Author: Elaine Stanovsky

Bishop’s COVID-19 Notice #2, March 19, 2020

For the bread of God… comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. John 6:33


Friends and Colleagues in Christ, grace and peace be with you as we navigate the life-changing and uncertain waters of COVID-19.

YOU HAVE BEEN AMAZING! As I surfed a variety of online worship experiences these last two Sundays, I saw people singing, praying and preaching their hearts out. My deep gratitude to each of you who is trying something new in response to new and challenging circumstances.

At the same time, we know this isn’t going to work for everyone or every place. There’s nothing wrong if your church decides to send out printed bulletins and sermons or joins another church for its online worship. If you try something and it doesn’t work, ask for help or try something different. There isn’t one right answer for all the circumstances and capacities of our churches. Adaptive leaders don’t follow the crowd, they use the resources they have (or can get) to address the circumstance they face.

You have a lot of Unanswered Questions

Easter. You want to know about Holy Week and Easter observances. I promised I’d let you know by Tuesday, March 24 whether I will extend, amend or lift the suspension of in-person worship in our churches. I will keep that promise. I hoped to have a decision today, but in consultation with other conference leaders and crisis response advisors, I am waiting to make a final decision. It is likely that I will extend the suspension of worship through at least Easter, April 12, 2020 and perhaps beyond, so be prepared for this possibility. We are planning to offer an online alternative to local worship on Easter in case in-person worship continues to be suspended.

General Conference. Annual Conferences. Jurisdictional Conference.

We learned yesterday that May’s General Conference will be postponed. Leaders across the Greater Northwest Area, and the Western Jurisdiction, are closely monitoring the recommendations of public health agencies, with the wellbeing of potential participants our utmost concern. I’ll let you know as soon as decisions are made about Annual and Jurisdictional Conferences.

Finances. We know that we are in the midst of a dramatic economic downturn. We don’t know how long it will last, or how deep it will crash. We know that others are experiencing loss of employment or income. We do know that some local churches are already experiencing reduced income. Your conference leaders are exploring ways we can relieve pressure on local churches, and ways in which we can sustain essential conference functions through this time of scarcity.

SOUL WORK: Caring for relationships and spirits as well as bodies.

We know that human beings are vulnerable to insecurity and isolation as well as to the virus. I share your concerns about how damaging fear, scarcity and isolation can be toward maintaining a balance between 1) protecting and preserving physical health and 2) concern for spiritual health and nurturing relationships. At our best, we see and tend and invite the wholeness of the persons we serve to show up in worship, in prayer, in play – in Church. And we know we aren’t really whole on the phone, or online, or with 6 feet of separation.

How do we deepen our confidence in God and each other and cultivate human community while practicing safe distances from each other? One pastor shifted from saying “social distance” to “physical distance,” emphasizing the importance of drawing near to one another socially, despite physical distance. It’s a challenge. But it’s not impossible. I know you are rising to it and sharing creative ideas: from online worship to drive-up food pantries and parking-lot meet ups for neighborhood prayers.

What hope does God offer?

Your faith in God should be a resource for you in these times.

COVID-19 is causing far-reaching, long-term changes in our daily lives and in the human race, globally. We experience the effects in our daily lives: empty store shelves, restricted activities, unusual awareness of every sneeze, throat tickle, morning cough.  How many will lose their jobs? Homes? Pensions? How will we eat? We worry for our parents, grandparents, children. Some families are living in tighter contact than usual and experiencing both the blessings and curses of close community.

The Bible acknowledges that life comes with blessings and curses.  Full times and lean times. And the Bible also shows us that bad news isn’t the final word. We are living in the imperfect, uncertain, dangerous, perplexing world God reveals in the Bible.

As Christians, we have a relationship with a Savior who comforts the afflicted, rescues the perishing and welcomes strangers.  We know him as a man who lived in a world of human misery, and he went out of his way to reach out across social distances of every kind. We know him as God-with-us. And Jesus invites us to be partners in God’s saving grace by being with others. Jesus knows our strength better than we do. Listen for the voice of the Savior, saying, you are living through a time of trial. I see you. I am not causing this disease. It is part of an imperfect world. I am with you, leading you to be a blessing in a world of hurt.

