Greater Northwest Area Cabinet begins 2020 with pledge to Resist Harm as it continues to seed a vital, more inclusive church

By Patrick Scriven

Even as members of the Greater Northwest (GNW) Area Cabinet absorbed the implications of the proposed Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation, they recommitted themselves to resisting elements of the Traditional Plan that took effect January 1. Meeting for the first time in 2020 last week, they joyfully reaffirmed their baptisms, pledging together to resist harm as they provide leadership to the Area.

Last November, the bishops of the Western Jurisdiction issued their Safe Harbor Declaration, explicitly refusing to implement the new provisions and prohibitions of the Traditional Plan. The GNW Area Cabinet welcomed this statement at the time and continues its move forward with the clear guidance it provides. 

While the Protocol mentioned above includes a moratorium against the filing of charges against LGBTQ+ clergy, and those performing same-gender weddings, if passed, it would only create a pathway down which full inclusion could be reached. Stopping the harm is only one step down the path.

Both the Cabinet and the GNW Guiding Coalition are continuing to plan for a future of United Methodism in the Northwest that fully includes LGBTQ+ persons in the life of the Church. Additionally, they are continuing to learn and to foster practices, each time they meet, that will help the Area to center voices that are younger and more diverse, recognizing that there is both wisdom and vitality around a table with distinct perspectives. 

The GNW’s Innovation Vitality Team offered the Cabinet an update on projects that are underway across the Area, work that includes both New projects (new church starts or new campus/multisite) and Vitality projects (existing church where an identified planter/innovator is appointed). Of the 37 supported projects, 20 (54%) are led by leaders of color.

Rev. Kathy Neary provided an update on her work with smaller congregations in the PNW Conference, sharing one of her insights this week on the PNW News Blog. The GNW Cabinet also discussed the promising work happening in rural areas through the Rural Church Engagement Initiative. Lynn Egli provides a short progress report you can read here.

Continuing its work of assessing and preparing for the leadership needs of GNW Area churches and ministries, the Cabinet finalized its initial list of Clear Appointment Openings. The practice of sharing Clear Openings allows clergy the opportunity to express an interest in a particular appointment while also allowing them to share their gifts and calling with the Cabinet as the discernment process begins. 

Bishop Elaine Stanovsky and members of the GNW Area Cabinet spent time with participants of the UMC LEAD Conference.

Plans were also finalized at the meeting for the calling of a Special Session of the Alaska United Methodist Conference on February 22 in Anchorage to ask the 2020 General Conference to discontinue its status as a missionary conference. The Alaska Conference will also vote to petition the Western Jurisdictional Conference to provide affiliation and oversight, possibly as a mission district of another annual conference. 

The Conference Treasurers provided the Cabinet with an end of year report on the apportionment giving of the Area’s three conferences. Apportionment receipts for the Alaska Conference reached 84.7% in 2019, down 2.03% from 2018; Oregon-Idaho Conference receipts reached 77.9% in 2019, down 5.4% from 2018; Pacific Northwest Conference receipts reached 93%, up .21% from 2018.

With the Cabinet meeting concluding late on Saturday, Cabinet members visited area churches for worship the following day. Twelve members were also able to attend parts of the UMC LEAD event that began later that day in Seattle, Washington. Bishop Stanovsky offered a greeting to attendees of the LEAD event, offering a word of encouragement and appreciation for The United Methodist leaders, many of whom had traveled across the country to participate.


Patrick Scriven serves as Director of Communications and Young People’s Ministries for the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Need an IV, Stat!

By Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson

Growing up, I loved the television show, EMERGENCY! The mid-70s medical drama centered on the heroic work of the Los Angeles County Fire Department Station 51, Squad 51 — specifically two paramedics named Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto. It appeared that every time Johnny and Roy called in from a scene to Rampart General Hospital, they were always instructed to, “Start an IV of D5W, TKO, stat!” Without fail.

IV, of course, is the abbreviation for “intravenous.” And, “stat,” which comes from Latin origin, is often used as a directive to medical personnel. It means “immediately” or “instantly,” as in right now! Even today, when colleagues use the abbreviation “IV” referencing the Innovation Vitality Team, it makes me think of EMERGENCY! Could it be because the church often needs an IV infusion of life, stat?

On that note, perhaps it’s the perfect time to share an IV (Innovation Vitality) stat (or two) that represents the work our team has been charged to lead, particularly around the practices of Inclusion, Innovation, and Multiplication. I am asked all the time about how much we are investing in existing congregations. And, I am always eager to answer that question.

There are several indicators for how we are all collaborating for a new vital church — one that empowers younger, queer, and people of color to innovate and co-create and help shift us from the status quo. For starters, consider these stats: 

  • 23 of the 37 projects supported across the Greater Northwest Area (GNW) are New projects, which represents 62% (a New project is a stand-alone new church or new campus/multisite project, led by an identified planter/innovator).
  • 14 of the 37 are Vitality projects, which makes up 38% (a Vitality project is an existing church where an identified planter/innovator is appointed to foster vitality and new movement).
  • What is the most exciting stat? Of the 37 supported projects, 20 are led by leaders of color! That’s 54%!

