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

 Isaiah 60: 1, 5

Epiphanya moment of sudden or great revelation or realization.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Send me your thoughts.


Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater Northwest Area


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

 

This episode of insideout explores the essential role of deep listening in fostering true innovation, and what that means for a church often fixated on ‘best practices.’ According to Rev. Dr. William (Bill) Gibson, “it’s a mistake to think that a best practice is a silver bullet answer for a declining church that lacks innovation and creativity.”

Transcript:

Over the last fifteen plus years, the Church has tried to embody innovation through the phrase best practices.

In the business world, best practices were about maintaining quality and establishing benchmarks. In the Church, we’ve had a tendency to see best practices as a program option to ensure success. If they worked in that church, then surely they’ll work in our, right?

But here is a major problem. The church is not as adaptive as corporate America. Often, by the time we implement a best practice, we are behind the curve in a world that is changing before our very eyes.

In 2011, Stephen Shapiro wrote this valuable little book entitled Best Practices Are Stupid: 40 Ways to Out-Innovate the Competition. Now before you claim that I am hating on best practices let me offer some clarity. Neither Shapiro or myself through this video are saying that we should ignore best practices, not at all.

It’s important for us to know what is working in a particular context, and why it works. But it’s a mistake to think that a best practice is a silver bullet answer for a declining church that lacks innovation and creativity. Rather than a plug and play approach, we should be focusing on contextual problem solving. Instead of trying something that will attract people in our doors, we need to step outside of our walls and engage in deep listening with real people, not just guessing what they want.

Think about this. Jesus was innovative in how he talked. He engaged the cultural language while also, likely, having the ability to speak three languages: Aramaic, Hebrew and Greek. This allowed him to draw upon a number of cultural methods in order to convey his message. Jesus captured the attention of his populist audience through overstatement, hyperbole, pun, metaphor, proverb, paradox, poetry, irony, and the use of questions. Through these devices Jesus connected with people in very powerful and personal ways. He used every tool in his toolbox. He helped people to unlearn and relearn what they have been taught their entire lives. See the Sermon on the Mount.

In fact, in Matthew Chapter 5, de demonstrates this unlearning and relearning activity by saying things like you have heard the law that says this, now I say this. I love verses 43 and 44. Jesus says, “You have heard the law that says ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.” Now that’s a verse that some Christians just simply want to ignore.

We sometimes forget that innovation is about change. The late Steve Jobs was famously quoted saying, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” The next time that you’re tempted to plug-and-play a best practice, what if, instead, you learned from it? Then, stepped outside your doors, engaged the very people you want to reach, and listened carefully for what they don’t know they want. And then you show it to them.

That is innovation. What if you simply showed them faith, hope, and love. Faith, hope, and the greatest of these, love.

What if?


Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson serves as Director of Strategic Faith Community Development for the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church.

This episode of insideout was e-filmed and edited by Rev. David Valera. Valera serves the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church as Director of Connectional Ministries.

Transcript:

Have you ever experienced a tradition or activity that you thought was weird?

Or, simply found yourself saying things like, “I just don’t get it…”

Our tendency is to think that our perspective is the norm for society.

In these moments, we are not acknowledging the lens through which we see the world. We are not taking into account the vast cultures and subcultures of our world, country, region, and neighborhoods.

But this “weirdness” actually represents an inability or an unwillingness to realize that our way is not the only one. But you knew that; right?

We have to be willing to see the world from a different perspective, while checking our own.

In Matthew 13, Jesus teaches about understanding the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven. Those who listen to his teaching are going to be given greater understanding. He goes on to say “Blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear.”

Several years ago I was introduced to the teachings and work of Mikhail Bakhtin whose work connects our approach to intercultural competency.

He said, “In order to better understand a foreign culture, one has to step enter into it, forgetting your own, and view the world through the eyes of the foreign culture.”

In other words, we have to be willing to intentionally look at the world around us from a completely different perspective while checking our own biases.

In fact, that is what insideout represents for me. If you haven’t noticed, the “insideout” logo is backwards and that’s intentional.

Think of the logo being printed on the outside of a t-shirt. And as you put that t-shirt on, you look outward through the front. The logo is going to appear backwards. You’re looking from the inside-out.