I’ve asked you not to share Communion for a while. But don’t forget the bread and the cup. Life, given for you. Love, poured out for you. Jesus says, this is me: my body my blood. Cup of Salvation. You don’t need the symbols to experience God’s real presence. Remember God’s love for you. God puts you in the world to love one another.

Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Bishop’s COVID-19 Notice #1, March 13, 2020

Dear United Methodist Clergy, Members and Friends:

DO NO HARM.  DO GOOD.  STAY IN LOVE WITH GOD.
John Wesley’s Three Simple Rules, adapted          

DO NO HARM

Day by day we are learning more about COVID-19, or the Coronavirus. We know that as many as 14 days may pass between when a person is exposed to the virus, and when symptoms begin. This means that, as in King and Snohomish Counties in Washington State, the virus can go undetected for some time before it is identified. During that time, the person infected with the virus is exposing others to infection without even knowing it. We also know the virus is highly contagious but that cautious measures can slow down the rate of its spread. Slowing the spread flattens the curve of the peak of an epidemic like this.  If there are too many cases needing medical attention at the same time, they can swamp our hospitals and clinics, making it impossible for all the critical COVID-19 cases, as well as other unrelated medical emergencies to receive timely and proper treatment. 

Consistent with the directives and recommendations issued by Oregon Governor Brown and Washington Governor Inslee and recognizing that persons over 60 or who have compromising health conditions are advised not to attend gatherings of more than 10 people, I am directing the local churches of any size and other ministries in the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington to suspend in-person worship and other gatherings of more than 10 people for the next two weeks, starting today. Your conference leaders and I will assess unfolding events and update this directive as appropriate, but no later than March 24, before Palm Sunday and Holy Week.

Some people wonder if this strong action is warranted in Alaska, where the first case was just confirmed and Idaho, where COVID-19 has not been detected yet. I am asking you to adopt this discipline as a courageous act of prevention. It is likely that the virus is present, though undetected, as it has been in so many places. We don’t want to risk anyone contracting or spreading this virus in church!

I am also asking conference staff to suspend unnecessary air travel and advising clergy to do the same until further notice.

DO GOOD

The Oregon Health Authority reminds us that “Together, we can minimize the impact of COVID-19 on our most vulnerable community members”. United Methodists strive to live in ways that promote the well-being of others. In this season of spreading disease, I appeal to “extend hospitality to strangers:”

  • keep a social distance of 6 feet, no hugs, hand-shakes or elbow bumps
  • stay home if you don’t feel well
  • practice healthy hygiene

“Contribute to the needs of the saints,” by continuing to support your local church and other vital ministries by your prayers, presence (in spirit and online), gifts (including financial support), service, and witness so that ministries of compassion and justice are uninterrupted. Oregon-Idaho Conference emergency preparedness info, PNW Conference preparedness info, Alaska Conference preparedness info.

In order for ministries serving vulnerable populations to remain open – like childcare, feeding programs, homeless services, AA – strict adherence to safety measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control or other public health agencies for cleaning, social distancing and health screening guidelines is mandatory.

STAY IN LOVE WITH GOD

In times of uncertainty and vulnerability, human contact and spiritual connection are important. I encourage you to find creative ways to keep in contact with your colleagues and your parishioners during this time. Social media is great, but it’s no substitute for a phone call or face time.

Even as we are encouraged to stay at home, avoid social contact, and worship online, churches and social service agencies need unfailing community support to continue their crucial work of justice and compassion. I hope you will experiment with offering online worship, donations and meetings during this pause. There is great news for churches about Zoom and CCLI licenses.

Finally, in times of crisis fear gives way to hate. People of Asian descent, or those who have traveled abroad report that they have been harassed and stigmatized on the assumption that they brought the virus here. Individuals are not responsible for the virus, and any of us could be carriers. Only perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4: 18). As people of faith, let your words and actions cultivate love all God’s people.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Romans 12: 12-13

Please take precautions to keep yourself, loved ones, strangers, congregations, and communities safe.