We believe it is an exciting time to be a part of the Greater Northwest Area. The IV Team has conducted several district trainings and workshops across the GNW, with more scheduled this winter and spring. These, again, focus on the practices of Inclusion, Innovation, and Multiplication. The practices are cultivated through the resourcing of intercultural competency, faith-based community organizing, asset-based community development, and intentional multiplication.

Click the image to learn more about the natural practices of vitality.

To equip pastors/innovators to navigate culture shift within our local churches and to re-embrace our Wesleyan rhythm of multiplication, we have continued our Multiplying Ministries cohorts, first piloted in 2016. These have helped position multiplication of new places across our conferences from places like Bend, Oregon, to Olympia and Marysville, Washington, and all the way to Squamish, British Columbia. In the process, new conversations have ignited about ministry opportunities. In fact, we see new movement in a number of exciting areas that strive to practice Inclusion, Innovation, and Multiplication. Here are some additional vital stats:

  • The importance of intercultural competency has been repositioned as foundational to vitality.
  • 13 churches joined in the Rural Church Engagement Initiative (RCEI) in 2019 from the Sage and Crater Lake Districts of Oregon-Idaho and the Seven Rivers and Inland Districts of the Pacific Northwest.
  • 20 churches are poised and ready for the 2020 RCEI cohort, which includes the Alaska Conference this year.
  • 13 new projects started over the last two years, six of which are vitality projects in existing churches.
  • 26 interns engaged and placed in ministry settings across the Area.
  • 7 people of color appointed to projects in 2019.
  • 13 candidates being assessed for 2020 in our new leadership identification process, of which eight are people of color.
  • 127 leaders trained to date in the last four cohorts of Multiplying Ministries, of which 91 are pastors serving existing local churches.
  • 23 planters/innovators in 6 new cohorts launched Area-wide for 2020, which focus on social enterprise and financial sustainability of both new and vitality projects.
  • Connected with thousands of leaders of color, building trust, new relationships, and opportunities, making way for a promising leadership pipeline.

The truth is there are a lot of indicators of life across the Greater Northwest Area, and that’s contagious. The thought of a vital movement on the horizon is generative, which can position the GNW to help shape something pretty special. As news of an impending split in the UMC populates the news feed, we need to stay focused.

So, while some folks across our connection might be declaring an EMERGENCY, take heart! It is important to remember that the Spirit is moving in fresh, new ways and that you are running a good race. That’s not to say that sometimes when we call in from the scene we might need an IV; stat! For now, let’s remember the new life that was recently born into our chaotic world. We know it as the “good news that will bring great joy to all people” (Luke 2:10).

Right now, it’s vital. Let’s continue to embody it.


Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson serves as Director of Innovation for a New Church for the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area including the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conferences.

Greater NW UMC Rural Church Engagement Initiative going strong

An exciting new Rural Church Engagement Initiative launched in the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church in 2019 among churches ministering in rural communities across Idaho, Oregon and Washington, will be growing in 2020.

“Our goal is to build competency and support with the local church for transformational change and new relationships with our neighbors,” said Lynn Egli, Crater Lake lay leader and coordinator of the Rural Church Engagement Initiative. “We’re reaching out to more neighbors, new neighbors and different neighbors. Our approach is very practical: learn by doing; learn in a cohort of learners that are ministering in a similar rural setting.”

There are currently 13 churches in smaller communities involved in this project, which has included 40 to 50 lay people, pastors, and leaders from the Greater Northwest Innovation Vitality Team providing resources and training opportunities for the pastors and lay leaders serving these churches.

Lynn Egli

The cohort regularly uses Zoom video conferencing technology to meet and study the Book of Acts in the Bible, discussing local community organizing efforts, sharing setbacks and what they’ve learned.

The cohort meets quarterly for remote training sessions on topics like social media, leadership development, creating change and community development. Each church gets an on-site visit from a nationally recognized faith-based community organizing consultant.

The churches currently involved in the Rural Church Engagement Initiative come from the Sage, Crater Lake, Inland and Seven Rivers districts.

Egli said next year the hope is to add another 18-20 church cohort, expanding into more districts, including Alaska.

Currently the Rural Church Engagement Initiative is being implemented in Ashton, Idaho; Coos Bay, Oregon; Chelan, Wash.; New Meadows, Idaho; Veneta, Oregon; Clarkston, Wash.; Gooding, Idaho; Klamath Falls, Oregon; Magic Valley Ministries in Idaho; Pullman, Wash., Sandpoint, Idaho; Toledo, Oregon; and Goldendale, Wash.

The current churches will join the new cohort of churches for a gathering at the Northwest Leadership Institute 2020 in March at Boise First United Methodist Church.

“Please pray for us as we continue to grow and serve,” Egli said. “We are so grateful for support of the Pacific Northwest and Oregon-Idaho conferences to launch this work in our rural churches that are serving so faithfully and, quite frankly, remotely.  We may be miles apart, but we know we are not alone. We are the church and we will move forward with hope, vision, confidence and courage.”

Dr. LaVerne Lewis joins Innovation Vitality Team as Associate Director of Innovation for a New Church

Dr. LaVerne Lewis is the newest member of the Innovation Vitality Team (IV Team) for the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church. Serving in a part-time role as the Associate Director of Innovation for a New Church, Lewis joins forces with Rev. Dr. William Gibson in the work of resourcing planters/innovators in the area of entrepreneurship, social enterprise, financial sustainability, and intentional multiplication.

