Bishop Stanovsky
Bishop Elaine Stanovsky leads communion for the Table Talks facilitator training training held in Portland in early March.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky is inviting United Methodists in the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences to participate in Table Talk conversations on human sexuality, the upcoming report of the Commission on a Way Forward and special called session of the General Conference in February 2019. The conversations will be held in various settings across the Greater Northwest Area.

Early in March, 47 leaders from the three conferences were trained to convene these conversations in a worship-full context. In her invitation to these leaders, Bishop Stanovsky shared that the United Methodist Council of Bishops is encouraging similar “conversation in each annual conference to further our life together around matters of human sexuality and church unity.” This facilitator training allowed them to experience and offer feedback on a model for conversation that they will take out to other groups across the area.

Noted worship designer and leader Dr. Marcia McFee resourced attendees at the training held at Christ United Methodist Church, west of Portland, Oregon. Worship is an essential element of how we work together as the Church and McFee was brought in to offer creative guidance and insight. Nancy Tam Davis, Pacific Northwest Conference lay leader, and the Rev. Donna Pritchard, Senior Pastor at Portland’s First United Methodist Church and Commission on a Way Forward member, also provided facilitation and insight.

Trainees gathered with a spirt of curiosity, hopefulness, and anticipation. Bishop Stanovsky, Pritchard, and others offered insight to participants on the state of the larger church’s conversation before they experienced the time of meal, worship and conversation that they are being asked to replicate and lead.

What to Expect at Table Talks

The Table Talk design allows for a safe place for conversations about topics that may be difficult or divisive. According to McFee, “Surrounding the conversations in worship is a way to ground ourselves in the story of our faith and our own hearts.”

Before entering discussion, participants will be invited to commit to a simple covenant. In short, the covenant asks them to: (1) Stay Curious, (2) Be Kind, and to (3) Listen with the same amount of passion with which they want to be heard.

Rev. Carlo Rapanut, Alaska Conference Superintendent and a member of the design team asked the questions, “How did Jesus deal with conflict?” Then citing Luke 22:14 he pointed out that, “Jesus would start a difficult conversation by gathering for a meal.” So most of the Table Talk sessions will include some sort of meal time to allow for connection and conversation.

Table Talk
Jan Nelson, OR-ID Conference Lay Leader, shares with other facilitators at the training.

Facilitators learned that there isn’t a specific outcome expected from the conversations, but rather that there be a forum and process for respectful dialog. According to Stanovsky, “Table Talks aren’t an attempt to make everyone think or believe alike. But they are an opportunity to ask if our differences need to drive us apart? Or is there a way that we can honor one another, stay together, and continue at one table, in one conversation as we continue to seek to understand God’s will?”

Oregon-Idaho Conference Lay Leader Jan Nelson is one of the facilitators. She reflects that, “There are many issues that we avoid discussing even with our friends and families. It’s important for us in the church to model a way to talk about things that divide us. In this way, both laity and clergy can be witnesses to God’s love.”

While it is intended that all Table Talks provide a place to grow in understanding, each conversation will take on a certain character of its own. It is intended that they take place in districts, church clusters, ethnic caucuses, and within other groups and existing networks. Some Table Talks may include 40-50 persons while others may be relatively small in number. The questions and beliefs of participants will inevitably shape the conversation to some degree as well.

The Commission on a Way Forward

Commission on a Way Forward logoThe Commission on a Way Forward was proposed at the 2016 General Conference by the Council of Bishops “to do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.” The proposal was approved, and a 32-member commission was named in October of 2016. You can learn more about their composition, vision, and how they are structuring their work here. The Bishops have also called a Special Session of the General Conference to be held be held February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri limited to acting on the report from the Council “based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward.”

In December, the Commission on a Way Forward filed a report with the Council of Bishops outlining three “sketches” or possible models for how the denomination might move beyond the current impasse regarding the inclusion of LGBTQ persons. The Commission met again in January to continue its work on these sketches after receiving input from the Council. Following the most recent Council of Bishop’s meeting, it was reported that there are two plans under consideration.