With gratitude for you and your leadership, and with confidence in the steadfast love and grace of Jesus Christ,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Coronavirus in our community

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear…
Psalm 46 1,2

United Methodists across the Greater Northwest Area,

News of the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) within the United States is causing no small amount of concern. While this is particularly acute in the Seattle area, members of faith communities across the country are asking questions about how this might impact the ways they worship and practice their faith both inside and outside of their buildings. 

It is becoming increasingly clear that the COVID-19 virus is a danger to individuals and our communities across the Greater Northwest and especially in King County, Washington, where it spread undetected for some time. The capacity to test everyone with symptoms continues to lag behind the need for this testing.  

Because of this, gathering as communities of faith may put people at risk of exposure to COVID-19. I am encouraging an abundance of caution in our churches, following the wisdom and advice of Seattle & King County Public Health.

Public Health Recommendations for Residents and Churches in King and Snohomish Counties, Washington

Yesterday the City of Seattle and King County issued temporary public health guidelines meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the risk of exposure. Describing the situation as “a shifting landscape,” King County Executive, Dow Constantine, discouraged large group gatherings of 10 or more people. This was later adjusted to 50 persons.

This morning, the Snohomish Health District followed King County in announcing that it is also discouraging unnecessary large group gatherings of more than 50.

Please read these guidelines as they are available online here: 

As your Bishop, I am strongly requesting that pastors of churches and other ministries within Seattle & King County follow the recommendations of Public Health. These guidelines — subject to change as the situation evolves — define vulnerable populations, encourage adaptive practices in our work environments, limit the size of public gatherings, offer guidance for schools and those who are sick, and give advice to those seeking to remain healthy.

Currently, Public Health’s guidance means that churches are being asked not to gather large groups of people for worship, concerts or shared meals. Additionally, the serious nature of the situation means we should postpone celebrating communion through the end of the month and give special care to the cleanliness of our facilities. For many congregations in King and Snohomish Counties, these recommendations are an invitation to find other ways of being in prayer and relationship with one another. 

Public Health Recommendations for Churches outside King & Snohomish Counties, Washington

If you live or work, or are involved in a church outside King or Snohomish County, I recommend that you begin now to develop plans for how you will identify and preserve the critical ministries of your local church when COVID-19, or some other disaster, arrives in your town. 

Interim Guidance for Faith Communities from the CDC was released this week which every leader should take the time to review. A checklist produced several years ago to prepare faith communities for a flu pandemic should still be a helpful guide. Those who have received the Connecting Neighbors program produced by UMCOR may be a resource for churches who are new to this sort of work. A list of trained individuals will be made available soon along with other resources on the Greater Northwest website.

Encouragement for all churches across the Greater Northwest Area

It is natural for people to become anxious in the face of an unknown disease that shows no symptoms for many days after it has infected a person. This is undeniably a time of concern, and for taking precautions, but it is not the time for panic.

When health and life are at stake organizations must cooperate with the latest information and guidance from county and state health departments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO)

We’ve set up a page on the Greater Northwest website providing easy access to these sites and links to several church specific resources which we’ll add to in the coming days. 

It’s in times like these that people of faith dip into the well of their courage and persistence and trust in God. It’s time to do what we can to promote health and wellness and to make sure that we and the people in the circles of our care are safe and have what they need as we live through this season of illness.    

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky


Changes in Practice for the PNW Conference Office

In response to the recommendation of Seattle & King County Public Health, employees working out of the Pacific Northwest Conference Office have been given the discretion to telecommute through the end of March. The office is not being closed but the number of employees working out of the conference center will be lower. While we hope this will still allow us to aide and assist local churches as needed, we ask for your grace as we adjust to this measure.

We intend to follow this guidance for the month of March, but we will evaluate on a weekly basis and make adjustments as we go keeping a close watch on the situation.

If you are scheduled to attend a meeting at the PNW Conference Office over this period of time, please be in touch with your staff liaison. Where practical, we will be moving meetings to Zoom to limit persons travel into King County. Some meetings may also be postponed or canceled.

Keeping our communities healthy during the season of Lent

Traducción: español

United Methodists and friends,

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, who came so that we all might live life to the fullest. We know that life depends on spiritual health, and also on physical well-being.