Dr. LaVerne Lewis

“We are incredibly excited about LaVerne joining the ongoing work of the IV Team,” said Rev. Dr. William Gibson, Director of Innovation for a New Church and Team Leader. “LaVerne brings a broad range of experience and gifts in an important area of concentration for our work this season — that of financial sustainability and entrepreneurship. Her experiences as a successful entrepreneur, tax consultant, and college professor are invaluable. She and I speak the same language, and I am over-joyed about our collaborative work moving forward.”

Raised in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Lewis has faithfully served as a member of Gresham United Methodist Church in Gresham, OR, and as the Church Treasurer. She was instrumental in the development and launch of the Rockwood Center — previously Rockwood United Methodist Church — where she also served as the Executive Director. Since 2017, she has served as a lay representative on the Oregon-Idaho Conference’s Congregational Development Team and engaged in social entrepreneurship coaching with planters/innovators in support of the IV Team’s work.

Most recently, Dr. Lewis was named as a board member of the Northwest United Methodist Foundation. After 18 years of service, she retired as a Law Enforcement Officer from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department, where she also specialized as a Training Instructor at the State of Oregon Academy in Salem. As a recently elected official, Lewis serves as a board member for the Mt. Hood Community College and has garnered over ten years of experience as an adjunct professor. An experienced entrepreneur, Lewis started several businesses throughout her career. She has also been an enrolled agent admitted to practice before the IRS and credentialed for 35 years in the area of taxation, accounting, and small business consulting. She annually volunteers in global communities abroad, leading teams who serve the unhoused and underserved.

In her new role with the IV Team, Lewis will work alongside Gibson to consult and resource planters/innovators and pastors in the area of entrepreneurship, social enterprise, and financial sustainability, related to creating new places with new people. The Innovation Vitality Team focuses on vitality across the Greater Northwest Area, which includes the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho, and Pacific Northwest Conferences. Encouraging and resourcing the practices of Inclusion, Innovation, and Multiplication, the team supports the strategic initiatives of the Bishop and the Greater Northwest Area Cabinet.

New Expression of Methodism

By the Rev. Dr. Leroy Barber

The Innovation and Vitality team I work with is commissioned to “New People, New Places, New Leadership.” We have defined “New People” and “New Leadership” through community, neighborhoods, young leaders, and leaders of color. It hit me the other day that we really have not defined what “New Places” looks like.

  • Where do they meet?
  • What does inclusion look like?
  • What does worship include? 

What are the new spaces for Methodism in the Greater Northwest Area?

Almost all of us in the Greater Northwest Area (GNW UMC) agree that change has come upon us through change in culture, denominational decisions, and local identity exploration. There is a new expression of Methodism that is coming, has been coming, is here, and is also on its way.

This new expression of Methodism seems to begin with a wholly different posture towards marginalized communities. Methodism was birthed and has been sustained through a missions model of ministry. This model has placed ourselves at the center while seeing difference as “other” in need of something we have. The missions model of ministry has been willing to “help” others even if we do not force our religion upon them.

Rev. Dr. Leroy Barber

But sometimes “helping” just unearths the privilege and supremacy paradigms that we may not realize are there. Consider this. We use the word “helping” differently when thinking about and applying the idea to a peer or neighbor versus someone who is poor or “other.” Ingrained patriarchy within our faith contexts sees inferiority in others who experience need.

Jesus played an entirely different song. Jesus lifted up the voices of the margins to be at the center. He affirmed the humanity of everyone. A new expression of Methodism must invite the voices from marginalized communities to be at every money- and decision-making table while demanding of those at the power seats allow a broader range of leadership voice. This moves our ministry model from “mission” closer to liberation.

This can only happen through relational equity. The “mission” or colonial style of ministry sees poor people, women, those who identify as queer, and people of color as those who need “help” or “saving.” If these marginalized people are invited to the table at all, it is in a transactional relationship. For example, people of color may be given access to leadership or funding, but it is often in exchange for access to their communities, the precious stories represented in the community, or an opportunity to “save” or “help” them.

This relational inequity allows the powerful to feel good about themselves while reminding the marginalized who is really still in charge.

Therefore, a new expression of Methodism must have a deeper and wider understanding of inclusion. The GNW UMC should be commended for its continued stance in support of LGBTQ+ clergy and lay leaders. However, it is time for an equally robust stance on white supremacy and the engagement of people of color. This will only come from the realization that similar forces are at work to oppress women, people who identify as queer, and people of color within the system.

A deeper level of inclusion needs to have tangible outcomes in how dollars are allocated, who sits on boards, who is empowered into new leadership, and who is making the formal decisions about how the GNW UMC moves following the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference.

This plays out at local levels as well. For instance, the UMC body of laity and clergy are 94% white. This number is astounding. This level of white supremacy takes intentionality to both create and maintain. Our worship is a primary place where that white supremacy is maintained. Most white communities are unaware that their practices, ideas, and norms are culturally white. The norms of organization, worship, and administration in our churches are culturally white. We must de-culturize our worship from whiteness. We must be intentional about a non-monocultural worship expression.

How do we go about this? It takes new leadership from nonwhite communities and radical community engagement in the neighborhoods and communities of our church. It does make one wonder… how is change at this level possible with guaranteed appointments?

