To United Methodists in the Greater Northwest and all who read these words, wherever you are:
Between last week’s HOSANNA! and Easter’s ALLELUIA! we watch as Jesus walks to his death at the hands of secular and religious authorities, but emerges on the other side, victorious by the power of love at work in the world.
If we haven’t already cast the story with bunnies, daffodils and butterflies, we will recognize this story wherever hope breaks forth from despair. In the crowds of young people in the streets of America, marching, pleading, promising to claim their chance to live without the fear of being stalked and killed at school or at home, or in the neighborhood.
We will recognize the story among immigrants, who have left everything behind, travelled at great peril across deserts, war zones, oceans, boundaries, to arrive in foreign, often hostile lands in hopes of living in freedom, security and opportunity.
We will recognize the story among the poor and homeless who live every day like birds or tiny fur friends in hidden corners, and under bushes, in alleys, behind abandoned walls, in defiance of the powers of death that hem them in before and behind.
We will recognize the Jesus story in our own lives every time we break free from habits of thought and practice that do not serve us well – routines, sorrows, low expectations, petty grievances that we give safe harbor, allowing them to dull our senses and lower our gaze.
We will recognize Jesus, alive and well every time we hear the unlikely – miraculous story, really – of someone walking out of the valley of the shadow of death into the dazzling light of a new day.
You see, the Jesus story isn’t about Jesus, really. His death and resurrection weren’t about him at all. They were about us. They were about God’s magnificent creation, coming out from behind a cloud. Jesus lived and loved and died and rose to open our hearts, our minds and the doors of our small lives to the way God’s love in and through us can make all things new. This is the body of Christ, broken for you. This is the cup of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many.
May new hope dawn in your life, in our nation, and on this precious, precarious planet. May a way open that you thought was closed. And may you discover unimagined blessing.
So shall we shout, Alleluia!
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater NW Area
Ash Wednesday 2018
Today is marked by HEARTS and ASHES. Valentine’s Day celebrates the union of two people by love. Ash Wednesday leads us into the 40-day journey with Jesus through death to resurrection with a reminder that we are one with the stuff of the earth – dirt, ash.
Charles Wesley wrote that:
Love, like death, hath all destroyed,
Rendered all distinctions void;
Names and sects and parties fall;
Thou, O Christ, art all in all.[I]
Both love and death erase boundaries that separate us from one another. Receiving ashes smudged on a forehead, or a hand, is a humbling of self and a reminder that we live because God breathes life into dust. We are at once nothing, and one-with-everything.
This is the mystic mystery of living as creatures in relationship with the Creator. We are undeniably distinct individuals at the same time that we participate in a deep and inescapable unity with all of creation.
So, I celebrate both.
First, I receive ashes, which keep me from thinking more highly of myself than I ought to think (Romans 12:3) and to find my common humanity with all I meet. Second, I receive roses and a poem from my life partner, Clint, who draws me out of myself in so many ways and enters my solitude when I have retreated.
May you know your precious, existential uniqueness this day. And may you humbly receive the gift of shared life with others. Both are God’s gracious gifts.
The United Methodist Church continues its search for unity despite differences that threaten to divide us. Please read the following letter from Bishop Bruce Ough (CLICK HERE), President of the Council of Bishops of our Church, and pray for our church as we continue to seek unity that is deeper than our differences. Hear these hopeful words of John Wesley:
Many are we now, and one,
we who Jesus have put on;
there is neither bond nor free,
male nor female, Lord, in thee.
May we all “put on” Jesus again, and anew, this holy season.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater Northwest Area
[i] “Christ, from Whom All Blessings Flow,” by Charles Wesley, The United Methodist Hymnal, 1989, #550.
Image Credit: Foreheads on Ash Wednesday by Kelsey Johnson via CreationSwap.
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
Then you shall see and be radiant; your heart shall thrill and rejoice.
Isaiah 60: 1, 5
Epiphany –a moment of sudden or great revelation or realization.