As we enter the season of Lent, the world is watching a dangerous disease spread. We don’t know how widely or quickly the Coronavirus (COVID-19) will spread. I do know that United Methodists want to help limit its spread for the health of one another and the whole world.

Churches are places where people gather and care for one another. We welcome strangers, sit close to one another, join hands in prayer, give hugs of encouragement, and sometimes even weep together. This is a season when it is important for us to be careful and to develop intentional habits that can prevent the spread of this disease.

So, as Lenten practices, I encourage all United Methodists, wherever you gather, to take these reasonable precautions, consistent with the advice of the World Health Organization:

  1. Stay home when you don’t feel well. Model this behavior and encourage others to do the same.
  2. Download and post the hygiene advice (linked below) in all restrooms and kitchens.
  3. Be sure alcohol-based hand sanitizer is readily available throughout your facilities, for example, alongside boxes of tissue in sanctuary pews, and in every room. Encourage people to take the hand sanitizer with them when they leave. Then make sure it is replenished. Invite a church member to volunteer to monitor this throughout the Lenten season as a gift to the health of the church. 
  4. Encourage everyone to observe a 4 ft distance from others. Maybe suggest a new gesture of greeting, like folding your hands over your heart and then opening them palms out and down toward another person — in a sign of connection, rather than palms out and up, which might indicate separation.
  5. Check the World Health Organization website, and local health sites for new public notices, publicize them.

The spread of COVID-19 is a situation that we’ll be watching closely. I’ve asked our Directors of Connectional Ministries (DCMs) to be in conversation with our UMVIM/Disaster Response Teams to review plans and assess potential resources as these persons regularly network with community and governmental agencies.

The way John Wesley held spiritual and social holiness together is a mark of Methodist distinction. He studied and wrote extensively about medicine and the importance of maintaining a healthful life both spiritually and physically. Let’s follow his example. Let’s work for holiness of body as well as spirit this holy season.

May God bless you and keep you healthy and safe,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

A big decision in Alaska and its potential impact in the Pacific Northwest Conference

United Methodists in the Pacific Northwest Conference,

I’m writing you from Anchorage, Alaska, where clergy and laity from 29 churches across the state will gather on Saturday to decide whether to ask to remove its status as a missionary conference and to become part of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference. This proposal was developed by the Alaska Conference Leadership Team, in response to several considerations:

  • Financial and administrative support from the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) has diminished over the years and is likely to be discontinued in the near future.
  • GBGM intends to discontinue missionary conferences within the United States altogether, which would require Alaska to be included in another Annual Conference.
  • A sense that United Methodist Churches in the Western Jurisdiction of the US should take responsibility for supporting the ministries in their area that are not self-sustaining.
  • A desire for Alaskan United Methodists to have a role in determining their own future, rather than waiting for others to determine their future.

If Alaskan United Methodists approve this proposal, it could have significant implications for the Pacific Northwest Conference. I want you to be aware of the important matters being considered this week, and their possible impacts on the Pacific Northwest Conference.

There are multiple steps to this process before it is final. The sequence of actions necessary for this change to occur is:

  1. February 22 – Alaskan United Methodists request to no longer be organized as a missionary conference.
  2. May 5-15 – General Conference approves this request.
  3. July 15-18 – Western Jurisdictional Conference redefines the boundaries of the Annual Conferences in the West to include the churches of Alaska in the Pacific Northwest Conference.

Of course, depending on what happens at General Conference, we will have the opportunity to discuss these matters in June, when the three conferences of the Greater Northwest Area – Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest – meet together in a shared Annual Conference session in Puyallup.

I hope that as you consider this possibility, and as you talk with your friends about it, your interest and concerns will be for the future of Methodist faithfulness in the northwest, and how we can be stronger together than we are separate.

God is at work in the Greater Northwest in powerful and hopeful ways. We are invited and privileged to be invited to join God’s work as United Methodist disciples of Jesus Christ. I look forward to the conversations and deliberations as these possibilities emerge during the spring and summer.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

A Pastoral Letter for Epiphany 2020

United Methodists of the Greater Northwest,

What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by.
The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out…
We saw the glory with our own eyes…
Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.
John 1, The Message

This morning United Methodists around the world received a word of hope that the strife that has racked our Church might find a peaceful end.