Sociologically, it will be impossible to change with a system that continues to advance and perpetuate the status quo. Not only will Guaranteed Appointments continue to place non-diverse leaders throughout our region, it is also expensive. Perhaps a revamped guaranteed appointment system could begin to make promises to ministers based upon the goals and directions that we know the denomination needs.

A new expression of Methodism for the Greater Northwest Area will need to make some guarantees to those talented leaders from marginalized spaces that can take our denomination where it needs to go. This should be celebrated. For too long, monocultural expressions have created the decline that we have seen. An empowered, diverse, and new expression of Methodism may see less buildings sold, new community initiatives created, new theological explorations into liberation, and churches growing with multicultural worship expressions.


Rev. Dr. Leroy Barber serves as Director of Innovation for an Engaged Church for the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church. This post originally appeared on his blog on the Voices Project website where you can also find his full bio.

Summer interns serving communities across Greater NW

This year the Greater NW Area Innovation Vitality team has expanded its summer internship program to different cities throughout the region.

Young leaders of color are getting the chance to develop leadership skills while exploring the intersection of faith and social justice in various community settings.

This summer, instead of being based in the Portland area, the group will expand to Boise, Salem, Tacoma, and Seattle.

Read the profiles written by the individuals chosen to be leaders and learners this summer through a joint venture with the IV team and The Voices Project:


Portland Coordinator: Nicholle Ortiz is an incoming co-pastor at Tabor Heights United Methodist Church. She is originally from Tacoma, Washington but now calls Portland her home. Nicholle graduated from Warner Pacific University where she began to actualize her dreams of community development, ministry, and artistic expression. Nicholle is a connector, an includer, a performer, an artist, a spouse, an advocate, and a friend. Nicholle wears many hats but all in the name of justice, inclusion, and love. She chooses to enter spaces that are uncomfortable because she believes in sharing her voice so that other people may feel inspired to share theirs. Nicholle is a Black, Puerto Rican, Plus-Sized Woman who enjoys wearing funky glasses, laughing loudly, talking about recycling and telling jokes that don’t make sense.

Portland Coordinator: Forrest Nameniuk is the incoming co-pastor at Tabor Heights United Methodist Church. He is a graduate of Warner Pacific University where he served as student chaplain. He has been with the UMC for the last year, serving in different capacities under the Innovation Vitality Team, and he is currently pursuing his candidacy for ministry. Forrest’s two greatest passions are the church and theatre. He believes that the church should be the greatest instigator for justice and healing in our world. He sees his call as creating spaces where weirdos, misfits, and wanderers can be their true selves and encounter the gospel in new and creative ways. On his time off, Forrest can usually be found at his stolen desk writing stories, with his cat and a cup of coffee close by.

Salem Coordinator: Jess Bielman is the Associate Director of Innovation for the Greater Northwest UMC. He has spent the past two decades investing in the lives of young folks and empowering them spiritually and academically. For 17 years he served as a professor and the campus pastor at Warner Pacific University. He loves the Pacific Northwest, having lived along I-5 his whole life. Jess loves baseball, sushi, 90’s era music, and John Wesley. He is married 17 years to Candi with two daughters.

Boise Intern: Destiny Miteg is a Portland native who now resides in Salem, Oregon. Destiny is excited to be a part of UMC’s the Voices Project because of its intent to help young people of color see how the church can become more tangibly present in their communities. She is eager to see how faith and community intertwine together in people’s lives outside of just the spiritual. Destiny is studying Ministry and Community Engagement at Warner Pacific University. After graduating, she hopes to do work at a non-profit that centers around serving those in need. When not in the classroom, Destiny can be found eating Top Ramen or spending time in the library.

Tacoma Intern: Rachel Taylor is originally from Tacoma, WA. She is studying for a BA in Christian Ministries in Portland with the goal of working with nonprofits. Rachel chose this internship because she is passionate about equity and wants to learn how she can best help others. She enjoys writing and experimenting with makeup while drinking large amounts of coffee in her spare time. Rachel’s favorite part of the summer is spending time with the kids in her life.

Portland Intern: Monivoi Vataiki is of Pacific Islander and Caucasian descent. She is from Vancouver, BC, Canada. Monivoi recently graduated from Warner Pacific University with a  Bachelor’s degree in Music and Ministry. She chose this internship because she wanted to be apart of making room at the table and to be apart of the change she hopes to see in the church/world. Monivoi sees this internship as a way to create space for those like her, especially as a woman of color. Monivoi’s hope is to continue to help in the rebuilding, redefining, and redirecting the church. Fun facts: Monivoi sings and writes music. She also plays soccer, rugby and loves to travel.

Tacoma Intern: Akéylah Giles is from Tacoma Washington. Akeylah attends Warner Pacific University and is a Criminal Justice major. She also serves as a Spiritual Life Coordinator on the Campus Ministry team where she is a worship leader and a leader among her peers on campus. Akeylah chose this internship because she wants to be involved in work that is meaningful for herself and others. For fun, she enjoys singing, worship flag dancing, and swimming.

Portland Intern: Asia Austin is from Portland Oregon. She is a Music Performance major at Warner Pacific University. Asia is the Vice President of B.S.O (Black Student Organization), a proud HOLLA Mentor, and a Spiritual Life Coordinator on her school’s Campus Ministry team. Asia applied for this internship to help further her education, and to empower her voice so she can prevent injustices in her city. In her free time, Asia loves to play guitar and watch Netflix.