How to participate

Dates for Table Talks will be published as they are made available on the Greater Northwest Area Website. They will also be on their respective Annual Conference calendar. If you don’t see one near you, check back later as more may be added.

Council of Bishops President Bruce R. Ough calls for colleagues to be open to changing their minds under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Ough preached during the Feb. 25 opening worship service of a council meeting that goes through Feb. 28, in Dallas.

Friends in the Greater Northwest,

Yesterday Bishop Bruce Ough led us back to a principle that has guided Methodism throughout our history: God always leads Christians into ministry on the margins with the poor and outcast.

As the Council of Bishops meets to receive and consider the report of the Commission on the Way Forward, receive Bishop Ough’s sermon as a message of courage and hope for the whole Church. Please hold us in prayer, as we seek to lead the church on a path of faithfulness and obedience to God.

Click here to read Bishop Ough’s Address

Friday, nearly 50 leaders from the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences will gather to be equipped to lead “Table Talks” across the area where United Methodists can seek unity in the church that is deeper than our different understandings and attitudes about human sexuality. The differences are undeniable. They have strained the Church for more than 40 years. In these conversations we hope to understand what informs our differences from one another, so that we can respect one another, learn from one another, and continue to be members of one, undivided Church as we continue to listen to God’s leading through these differences.

The Table Talks will occur throughout the spring. I hope to see you there, to hear your voice, and to prayerfully, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, see the ways to live together in peace.

This is powerful, difficult spiritual work — worthy of the sober self-reflection of Lent. Any time we pause, turn to one another and God, and pray, we live in the promise of new life, revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I pray that as we gather, humbly and prayerfully, there will be enough light to show us the way.

With hope in the resurrection,

 

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.

I am about to do a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.                 Isaiah 43: 19 NRSV

God’s doing a new thing. The Church is trying to keep up!

Take a minute and just enjoy.

The Oregon-Idaho, Pacific Northwest and Alaska Conferences have worked collaboratively to cultivate vital ministries since Rev. Stephan Ross (Oregon-Idaho) and Rev. Dr. William Gibson (Pacific Northwest) started working together and across conference boundaries a couple of years ago. We’re breaking down silos to work collaboratively across conference lines, and across traditional staff job descriptions. Today an Innovation Team is taking shape to work in collaboration with district superintendents and local leaders to create new places for new people who are not finding authentic faith community in our churches as they are right now.

Meet the Greater Northwest Innovation Cultivation team, as it is taking form:

The newest member of the team is Dr. Leroy Barber, newly hired Congregational Developer for Vitality for the Oregon-Idaho Conference.

Dr. Barber joins Pacific Northwest staff, Rev. Dr. William Gibson, who will lead the team (Gibson shares some of his thinking in a recent video series), Kristina Gonzalez, a gifted trainer in cultural competency, coaching and leadership development, and Rev. Shalom Agtarap. I invited Agtarap to be one of our preachers for the 2017 Annual Conference; you can hear her message online. We plan to add a specialist who will help churches at the lower boundary of sustainability to explore options for the future. Stay tuned.

Together these innovation cultivators, working with the Congregational Development Team (CDT) in Oregon-Idaho, the Board of Congregational Development (BOCD) in Pacific Northwest, the New Church and Faith Community Development Committee in Alaska and the district superintendents are dedicated to leading a new season of vital ministry across the Greater Northwest through:

  • Innovation: starting new ministries, new churches, new faith communities
  • Multiplication: existing ministries in new places, and
  • Inclusion: reaching across racial and cultural differences to engage a wider variety of people in faith communities.
From left: Dr. Leroy Barber, Kristina Gonzalez, Rev. Shalom Agtarap, and Rev. Dr. William Gibson

Together, this team has first-hand experience in starting new churches, multi-cultural ministry, adaptive change, reconciling ministries, re-energizing and leading existing churches into their neighborhoods, and community organizing. They bring urban, rural and suburban experience. Together there is breadth, strength and wisdom that is the miracle of community. Please pray with me for this team as it forms, and the members listen to one another, and share their passion for vital ministries, and learn to work creatively across Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. As this team’s work evolves, look for upcoming stories that will detail how you and your congregation can access these resources.