A group of sixteen United Methodist leaders from around the world, who hold a wide range of theological and social convictions, have negotiated protocols for a graceful separation within The United Methodist Church. If adopted by the General Conference in May, the proposal would:

  • Maintain The United Methodist Church intact.
  • Allow local churches and annual conferences that choose not to remain affiliated with The United Methodist Church to leave, while maintaining their property, assets, and liabilities. 
  • Commit $39 million to racial and ethnic inclusion and anti-racism work.
  • Convene the first session of the post-separation United Methodist Church, perhaps before leaving Minneapolis in May, to create four regional conferences.
  • Allow for the first session of the newly established North American Regional Conference to act on proposals to remove prohibitive language regarding LGBTQ clergy and weddings. In the meantime, signers to the Protocol have agreed to abeyance on complaints against clergy for related offenses.  

While this is not the resolution I hope for, I believe it may be the best next step for the people called United Methodists who have been unable to find a way forward that maintains the unity of the Church. It does not move the Church toward Christ’s vision that we “may all be one…so that the world may believe” (John 17:21), but it is a faithful effort “to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), even as we find it necessary to walk separate paths for a season.

I trust this proposal is designed to unbind us from our “irreconcilable differences” and free us to focus on the future. It does not guarantee a particular outcome, but it appears to offer United Methodists in the United States the opportunity to choose a future that is fully inclusive of LGBTQ persons.

Please read the attached proposal, asking prayerfully whether it offers Life and Light as we seek to create a new movement of Wesleyan faithfulness in the Northwest and around the world.

May the Life of Christ live in us, and the Light of Christ lead us into the future,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

CRISES OF OUR TIME: Racism, Despair, Violence

I join Hispanic/Latinx United Methodists in calling for ACTION following three more mass shootings in America. God calls us to protect the innocent, and yet we permit people who are driven by racial hatred, mental illness and demons that are sometimes impossible to discern, to own and use weapons of mass murder to kill unsuspecting, undeserving innocent people. The two-month old baby who survived in El Paso because her parents sacrificed their lives to protect her has become a prayer icon as I grieve and look for a better way.

Taken together, conditions in the United States of American today are explosive:

  1. an embedded culture of white privilege (read White Fragility, by Robin Diangelo),
  2. a sense of white disenfranchisement (read Alienated America, by Timothy P. Carney),
  3. unfettered access to military weapons, and 
  4. conditions of extreme poverty, corruption and gang-violence making life unbearable in Latin America, leading to migration across the southern border of the United States .

Prayers after the fact won’t reduce the risk of another attack.

The stones cry out and so do the people. “DO SOMETHING!” Pray! Yes. Light a candle! Yes. Weep! Yes. If we are not weeping, we have lost our love for our neighbors. Gather with your neighbors to bear witness to the goodness and kindness of human communities that embrace cultural difference and respond to people in need! yes.

But also SHOUT OUT! to protect the innocent and vulnerable. Write your congress persons, advocating humane immigration and refugee policies. Speak to gun merchants in your neighborhood, asking about what weapons they sell, and what their safety practices are. Let them know your concerns. When you vote, consider the poor, tired huddled who travel to our borders seeking safety, liberty, opportunity. Use social media to let your voice be heard and shared and spread.

Fellow followers of Jesus: BE the Church! ACT YOUR FAITH! Bring the good news that God loves you to everyone in your community. Find ways to connect with disaffected, isolated white men on the margins. Build bridges between newly arrived immigrants and members of your community who have lived here their whole lives. Learn about opioid addiction and how to help people out of its grip.

Christians and other thoughtful, compassionate people need find a way to advocate for policies that protect the public safety in the face of violence that is out of control.  We can’t let ourselves become complacent as gun violence becomes normal. The debate about gun rights and gun control generates more heat than light. As people of open minds, it’s time to test our knowledge and our values about guns, gun rights and gun control against the teachings of Jesus. Gun rights and mass shootings are not ALL-or-NOTHING matters. The right to bear arms was only guaranteed by the Supreme Court in 2008. Before that it was never absolute, it was always limited and subject to interpretation.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by anxiety on so many fronts at the same time. That’s why we pray to get in touch with the power of the Creator of the Universe, who is working in and through, and in spite of us to care for all the children of the world. I know we can’t all do everything that needs to be done. But we can each do something.