Portland Intern: Chidozie Kenneth Urom (“Chi” for short) is currently enrolled at Concordia University and is majoring in Psychology. Chi grew up in Nigeria with his grandparents before moving to Portland. Chidozie looks forward to working with fellow interns and further identifying his leadership abilities. In his free time, Chi loves to cook and write music. He even has a Youtube channel where he shares his musical creations.

Salem Intern: Juan Pedro Nicanor Moreno Olmeda is a proud first generation Mexican American. He was born in Hillsboro Oregon, and his family comes from Guadalajara Jalisco Mexico. Juan is a current student at Warner Pacific University studying Business Administration with an emphasis on Sports Management. Juan has always been passionate about sports, and in his free time, he likes being active outdoors or at the gym. If you give him a soccer ball he could have fun for hours! Juan also enjoys music; whether it’s listening to it, making it, or even dancing to it. Juan also loves video games, whether they are retro or new, he’s always looking for a nice challenge. Juan chose this internship because he believes that it can help him obtain and polish his abilities and help shape and form a career he is passionate about. Juan would also like to amplify and learn more about spirituality, and how he can use those skills and apply them to life. Juan believes that if we put our heads together, we have a real chance of making a difference.

Boise Intern: Eveline Okonda-Kapinga is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is currently attending and pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Theology with a concentration on Christian mission, youth ministry and a minor in business administration at Seattle Pacific University. Eveline is currently a Senior and is set to graduate in the fall of 2019. After graduation, Eveline plans to start grad school at SPU but is still deciding on her major. Eveline’s goal is to attain a career where she can use her specialized theology skills combined with a strong business background to help churches, as well as business organizations, implement information that will help communities achieve their goals and help them become more efficient and effective. Eveline has a calling in ministry and is currently serving at her local church, Open Door Church Ministries, as an interpreter, a singer, and as a youth leader. As a youth leader, Eveline guides students in their faith journey and imparts teachings of faith through prayer, events, activities and mission trips that appeal to youth while encouraging them to be faithful followers of Christ. Eveline believes the knowledge that she will acquire in this internship program will enable her to become a better leader.

Seattle Intern: Nyob zoo, kuv lub npe yog Dawci Herr. Dawci Herr (She/her/hers) is Hmong and a first generation student at PCC (Portland Community College) working towards her AAOT (Associates of Arts Oregon Transfer). In Dawci’s spare time (when she’s not studying or working), she likes to go out to try out new foods and restaurants with her family and friends. At the moment, Dawci’s favorite restaurant is Taste of Sichuan. To satisfy her sweet tooth craving, Dawci likes to get a bubble tea drink in Beaverton or Portland. When the weather is great, Dawci also enjoys hiking trails in the Pacific Northwest. Dawci chose this internship to further her college learning and to find ways that the church and community can connect.

Salem Intern: Josiah Mendoza was born in Salem, Oregon. He currently attends Warner Pacific University where she is majoring in recreational sports medicine. Josiah chose this internship to develop and identify leadership skills within himself. He also seeks to find more ways to help his community.

Tacoma Intern: Eunice Langbata is from Washington State. She loves to take risks, go on random adventures, go hiking, spend time with her family, and just chill and watch “Friends”. Eunice can be shy and quiet but is actually an outgoing person and sometimes can’t stop talking! Eunice chose this internship because she wants to learn different leadership skills. She understands the difficulty that comes with being a leader but she wants to gain new experiences and learn things that might be outside of her comfort zone. Eunice is currently a student at Warner Pacific University, and over this past year, she has learned to be patient with life, listen to herself more, and to pay attention to what is visible around her. She realizes that things are placed in her life for a reason. Eunice knows that the more she is open to learning new things, the more she learns about herself. She is excited for the opportunities this internship will create for her to try something new.

Greater Northwest Area leaders take steps toward an inclusive future together

Story & Photos by Patrick Scriven

Des Moines, Wash. – Last weekend, over 60 leaders from the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho (OR-ID), and Pacific Northwest (PNW) Conferences gathered to continue conversations on how they could marshal resources toward vital mission and ministry across the Greater Northwest Area. The Vitality Stewards Summit 2.0, as the name suggests, was the second formal gathering aimed toward this task, expanding the circle of those who met in September of 2018.

The event began by orientating new and returning “stewards” on the aspirations of the summit and some of the resources that the area has available to it. An opening devotional by Rev. Shalom Agtarap, centered on the story of the early church in Acts, emphasized the opportunity and challenge of sharing. Agtarap asked, “How can we move from a transactional economy to one of kinship?”

Greater Northwest Area Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky addresses “stewards” providing necessary context to the conversations that would follow.

While denominational conversations often center around scarcity, leaders were encouraged instead to recognize the significant assets under their care. Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky shared that we often don’t consider these assets or remember that radical growth is in our DNA. “If we pool our resources, share a common vision, couldn’t we do more if we focused on a few big things?”

Stanovsky addressed the elephant in the room as she talked about the impact of General Conference upon United Methodism. Instead of being a roadblock, she framed it as an opportunity not to repeat the mistakes of the past. To avoid old behavior, we need to invite “younger, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people to the table to help shape what is coming.”