It’s a reminder that we have to be aware of the lens through which we view the world — those voices and experiences that have shaped our identity — parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, bosses, peers, enemies, etc. And we replay those voices over and over in our heads, don’t we?

To acknowledge and teach through this, I use three simple moves, Those moves are: Discover, Claim, and Live.

1) Discover — which refers to an intentional move to intersect and engage culture — maybe one that seems weird, different or foreign to you.

2) Claim — which asks us to rediscover from Scripture; from the gospels, ways of understanding our world, while claiming Jesus’ example.

And 3) Live — which challenges us to answer the “So, what?” question; a challenge to change and become a living example of Hope and Love to those around us.

Believe it or not, these simple moves, can help you find grace in the strangest of places

Are you interested in making the world a better place? Then that has to start with you and with me…

What if we intentionally looked from a different perspective in order intersect culture, elevate the gospel, and challenge to change?

What if?


Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson serves as Director of Strategic Faith Community Development for the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church.

This episode of insideout was e-filmed and edited by Rev. David Valera. Valera serves the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church as Director of Connectional Ministries.

Special thanks to Rev. Craig and Sharon Parrish.

Installment #1: New West-Side Districts

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

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

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

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

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

During 2018 churches will be aligned in districts as follows:

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

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

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

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

May God guide and guard us through this change,

Living in Faith,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater Northwest Area


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

The increasingly diverse communities we live in can provide great opportunities for personal learning and spiritual growth. Whether our goal is to foster better understanding of our neighbors, or to pursue creative partnerships for the common good, we can only improve the likelihood of positive results through intentional preparation.

This year’s Bishop’s Symposium will focus on the need to develop our capacity for intercultural communication as we experience the possibilities of interfaith relationships. Through a variety of opportunities, we will glean from the wisdom of others to learn what can be gained, and dream a little about what we might ourselves do.

United Methodist clergy and lay persons across the Greater Northwest Area are invited to participate in this year’s Bishop’s Symposium in one of the ways outlined below. Individuals are invited to cross conference boundaries to attend the option that best fits their schedule.

Option 1: No Joke Live – November 4, 2017 – Seattle First UMC

No Joke Live is a dynamic opportunity to learn more about developing interfaith relationships. Aneelah Afzali of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS), noted Christian author and public theologian Brian McLaren, and a rabbi yet to be determined will join the Christian pastor, Jewish Rabbi and Muslim Imam whose story is presented in the documentary entitled No Joke: When People Like Each Other the Rules Change. You can learn more about them and view the trailer (which you can also watch below) for their film on the No Joke Project website.

Tickets for the event are $32. Space will be limited, so be sure to buy your tickets quickly.

Tickets will only be on sale exclusively for United Methodist clergy and lay persons for one week starting October 5th. This will be a public event, co-sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Conference and Jim Henderson Productions. Click here to purchase tickets online!

Option 2: NLI+ – March 7-9, 2018 – Boise First UMC

Brian McLaren, nationally renowned pastor, activist and author, will be the keynote speaker at the 2018 Northwest Leadership Institute (NLI) hosted by the Cathedral of the Rockies (aka Boise First UMC) on March 8-9, 2018.

While details are still being worked out, we are negotiating an additional day with Brian McLaren and/or the No Joke Project for United Methodists on March 7.

Mark your calendar and watch for registration information.

Option 3: No Joke, Your Town – Flexible Dates – DIY

No Joke is a documentary film about the unique friendship shared between Imam Kamil Mufti, Rabbi Daniel Bogard and Pastor Jim Powell, all of Peoria, Illinois. In it, they explain three basic practices that have been essential in navigating their differences. Available soon to borrow from the Regional Media Center, or directly for purchase from the  No Joke Project website, your church, a cluster of churches, or a district group can host a viewing of the film, and create a learning event around it.

You might even consider making it a public event, inviting local leaders from other faith traditions to participate with you. A small group study guide for the film is being created.