For Christ’s Sake, DO SOMETHING!

Elaine JW Stanovsky
Resident Bishop

Responding with Hope to Bad News

We’re hearing bad news these days.

  • Rich men using and trafficking vulnerable girls and women as instruments of sexual gratification.
  • Suicide and drug overdose rates soaring, especially among rural white men.
  • Children continue to be separated from their parents and held at the border, sometimes without adequate food, water, medical care or a place to sleep.
  • Growing numbers of people sleeping under bridges, in green belts and their cars due to gentrification and a crisis in affordable housing in many urban centers.
  • Nationalism and racism have found a public voice in America again and anew. “Go back where you came from” is a taunt that comes of un-addressed white privilege and supremacy.

These are not merely partisan political issues. These are signs of spiritual and identity disease in the human family. Jesus never heard of Republicans or Democrats. But he was a careful observer of people and human communities, and an unfailing teacher of what healthy community life looks like.

This week, let’s remember Jesus teaching and example. The Bible offers more than 60 passages about widows, orphans, aliens, the poor and the outcast (you can google that). They remind the reader that God’s love extends especially to people who live under duress, who are overlooked, taken advantage of, kept on the outskirts of civil society.

Jesus calls people like you and me to live in ways that invite people into “beloved community.” People of faith should encourage just public policy that heals the dis-eases that cast shadows on people on the margins.

  1. Pray this Sunday, and during the week ahead, that out of the neglect, abuse, blame and hate that seems to run rampant in our world right now, God will work through us, and in spite of us, to cultivate “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and yes, self-control”(Galatians 5: 22).

  2. Educate yourself and resource others by visiting the websites of our United Methodist general agencies who help us put Jesus principles into practice:
    1. The Board of Church and Society to learn how our UMC is addressing issues of social justice. https://www.umcjustice.org/
    2. The Commission on Religion and Race. http://www.gcorr.org/
    3. The Commission on the Status and Role of Women. https://gcsrw.org/
    4. The Board of Global Ministries. https://www.umcmission.org/

  3. Ask yourself how you are helping God give life to the people around you. Make a plan to intentionally cultivate God’s kin-dom. Keep a list of the actions you take. to build God’s kin-dom.
    1. Read the newspaper, social media or watch TV prayerfully.
    2. Speak kind words to people you encounter day by day.
    3. Write your elected official.
    4. Write a letter to your local newspaper.
    5. Post a good word on social media.
    6. Join (or organize) a public witness.
    7. Initiate or sponsor a public forum to promote deeper understanding and engagement in solutions.  

The best remedy I know of to all of this bad news is hope grounded in prayer, discernment and deliberate action with others. When we respond to injustice, especially as we do so in community, we can break free from the shackles of despair and find new life where once there was only fear and death. This, my friends, is the good news!

Jesus has shown us the way. Take another step.

Elaine JW Stanovsky
Resident Bishop

A Call to Action for United Methodists in Response to the Plight of Migrants

Family of Faith in the Greater Northwest,

I am sharing the following Call to Action to relieve conditions for migrants on the U.S. southern border from our United Methodist Immigration Task Force.

No matter what your politics, Jesus teaches us to turn strangers into neighbors and to love those neighbors as ourselves. As you see men, women, and children being held in standing room only cells, without showers, soap or toothbrushes, without medical care or sufficient nourishing food, I know you want to reach out and speak out with tender mercy to relieve the suffering.

Please read and respond with love. In addition to the actions suggested below, you can find a list of organizations working to offer hospitality to our neighbors on the Greater Northwest Area website. Consider how you might partner with one. If you have others to suggest, email them to communications@greaternw.org.