We were shaken awake in 2017 in America – with the sudden realization that sexual abuse and harassment by powerful people of less powerful people is rampant in American society. Most common is abuse of women by men: Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, and so many more. But it can be anyone who uses their advantage to intimidate and exploit someone at a disadvantage. As we know, abuse isn’t always by men of women, it can be between two people of the same sex, women of men, adults abusing children or youth, the rich abusing the poor, or as was reported just this week, parents trafficking their own children for sex to finance their opioid addictions.[i]
Sexual harassment and abuse occur when a person has an inflated sense of their own importance and a distorted sense of their place in the world, which leads them to go where they don’t belong and take what is not theirs. You can hear their distorted thinking, when abusers say, “I thought the feelings were mutual,” or “I thought the sex was consensual.” The first (original) sin the bible tells us about is taking what isn’t yours. That’s what happened in the Garden of Eden, when Eve and Adam plucked and ate the fruit that wasn’t theirs to eat.
In October I was with clergy and other professional ministers in Alaska, when we began to hear about the gross abuses of film producer, Harvey Weinstein. I found myself talking with clergywomen about the inappropriate ways laymen and clergy colleagues treat them. Hugs that turn into gropes. Suggestive comments about personal appearance or physical fitness. A “stolen kiss.” What is a “stolen kiss” if not one that wasn’t given?
Though I am constantly aware of these dynamics at work in our lives, I had fallen into complacency and given up hope of change. To shake myself awake again, I began a personal “Me Too” journal of the encounters in my life that crossed boundaries. I have 18 items so far. As I began to write, lost memories returned. I didn’t think there would be so many. They fall far short of criminal actions. I think of them as encounters that taught me to be wary – to watch out for unspoken intentions, for hidden messages, for intrusions into my personal space.
And then I began to count the cases of clergy sexual abuse I have had a role in responding to as a district superintendent or bishop. More than 25, overwhelmingly men who used the trust of their office to gain sexual access to vulnerable women.
Today, as we remember that God repeatedly shines new light and calls people out of darkness, I want to share three messages.
To women and others who have learned to be wary. I’m sorry. You can be the beautiful, whole, beloved daughters (children) of God. Own and honor the integrity of your personhood: body, mind and spirit. If you feel unsafe around someone, don’t “be nice.” Protect yourself. If you feel another person may want something from you that does not belong to them and that you are not offering, don’t give them the benefit of the doubt. If a person invades your space, your security, or acts without your consent – tell someone. Do not become compliant or make excuses for your abuser if your personal integrity is under assault.
To anyone who has been sexually harmed by a Church leader. Sexual abuse, misconduct and harassment by a clergy person violates a sacred trust. As your bishop, I take reports of misconduct by clergy very seriously. If you have been harmed by a member or officer of a local congregation, I encourage you to share your experience with your pastor, or other trusted leader in the church. If you have been harmed by a clergy person, or an employee or elected officer of the Conference, report your experience to a district superintendent or other trusted Conference leader, who will work with my office to restore the sacred trust of the ordained ministry, and to find a just resolution to your concerns.
To clergy and others in trusted leadership in the Church. Do not confuse self-giving love with self-serving love. It is never OK for you to become sexually involved with people in your care. It is always your responsibility to maintain healthy professional boundaries. Don’t put yourself in a situation where your intentions might be misunderstood. The Church has given its stamp of approval to you as a safe, trustworthy spiritual guide and companion at the boundaries of life and death. Just as you have the power to heal, you also have the power to harm. Your sexual attentions are not a form of ministry, or therapy. If there is something in your life that you can’t share with anyone – you may be a danger to the people in your care. Find a spiritual advisor, counselor, or mentor to help you sort through your “stuff” and ensure that you are a trustworthy pastor. If you do not or cannot maintain the sacred trust of your office, for the love of Christ, step out of ordained ministry.