This call for more diverse leadership echoed throughout the meeting.

Stanovsky also advised that the work of the meeting be considered provisional in anticipation of the challenges, and opportunities for greater inclusion, in front of us. Drawing upon the biblical story of the crossing over into the Jordan, the bishop offered, “It’s time to leave the wilderness. Not everyone is going to cross over to the Jordan.”

Eric Walker helps to orient Vitality Stewards Summit attendees to some of the opportunity and challenges to ministry in the Greater Northwest context.

Next up was Eric Walker, who is serving as a special assistant to Bishop Stanovsky, charged in part with organizing the Summit. A lay person from Vashon UMC with non-profit management experience, Walker helped to keep the event moving, reminding participants of its goals. Those goals were:

  1. Developing a good understanding of vitality work across the area.
  2. Creating the first draft of Area-wide funding criteria.
  3. Arriving at a basic agreement on the kinds of projects that would excite Area-wide funding.
  4. Sparking movement towards a culture of Area-wide collaboration.

Walker offered a big picture look at the challenges and opportunities facing the Area as it seeks to have more churches engaged in vital ministry. Sharing that a significant number of churches are in some stage of decline, he framed the goal of innovation and vitality work across the area as bending bad trajectories toward more positive possibilities.

Throughout the Summit, the Rev. Shalom Agtarap offered moments of spiritual grounding and pause to aid in conversation and community formation.

Inclusion is the Starting Point

Rev. Dr. William Gibson followed Walker by sharing some of the learnings of the Innovation Vitality Team (IV Team). After one year together, the team has landed upon the understanding that Inclusion, Innovation, and Multiplication are crucial practices, and measures, of church vitality. More recently, they have begun to understand inclusion as foundational to the success of the other two practices.

Kristina Gonzalez offers a quick overview of Intercultural Competency, an essential tool for change in the Church and the world.

Participants next engaged in a presentation from Kristina Gonzalez, Rev. Dr. Leroy Barber, and Gibson on Intercultural Competency and its effect on the IV Team’s work. Gonzalez gave an overview of Intercultural Competency reflecting on her own choice to be a United Methodist. “The United Methodist Church appealed to me because of its emphasis on practical divinity, and the use of practical tools like Intercultural Competency to effect change.”

Barber shared how some of his work, specifically internships and revivals, had embodied these principles of inclusion in making deliberate connections between the Church, persons of color, and younger people. Some of the participants in the first cohort of interns are now being tracked to provide leadership in local churches.

Gibson concluded the IV Team’s report by sharing how they have developed new guardrails to better steward monies allocated to church plants and other revitalization projects. Experience has helped them to understand that there is no necessary correlation between age and innovative ability and that some churches “aren’t interested with changing to pivot in the moment.”

The Rev. Lisa Talbott shares a report back from her table group as leaders works to identify evaluative measures for funding.

The afternoon continued with reports from several District Superintendents and, separately, the lay leaders of each Conference. Erin Martin, chief missional strategist for the Columbia District, has been asking her district to consider what it would mean “to envision ourselves as a community of United Methodist Congregations.” A success story she shared involved the arrival of the Rev. Alan Buck, a gifted Native American church planter from Oklahoma, who is helping to revitalize Wilshire UMC, recently renamed Great Spirit UMC.

Rev. Rich Lang spoke about three practices found to be present in early Christianity, but often absent in the churches he serves in the SeaTac Missional District:

  • The Practice of Non-violence
  • The Practice of Self-emptying
  • The Practice of Giving Away

He shared how funds from recent church closures were being reinvested in other churches to provide multi-ethnic leadership teams toward the goal of fostering multi-ethnic communities. Lang named Valley and Mountain, soon to give birth to a third iteration, as an example of excellent ministry incarnating inclusion and innovation, leading to multiplication.

Seven Rivers Missional District Superintendent Rev. Mary Huycke offered a non-urban perspective as she serves a region stretched across the central part of Washington from the Canadian border down to Oregon. The district has intentionally invested in laity with the understanding that “clergy come and go, the laity are the ones who stick around.”

District Superintendents (from left) Erin Martin, Rich Lang, and Mary Huycke engage in a dialogue with Eric Walker after sharing perspectives from their work.

A number of the churches in her district are very small. Helping some of those churches to end their ministries gracefully, while finding creative ways to extend the life of others with alternative leadership structures, is a portion of the work. A lack of diversity, and inclusive practice, is a challenge many are wrestling against.

Offering her perspective on the OR-ID Conference, lay leader Jan Nelson shared that many laypersons there are unaware of the work of the IV Team but not incapable of embracing innovation. She pointed to the example of the Open Door Churches in the Salem area while advocating for more leadership training to make use of laity who feel under-utilized. “We need a better structure, or system, to engage laity.”

The three Area Lay Leaders, (from left) Jo Anne Hayden, Jan Nelson, and Nancy Tam Davis, each speak to the value of including and equipping and lay persons.

PNW Conference lay leader Nancy Tam Davis also noted the absence of leadership development among lay people in her conference. She added that Certified Lay Ministers were often serving in challenging appointments but lacked the same network of support afforded to clergy. “Morale is low,” said Davis. “How do we bring lay leaders together for support?”