INNOVATION?

Do we really have to? Yes. God – who last time I checked was as old as the hills – is all about making things new. So, it’s time to move, to shake off, to leave behind. And as much as we may like things as they are (or were!), God’s way is ahead of us, and if we want to be part of what God’s up to, we’ve got to get moving. What are you willing to give up so new people can be part of a life-giving, world-changing community?

I’m humming Curtis Mayfield’s 1965 anthem for the change God is working –

People get ready, there’s a train a-comin’
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’
You don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord

Take a listen

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater NW Area

Installment # 2:  Already, but Not Yet

Dear United Methodist friends in the Pacific Northwest,

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

shines light
cultivates life
and showers joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

Living in Faith,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky 

Read Installment #1 – New West-Side Districts

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


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

1. Dignity

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

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

2. Degradation

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

3. Earthquake Anniversary

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

4. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

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

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

Let me introduce you to some of my beloved neighbors:

Haiti 

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

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

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

Africa

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

My Piece of the Puzzle

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

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

Where will you be?

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Using the vivid example of creative problem solving featured in the movie Apollo 13, the Rev. Dr. William (Bill) Gibson offers a fresh look at the feeding of the multitudes in Matthew’s Gospel discovering a message for today’s church. Gibson argues that too often in the church, we allow our anxieties to shift our own thinking away from “what God is already up to” toward what he calls “the scarcity of the moment” to the detriment of what is possible.

Transcript:

There is no question, that in what is emerging as a post-Christian America, that there are challenging times for the church.

But it’s in these anxious moments when we’re trying to navigate a 21st-century landscape of how to do church differently that we become anxious; we talk about what we don’t have rather than what we do have. We say we don’t have enough money, we don’t have enough people, we don’t have the right facilities, it’s not possible. We get caught up in the scarcity of the moment rather than the abundance of God.

I’m reminded of this story – I don’t know if you remember this or not, Apollo 13. Now if you are a movie buff you probably seen the movie with Tom Hanks in it, right? This is a mission to the moon, and on the way to the moon they have this problem with the spacecraft.

Three of the four Apollo 13 Flight Directors applaud the successful splashdown of the Command Module “Odyssey.”

After the famous words, “Houston, we have a problem,” Gene Kranz gathers all the NASA engineers into this room to begin this problem-solving exercise. All this chaos ensues and everybody’s arguing about which problem should take priority. There’s just this lots of noise that it’s an engine issue, it’s an oxygen issue, it’s all these kinds of things.

And finally Gene Kranz says, “cut it out! Just be quiet. Can we start with what on the spacecraft is working?” And once they turn their attention away from the problems and issues to the assets on the spacecraft they begin to problem solve in a way that became one of NASA’s greatest accomplishments. They brought three astronauts safely back to Earth.

The same thing happens in the church. We get caught up; our anxiety drives us to begin to think about what’s not possible and it turns our attention away from the things we’ve been blessed with.

Matthew chapter 14 also is a story where Jesus is there on the side of the shores of the sea of Galilee and this large crowd has gathered. And it’s getting late and the disciples come to Jesus and they say, “Hey, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, the sun is going down. We need to send these people home. You need to ask them to go home because they’re going to have to eat.”

And Jesus said, “That won’t be necessary, you feed them.”

The disciples look at each other, like, “he’s crazy, right?” And they say to Jesus, “That’s not possible. I don’t know if you are aware of this but we only have these two stinking fish and these five loaves of bread.”

Jesus, in that moment, recognizes a teaching opportunity. He says, “bring them here.” So Jesus essentially says bring me what you have and he takes what the disciples are offering and he blesses it and it multiplies enough to feed a multitude of people.

Our anxiety causes us to turn our attention away from what God is already up to. It causes us to focus on the scarcity of the moment. What if we were to turn our attention to the abundance of God? What if we were to bring Jesus what we have?

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.

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.

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