and cross-cultural appointments are appointments of clergy persons to congregations in which the majority of their constituencies are different from the clergyperson’s own racial/ethnic cultural background.  

¶ 425.4

The goal of the cabinet is to assist every church to become an outpost of God’s inclusive love in each place and for all the people. Underlying this goal, we firmly resolve not to allow racially offensive or exclusive comments and behavior within our congregations , to go unchallenged and untransformed.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Wesley inform our anti-racism work.

In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote a letter in response to eight white religious leaders who criticized him for leading demonstrations and sit-ins protesting racial segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. In the letter, King reflects on his disappointment in religious leaders during the civil rights struggle, saying,

I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevances and sanctimonious trivialities….

I have found myself asking: What kind of people worship here? Who is their God?  Where are their voices?….

In deep disappointment, I have wept over the laxity of the church….Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and fear of being nonconformists.

Nearly 60 years later, the face of racism has shifted, but the church is no less lax today than it was in the 1963. We must journey together from being “almost Christian,” as John Wesley describes in his famous sermon, to becoming “altogether Christian,” living in ways that not only avoid sin, but that cultivate and promote virtue and justice. 

In the weeks ahead, I’ll invite clergy to a conversation about how we can journey together on the road toward beloved community – freed from the heritage of deep, systemic racism. 

As you live in the maelstrom of the week ahead and those to come, I thank God for your faithfulness, through times of peril and doubt and I pray God’s sustaining grace in your life, your family, and your ministries. Bad news never has the final word.  Keep listening. There’s good news on the way!

 

Elaine JW Stanovsky
Bishop, Greater Northwest Episcopal Area

Chargeable Offenses Against a Church Member – A professing member of a local church may be charged with the following offenses, . . .  harassment, including, but not limited to racial and/or sexual harassment; racial or gender discrimination . . .

¶ 2702.3

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

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