Jo Anne Hayden, lay leader in the Alaska Conference, named some of the same concerns. On a conference-level, there are efforts to train local church leaders underway through Zoom with hopes to expand the number of groups soon.

How we are working together already

Conference Treasurers Brant Henshaw (AK, PNW) and Rev. Dan Wilson-Fey offer some financial insights.

The second day began with a presentation by the Area treasurers detailing some of the resources available for vitality work and some of their other projections. Currently, expenses for shared work are split between conferences – PNW (54%), OR-ID (40), and AK (6%) based on conference size and budgets.

Disaster response leaders in the OR-ID and PNW Conferences shared how they have been collaborating because it makes sense. Jim Truitt began serving in March as Disaster Response Coordinator for the Greater Northwest Area, leading a pilot program building upon years of collaboration between leaders in OR-ID, PNW and Alaska.

Truitt, along with Kathy Bryson (PNW) and Dan Moesler (OR-ID) shared with the group how clear common goals, shared practices, and trainings have made collaboration work for them. Programs like “Connecting Neighbors” embody some of the vitality practices of developing intentional partnerships beyond the Church.

Jim Truitt, Disaster Response Coordinator for the Greater Northwest Area, shares his part of an update on collaboration between leaders in the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho, and Pacific Northwest Conferences.

Next up was a presentation by Revs. Karen Hernandez and Gregg Sealey, and layperson Lynn Egli. As superintendents of mostly rural districts, Hernandez and Sealey shared their excitement for the Rural Church Engagement Initiative’s promise to translate Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) training for a rural context.

Egli, described as the “Energizer Bunny behind all of this,” helped to explain how he has applied his background as a CPA for Hewlett Packard to the design and implementation of the pilot program. “We have to be demanding, to expect performance,” he shared. “It’s going to be tough for local leaders to put together a team.” He expects to learn from the pilot, and adapt subsequent iterations based on that learning.

Lynn Egli, helps to present the Rural Church Engagement Initiative with the Revs. Karen Hernandez and Gregg Sealey.

Three cohorts (including 14 pastors and local church teams) of the Rural Church Engagement Initiative are already meeting together monthly, sharing learnings and support for each other. 

Representatives of Committees on Native American Ministries (CONAM) offered the final presentation on shared ministry and collaboration across the Area. Duane Medicine Crow (OR-ID) shared a desire to do more. Sharing when “we get money, we give it away,” he talked about a recent project supporting a Nez Perce intern at Wallowa Lake Camp.

Rev. Charley Brower offering some historical context on Christian missionary outreach to Native American populations in Alaska.

Rev. Charley Brower (AK) offered some historical context on Christian missionary outreach to Native American populations in Alaska and how some denominational decisions years ago continue to impact the mission field today.

Finally, Kristina Gonzalez shared how the PNW was inviting a Native American developer from OR-ID to evaluate three ministries in the conference which have been struggling.

Proposals and Next Steps

Much of the remaining time was spent in small group exercises to determine how leaders might collaborate together on projects besides the IV Team and how those projects might be funded.

Revs. Mary Huycke and Kathleen Weber helped to surface some evaluative measures after small groups had defined individual lists of priorities. The next step was the hearing of “pitches” from several individuals who had submitted Concept Notes.

Rev. Dr. Leroy Barber of the Greater Northwest IV Team delivers a pitch for Multicultural Hubs.

In addition to funding pitches from Lynn Egli (Rural Church Engagement Initiative) and Jim Truitt (Disaster Response), five other short presentations were received and evaluated using the evaluation criteria previously identified. These were:

  • Multicultural Hubs, an innovative urban initiative presented by Rev. Dr. Leroy Barber of the IV Team;
  • A Land and Housing Coalition designed to build knowledge for wise, social good with property assets presented by Rev. Erin Martin;
  • Latinx Ministry in the Cascadia District presented by Rev. Tim Overton-Harris;
  • The Awesome Project, a lip dub designed to help the Area rebrand itself after General Conference 2019 presented by Rev. John Tucker;
  • A Dreamworks and FailFest proposal designed to encourage bold innovation by Rev. Overton-Harris.

Before a concluding conversation, Eric Walker presented five possible ways to fund Area-wide projects: Tithe, Syndicate, CrowdSource, Pathways, and Pledge. Some of the approaches were familiar to existing practices while others have shown potential outside of the Church.

Falisha Hola, Conference Council on Youth Ministries president for the PNW Conference, shares some comments during a final conversation.

In a final conversation with Bishop Stanovsky, several participants expressed feelings of being stuck. They named the need to be bolder than we have been in embracing a future together. Other comments were made to remind the group that too few of those named at the outset—younger people, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people—were present in the room.

In her closing remarks, Stanovsky embraced the idea that we should allow something to surface from the time spent in conversation together. She suggested that we work toward funding the most popular Concept Notes—the Multicultural Hubs and Rural Church Engagement Initiative—work out the details of contributing 10% of their funding to a shared area-wide Vitality fund, and begin thinking about how our leadership makeup is more apparently young, people of color and/or LGBTQ+

A date was set for another gathering in September with the explicit goal that at least 50 percent of those in attendance will be young, people of color, and/or LGBTQ+. She asked leaders to covenant together to invite these new voices into meaningful decision-making.