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

Greater Northwest United Methodists,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater Northwest Area


Resources

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

 

Greater Northwest United Methodists and people of compassion everywhere,

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

AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF

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

Flodding evacuation

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

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

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

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

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

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater Northwest Area

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

Contacts:

Related Items

Letter – Bishop Scott Jones – Texas Conference

Letter – Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey – Louisiana Conference

Video – Bishop Robert Schnase – Rio Texas Conference

Response – The Latest on UMCOR Response to Harvey

Response – Cleaning buckets and hygiene kits will be part of the response

News – Harvey Floods hit Houston Churches

News – Churches Pitch in as Harvey Crisis Continues

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

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

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


Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater Northwest Area

Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky sent a letter on Monday to Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski thanking her for her recent vote against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Referencing the United Methodist belief that health care be understood as a basic human right as found in our Social Principles, the bishop encouraged the senator to continue to work with other members of Congress “to find a solution to the very complex problem of providing health care … for all the citizens in our United States.”

Click here to read the letter.

In a July 6 letter to the Claremont School of Theology community, and subsequent press releases from Claremont School of Theology (CST) and Willamette University, it was announced the schools have entered preliminary conversations on the possibility of housing Claremont School of Theology, one of 13 United Methodist Seminaries, within the campus of United Methodist-related, Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.

In June, Claremont President Jeffery Kuan announced the school was facing serious financial difficulties. The school website indicated that without an infusion of $50-90 million, remaining on the current campus in Claremont, California will be cost prohibitive. Kuan cited campus maintenance costs and the rising cost of higher education as key reasons to seek a new direction and embed within another institution.

Steve Thorsett

WU President Steve Thorsett

“Willamette and CST are both excellent schools with much in common – a focus on quality, and a mission to educate students and prepare them for lives that contribute to and transform their communities,” said Steve Thorsett, President of Willamette University. “Embedding CST at Willamette is an exciting opportunity to bring CST’s progressive approach to theological education to the Northwest, strengthen both institutions and support Willamette’s role as a liberal arts university with strong graduate programs.”

The proposed partnership offers opportunities for dual degree and co-curricular programs as well as expanded course opportunities for undergraduates. Both institutions cite shared values of diversity, Methodist heritage and academic excellence as key values. For CST, the move would provide financial stability in a time when it is experiencing increasing graduation rates.

Greater Northwest Area Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky has been kept informed of the process by Presidents Kuan and Thorsett. “Claremont School of Theology is a vital, generative center of thought, faith and innovation”, she said in response to the announcement. “It pushes the boundaries of inclusive community in every way.  If the proposed move proves to be feasible, the Greater Northwest Area would welcome CST into the ‘neighborhood’ and eagerly explore the many ways the United Methodist conferences and the school can benefit from and enrich one another.”

CST President Jeffery Kuan

No specific timeline has been set for completion of the due diligence process and possible relocation. Kuan shares that “Any full-time student who begins a program in Fall 2017 should be able to finish coursework in Claremont, California.” CST will retain its name in any embedded relationship, and may continue some type of presence in Southern California in addition to its existing online programs.

Claremont School of Theology has been in the city of Claremont since 1957. Prior to that it was located at the then Methodist-related University of Southern California in Los Angeles. It was originally founded in 1885 as the Maclay College of Theology in San Fernando, California. Claremont School of Theology is fully recognized and approved as one of thirteen University Senate-Approved theological schools of The United Methodist Church, with close relationships with other Protestant denominations, especially the Disciples of Christ, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

What would become Willamette University was founded in 1842 by Methodist missionaries as the Oregon Institute, a school for children of missionaries and settlers. In 1849, the first meeting of the Oregon-California Conference, held at the Institute, officially recognized it as a Methodist school. In 1853, it was chartered by the Oregon Territorial Legislature. The University housed the Kimball School of Theology from 1906 to 1930. Willamette was also a partner in the Northwest House of Theological Studies (NHTS) formed in 1998 by the Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences and housed at First United Methodist Church in Salem. Claremont School of Theology and Methodist Theological School in Ohio provided faculty and accreditation for NHTS which closed in 2010.

If the partnership moves forward, CST will join two existing graduate offerings at Willamette: the Atkinson School of Management and the Willamette Law School.

Additional Resources for this story:

President Kuan’s letter about financial Challenges

President Kuan’s letter about partnership with Willamette University

CST Frequently Asked Questions about the proposed relocation

Willamette University Announcement

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