Elaine JW Stanovsky
Resident Bishop


A Call to Action for United Methodists in Response to the Plight of Migrants

Grace and peace to you in the name of Christ Jesus. On behalf of the United Methodist Immigration Task Force we share with you a deep concern for migrants. You have seen the deplorable conditions under which migrant children and families are being detained in the US right now. We cannot be silent in this hour. The voice and actions of The United Methodist Church must be heard and experienced in this moment.

We give God thanks for United Methodists who are providing compassionate care to migrants at the border. Border Conferences have established relief centers for migrants. United Methodists from other regions of the country continue to support migrants seeking asylum with their time, talent and treasures. United Methodist congregations across the country have opened their doors to provide sanctuary for those immigrants whose lives would be endangered if they were to be deported to their home countries. UMCOR has been a partner in assisting this connectional work. The General Board of Church and Society has led us faithfully in our advocacy work in support of justice for the migrant and the immigrant. United Methodist Women have also been a strong voice in advocating for the rights of immigrant children and families.

Let’s continue to do this good and faithful work. Join us in these actions:

Give to the Advance # 3022144 for Migration. Go to UMCOR – Global Migration for further information.

Join the General Board of Church and Society in our United Methodist advocacy work alongside of immigrants. Check in online at UMCJustice.org and to sendletters to your Congressional representatives and the White House.

Encourage your UMW unit to join the action plan set forth at the United Methodist Women website.

We ask that you also speak up in support of persons in Sanctuary and the churches supporting them. In the past week, we have become aware of the Trump Administration’s most recent attack on immigrants who are living in Sanctuary in congregations, among them United Methodist congregations, as they seek to fight for justice in their deportation cases. The federal government is issuing fines of up to $500,000 to these immigrants in Sanctuary. This is an egregiously punitive tactic causing great fear and anxiety to immigrant brothers and sisters who are already deeply burdened by the stress of their circumstances.

Support United Methodist Sanctuary congregations and the immigrants in Sanctuary by praying for them and by sending them a postcard expressing such support. At the end of this letter is the list of multiple United Methodist Sanctuary churches and those immigrant friends whom they are hosting.

Take this moment to act. It will make a difference in these challenging times in the lives of suffering immigrants and the brave churches who are ministering to them. May the words of Paul to Timothy strengthen us all……

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice,
but rather a spirit of power and of
love and of self-discipline.
II Timothy 2:7
 

Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, Chair
UM Immigration Task Force

Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary
General Board of Church and Society

Thomas Kemper, General Secretary
General Board of Global Ministries

Harriett J. Olson, General Secretary/CEO
United Methodist Women

Moving FORWARD to what’s NEXT

I just returned from two gatherings that I believe will shape the future of Methodism for years to come. Taken together, they could mark a turn toward LGBTQ+ persons being fully recognized, included and honored in Methodism in the future, whatever form it takes. More than 900 people participated in one or both of the two events, including leaders from the Greater Northwest.

As you know, the actions of General Conference 2019 stirred up deep distress within The United Methodist Church. Many are asking: how do we live in a church that has adopted values and rules that we believe are not Christian? Do we stay and try to change the Church? Or is Jesus, who makes all things new, leading us to create a new expression of Methodism that is more faithful to the gospel? It feels like we are in a great season of sorting out how much diversity can remain united, and what are the limits beyond which some may have to leave.

The first gathering, Our Way FORWARD brought together justice-seeking communities to hear one another, recognize their shared oppression, and speak their call and commitment to a new Methodist movement that will act for justice inside the Church and in the world. As intended, people of color and LGBTQ+ United Methodists organized and led the event, with a deep commitment to creating a Church in “radical solidarity” with oppressed people.

Around 350 persons attended this event, with 19 of our fellow United Methodists present from the Greater Northwest Area. I was the only bishop present. Here’s what I experienced.

This gathering was church. It was church in the way it intentionally included many voices in the planning and leadership, and in the way it made space for people to be present in the fullness of their beings. It was church in the way the host congregation prepared, welcomed, fed, honored and protected participants. It was church in the depth, passion and beauty of worship. It was church in the prophetic proclamation of the liberating love of Jesus Christ, in the midst of misrepresentation, rejection and agony. It was church through shared sorrow and grief, the bold claim of baptism, the celebration of the goodness and fragility of God’s creation and gathering at the table of grace.