Patrick Scriven serves as Director of Communications and Young People’s Ministries for the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Special Pre-Inhabit Conference training offered to help UMC leaders to make better community connections

For the second year, the Greater Northwest (GNW) Innovation Vitality Team is partnering with the Parish Collective in presenting the Inhabit Conference, April 26-27, in Seattle. The conference is intentionally designed to “engage, encourage, and empower innovative, missional practitioners as they go about practicing the way of Jesus in place.”

“Inhabit is focused on community engagement” says Rev. Dr. Leroy Barber, GNW Director of Innovation for an Engaged Church. Joining Barber as a presenter at Inhabit this year is the Rev. Shalom Agtarap.

The GNW Innovation Vitality Team is offering a special pre-conference session on Thursday, April 25, the day before the two-day main conference. Clergy or lay people interested in planting new churches and bringing new vitality to existing ministry are encouraged to attend. 

Pre-conference attendees will learn from Melvin Bray, an Emmy® award-winning storyteller, social entrepreneur and author. Bray is the author of a United Methodist Women Reading Program 2019 book pick, “BETTER: Waking Up to Who We Could Be.” Melvin will help participants examine the role of various forms of power in moving from critical analysis to better practices. 

The pre-conference is designed to equip leaders for building better connections within their communities, specifically with those on the margins and people of color. “This is core foundational work” says Rev. Dr. William Gibson, GNW Director of Innovation for a New Church. “This is work that needs to be done to prepare to engage with diverse communities.”

The pre-conference will be held at Seattle’s First United Methodist Church, April 25 from 9 am. to 4 p.m. As a bonus, the first 25 registered for the United Methodist day will receive free admission to the two-day Inhabit event. The Greater Northwest Area’s sponsorship of the Inhabit Conference provides this opportunity along with all costs of the pre-conference except for a modest $10 registration fee which includes lunch on Thursday.

Shift Happens: The Value of Unlearning and Relearning

You know this, but I’ll say it anyway. Culture is always emerging.

You get what that means, right? That the world and ways around you are always shifting — always innovating. The introduction of new things and new methods continues to happen every moment of every day, whether or not we are willing to embrace it. The larger question lies in how we choose to respond. Do we welcome the uncomfortableness of the new or do we double down with a comfortable existence in the world?

Regardless, shift happens.

Am I allowing this shift to happen in me? Always for the good? Always letting go of the old me in order to make room for the new, less comfortable me? I have to be honest with you for a moment: Every morning, I wake and have to check myself because it feels like the ground beneath my feet continues to shift. I feel compelled to regularly address the question: Who am I?

Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson

Around our country, overt hate and xenophobia have stepped out from behind a thin veil in a sprint to become the new norm. It’s bolstered by unapologetic fearmongering and outright lies. And, it’s insane. I refuse to allow it to gain a foothold among the space Christ calls me to steward in the world — a place of peace, hope, and justice. I simply refuse. Being a United Methodist demands that I “do no harm,” “do good,” and “stay in love with God.”

How do I allow myself to be undone and recreated by the grace of God? There’s enormous value in the process of unlearning my cultural identity as an American Christian and relearning what it means to be a follower of a rogue revolutionary, un-American, Middle Eastern-born person of color, represented in Jesus the Christ. Secondly, how does my personal undoing become a part of a corporate rebirth — shifting from individual to community?

I am always drawn to Matthew’s telling of the Sermon on the Mount, which you can read in chapters five through the beginning of seven in the Gospel of Matthew. There, you have this 30-something newcomer, sitting on a hillside near the Sea of Galilee, with disciples, followers, and the curious gathered around. Among people who have been shaped for generations under the Law of Moses, Jesus calls into question everything that had defined their perspective of the world. He basically said in varying ways, “You have heard the law that says _______________. But now I say _______________.” Jesus was rewriting the Torah on the fly! Surely people were reflecting (maybe even out loud), “Who does this guy think he is?” Can you imagine the internal struggle going on within those listening to Jesus? He called into question their cultural formation and challenged them to see the world — including the “other” — through a new lens. The lens of Christ.

This unlearning and relearning process can be painful, but it is a necessary part of spiritual growth and re-formation. It inescapably remains at the core of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. And if the statement “culture is always emerging” is true (and it is), then how are you I emerging as part of the Body of Christ within the neighborhood, community, region, nation, and world? How are our individual actions creating space for a fresh, communal voice to rise up above the bombastic noise we (and others) are hearing?

As we move toward a CrossOver Year in the Greater Northwest Area, beginning this Advent season, these questions could never be more important than they are now.

Shift happens. While making room for others, how will you respond in the midst of it and cross over to life? A new season is dawning. Let’s make the road by walking into the new.


Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson serves as Director of Innovation for a New Church for the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area including the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conferences.

An Ordinary Revival has started…

Across the northwest, rooms filled with ordinary people are putting their trust again in an extraordinary God!

This video provides a snapshot of the ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ Ordinary Revivals as they crossed the Greater Northwest last summer, seeking to inspire new connections between faithful people and the communities they live in. These revivals remind us that God is indeed at work outside the church and that there is strength in diverse communities that keep their hearts open to cries for justice.

Keep your eyes open for information on revivals coming to Boise (ID), Anchorage (AK) and Tri-Cities (WA) in the spring of 2019.

Learn more: ordinaryrevival.org

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