Let this season of awakening open us to a new way of being in relationship, in which men and women of all sexual identities and orientations, and regardless of power or wealth, honor one another, until the radiance of God’s glory shines upon us.
Send me your thoughts.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater Northwest Area
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
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:
- Pray for the people affected by the flood and those who work tirelessly to respond, and
- 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.
- Jim Truitt, Disaster Response Coordinator, Pacific Northwest Conference, email@example.com
- Dan Moseler, Disaster Preparedness and Response Coordinator, Oregon-Idaho Conference, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dan Wilcox, Disaster Response Coordinator, Alaska Conference, email@example.com
Response – The Latest on UMCOR Response to Harvey
United Methodists and all others who strive for peace at home and around the world,
I hope you will join me, the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, and many others in praying for peace on the Korean Peninsula this Sunday, August 13th. You’ll find Rev. Dr. Henry-Crowe’s invitation copied below.
Wars and rumors of wars trouble these days with threats of nuclear attack. Seventy two years after the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, I’d like to invite you to meditate anew on these words found at the Nagasaki Peace Park, a memorial to that fearsome day.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater Northwest Area
June 2, 2017
People of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference,
We know the capacity of the human spirit to wander off and lose itself. It happens all the time, resulting in self-destructive behavior, and other-destructive behavior. This week we saw what happens when societal norms seem to give permission for people who have wandered away from basic civil behavior, to speak and act on their hatred. Young women on a train are harassed, and three men who stand to protect them are stabbed, two to death.
During the two-year presidential campaign, tension built across our nation like it does as you wind up a jack-in-the-box. Then, SURPRISE, the polls closed and what seemed impossible had happened. Donald Trump was elected the next President of the United States. Half the country is elated beyond their wildest dreams. The other half is reeling in disbelief. Most of us on one side of the divide don’t know many people on the other side.
I’m less interested in what kind of president Donald Trump will be than in his election as a symptom of a grave illness in our nation.
Can it be in 21st century America, that many of us no longer have substantive conversations with anyone who isn’t very much like us in education, income and world view? Have we become separated, red from blue, without even realizing it until this most unexpected election?
On August 13, without fanfare, Clint and I crossed from Montana into Idaho on I-90. It was a pilgrimage from Denver to Seattle; from one rich chapter of life and ministry in the Mountain Sky Area into another, unknown chapter in the Greater Northwest Area.
How do you enter a new place? Or even, how do you re-enter a familiar place after many years? How does a leader join multiple teams each with its own habits and traditions, its quirks, taboos and preferences?
In Luke 10, Jesus sends his followers to places they had never been before with instructions to “carry no purse, no bag, no sandals” (Luke 10:4). He tells them to offer only a blessing of peace and to receive the hospitality offered them by strangers who receive their blessing. They are to heal the sick and tell them that the Kingdom of God “is right on your doorstep” (Luke 10:9, The Message). As you read the passage you wonder, what about teaching about Jesus, condemning wickedness, and baptizing converts?
Sounds like a gentle kind of evangelism, grounded in vulnerability, mutual respect, shared resources and healing relationships. Can it be that the Kingdom of God is there on the doorstep – the threshold – where guest and host exchange blessings and meet one another?
I’m thinking of this year as a threshold. Throughout the year I will travel to a variety of places for “threshold events” where we will meet and bless one another. In June, we’ll cross the threshold into new relationship with a service of installation during the joint Annual Conference session of the Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences, with representatives from Alaska joining us as well.
God’s at work in the world, sending us to new places to meet new people. We are blessed to be a blessing!
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Threshold Events for Bishop Stanovsky
Friday, October 14 – Alaska UMC Office (1660 Patterson St) Anchorage at 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, November 13 – Montavilla UMC in SE Portland, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, January 8 – Olympia First UMC, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, January 21 – Eugene First UMC, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 26 – Spokane Valley UMC, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 5 – Edmonds UMC, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 11 – Meridian UMC, Meridian, ID, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, April 8 – Moses Lake UMC, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.