Many wore T-shirts bearing the baptismal promise of all United Methodists everywhere to: resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. 

In contrast to the fervent voices of some presenters, around tables I heard people saying:

  • I want to be in the Church my parents attend in their conservative town. I don’t agree with them, but I want to be in the same Church.
  • Even if I left the UMC, I would not be free of it. It is the community of my people. It made me who I am.
  • I want gay babies born today to have a church that embraces and nurtures them. If I leave, they are still at risk.
  • Black Methodists stayed in the Church through segregation, even when they were treated as second-class citizens. There can be strength in resistance.

As I left the gathering, I was deeply grateful for the honesty, urgency, and generosity of the community. And I felt confident that the leaders at this gathering and across our Church are ready and able to lead the Church into the future.

The second gathering, UMC NEXT gathered “centrists,” who were outraged at the actions of General Conference, together with progressives longing for real change. This broad coalition of United Methodists denounced the Traditional Plan and vowed to work toward a Church that stands and strives for justice and full inclusion.

But there was concern held by some leading up to this gathering.  

  • Is this the Adam Hamilton show?
  • Will the outcome be pre-determined?
  • Will all voices from the margins be heard?

I had my own questions about how participants were selected, and whether it would be a truly participatory process.

Nearly 30 people came from the Greater Northwest. Some are respected leaders. Others are newer and not as widely known. Some attended both events to ensure that UMC NEXT would benefit from the conversations and perspectives from FORWARD.

Together, participants helped craft a vision for a new, hopeful, inclusive, just Methodist movement based on four core commitments:

  • To be passionate followers of Jesus Christ, committed to a Wesleyan vision of Christianity that is anchored in scripture and informed by tradition, reason and experience as we live a life of personal piety and social holiness.
  • To resist evil, injustice and oppression in all forms and toward all people, and to build a church which affirms the full participation of all ages, nations, races, classes, cultures, gender identities, sexual orientations and abilities.
  • To reject the Traditional Plan approved at General Conference 2019 as inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ and resist its implementation.
  • To work to eliminate discriminatory language and the restrictions and penalties in the Book of Discipline regarding LGBTQ individuals. We affirm the sacred worth of LGBTQ persons, celebrate their gifts, and commit to being in ministry together.

These commitments are consistent with statements and actions taken by our Greater Northwest annual conferences for many years. I embrace these commitments and find them helpful as I lead United Methodists in the Northwest. I believe that inclusive community is the Jesus way and that it is the future of our Church.

At the same time, I intend to continue to honor all lay and clergy members and churches in the area I serve, whether they support or reject the actions of the recent General Conference. Over 23 years in Conference leadership, I have never discriminated against clergy or laity, based upon their theology. To the best of their ability, my cabinets have placed clergy in settings where their gifts and graces, as well as their theological perspectives, serve the needs of the community and congregation. I pledge to continue to lead in this way. I will also continue to try to keep you informed of possibilities and plans as they develop.

How will these gatherings affect you? Us? Participants from the Greater Northwest met yesterday before leaving Kansas City, to begin to plan together. There are no concrete plans at this time but these gatherings, and the coalitions that are being built, will help us in shaping what comes next. Before and during annual conferences we are considering conducting surveys or polls to get a “sense” of how United Methodists in Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest view the future of Methodism. Policies to guide processes of disaffiliation are being developed for churches that feel they must leave the denomination. In the next few weeks, the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conference sessions will give us a chance to learn more, and to think and pray together about our future in the Northwest.

In this CrossOver year, we are finding our way, and making the road, by walking. Almighty God continues to find the goodness in each created being. Companion, Christ, walks with us, as guide and savior. The Holy Spirit continues to breathe life into each one of us moment by moment, with grace in every breath.

I’m grateful for each of you who has participated in Table Talks, held information sessions in your church, sought out and read information about all the many conversations that are unfolding across the church. I hope you are talking with people in your families, your home church, in nearby churches, and outside the church, about the critical challenge we face. I hope you are talking to people whose life experience is different from yours. Where two or three are gathered, God is present.

I pray that… Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Ephesians 3: 15-19

Elaine JW Stanovsky

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