M.I.L.E. – 2023 Annual Conference Sermons by Cedrick D. Bridgeforth
Throughout the 2023 Annual Conference season across the Greater Northwest Area, Bishop Cedrick D. Bridgeforth offered a series of messages to provide direction to the area.
How do we travel a M.I.L.E. in the Greater Northwest Area?
In his first year as episcopal leader of the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church, Bishop Cedrick Bridgeforth is encouraging congregations and ministry settings to go the M.I.L.E. this year and focus on Jesus’ call in the story of the Good Samaritan to “Go and Do Likewise.”
At his installation service in Juneau, Alaska, in May, Bridgeforth gave an overview of the theme and the meaning behind each step of the M.I.L.E. At each subsequent Annual Conference gathering – and in closing GNW worship – Bridgeforth offered in-depth explanation and inspiration for how we might all join him on this journey. Watch on Vimeo, or click here to download. Transcript available here.
M: Ministry that Matters. Preached at Alaska Annual Conference opening session on June 3.
Ministry that Matters is about how churches and ministry settings can go outside of themselves to turn from the mirror and look out the window to be part of their communities. Specifically, Bridgeforth preached about the need to be engaged in the work of houselessness and health in our communities. Watch on Vimeo, or click here to download.
I: Itineration and location. Preached at the OR-ID Conference opening session on June 8.
Bishop Cedrick encouraged churches to be window people, not mirror people, and spoke about Itineration [and Location] as it relates to clergy who are called to lead and the ministry settings in which they serve. In his sermon, he asked people to think about how we might address inequities in the itineration system within The United Methodist Church to best suit the pastor, church and community in which they are all serving. Watch on Vimeo, or click here to download. Transcript available.
L: Lay Ministry Enhancement. Preached at the PNW Conference opening session June 13.
At the opening of the PNW Conference, Bishop Bridgeforth preached about the importance of lay ministry enhancement as the church changes shape. Laity are already a critical resource in our congregations and ministry settings, but there is a need to equip and empower laity to be a more active voice in our churches and communities we serve. Watch on Vimeo, or click here to download. Transcript available.
E: Eliminating Racism. Preached at the GNW Area closing session on June 15.
As people of faith, we need to renew our efforts to eliminate the racism that is pervasive not only in society, but within our congregations, ministry settings and the institution of the church in general. During this sermon at the close of Annual Conference season, Bridgeforth laid out plans for resources to be developed to engage churches and ministry settings in meaningful discussions and evaluate practices that lead to institutional racism and societal harm. Watch on Vimeo, or click here to download. Transcript available.
The Western Jurisdiction’s College of Bishops offers a short video message for Epiphany. In it, they reflect on the season of change underway in The United Methodist Church and the promise reflected in the generosity and grace of ministries across the region as faithful disciples “respond to God’s call to be nurturing communities, ministries and churches where love lives.” Churches are encouraged to share this message and can download it for use in their local settings.
The video features Bishops Karen Oliveto of the Mountain Sky Conference, Interim Bishop Sally Dyck of the California-Nevada Conference, Dottie Escobedo-Frank of the California-Pacific Conference, Carlo Rapanut of the Desert Southwest Conference, and Cedrick Bridgeforth of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area.
Epiphany falls on Friday, January 6, 2023. Please share this message with your congregation as you see fit on Epiphany, the Sunday following Epiphany, or at another time that works best for your ministry.
Click here to view the video. Click here to download the video.
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ on this day of Epiphany from the bishops of the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church.
Today, we recall the story of three Magi who, according to the Gospel of Matthew, followed a star to visit the baby Jesus. They came to honor the one who was born king of the Jews. When they found him, they were overwhelmed with great joy, and offered their gifts to him.
After they had paid their respects to the Christ Child, they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, who wanted to know where the baby was. He wanted to harm this One who was seen as a threat to his power. The Magi heeded the angelic message and returned home by another road.
We are a people who have lived in darkness, who have seen a great light. It is this light that leads us home through roads we haven’t intended to travel, journeying with people we never intended to be in relationship with, listening to voices that are both strange yet life-giving.
In this season of great change in The United Methodist Church, as some choose disaffiliation, we are walking an unfamiliar and uncomfortable road. It is hard to have some churches divided on whether to stay United Methodist and other churches already heading out the door.
We also know that it is in moments like this–of uncertainty and fear–that God breaks into our lives and offers us a way forward.
As new and continuing bishops, serving the Western Jurisdiction, we are excited by what God is doing in communities across our connection. We give thanks for congregations committed to extending God’s generous grace and wide welcome to all people. We rejoice in ministries that share the love of God to those beyond the walls of the church. We celebrate lives touched and changed by an encounter with Christ.
We believe that the best days for United Methodism could still be before us. To live into the promise, we must respond to God’s call to be nurturing communities, ministries and churches where love lives. As we enter 2023, may we, like the Magi, follow the star so that we may be bearers of the Christ light to a weary world. May the ways we share this light be a beacon of hope to those who are struggling. May this light be so compelling that people will want to know more. May this light illumine a new and unfamiliar yet life-giving path that leads us all home to the Body of Christ.
Friends in Christ, Thanksgiving is Thursday and Advent starts next Sunday.
My heart is anguished after the murders at Club Q in Colorado Springs last weekend. In “barely a minute,” five people died, 17 others were shot, and two others were injured. The 22-year-old shooter, carrying an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle, stalked his prey in a place people came for sanctuary from anti-LGBTQIA+ hatred. They were unarmed in an enclosed space, like sitting ducks or fish in a barrel.
No one has the right to hunt and kill innocent people. No civilian should have the right to carry an assault weapon designed for war.
If you are a person who identifies as LGBTQIA+, I see you, I love you, I need you to survive. You should not be targeted for ridicule, bullying, or bodily harm by people who don’t understand you or hate you. I believe that Jesus calls every Christian to be a trustworthy ally as you seek to live the fullness of life God sets before you, but many are slow to respond to this call.
If you are a person who hates or fears LGBTQIA+ people, I’m sorry for you; you don’t have to remain where you are today. Each of us is held to account for our fear, our hatred, and our inaction. In the gospels, we have a front-row seat as Jesus meets all kinds of misunderstood and marginalized people – leper, blind, possessed, lame, tax collectors, women caught in adultery or with a flow of blood, robbers. He seeks them out, speaks with them, and invites them into his circle of friends. He saved his disdain for high priests and pious people he thought should know better – like us.
If you follow Jesus, he will introduce you to LGBTQIA+ people, and you will be given the opportunity to grow in your knowledge and love of Jesus by seeing what Jesus sees in them. We must love our way out of hate, or we will find ourselves on the side of Herod, slaughtering innocents in the pursuit of his rival, Jesus, instead of on the side of humble shepherds, tending their flocks and welcoming his arrival.
Regardless of political party, it is time for Christian people, striving to walk in the way of Jesus, to join with others of generous spirit, to rise up to stop the sale of assault weapons. Courageous citizens have the power to protect innocent victims from people who lack the intellectual, moral, emotional, or spiritual ability to resist an impulse to wholesale slaughter. It is blasphemous to pray for God to do what we have the power but not yet the will to do. We are our brother’s/sister’s/sibling’s keeper. We can act, and so we must, to save countless lives.
This Thanksgiving, I hope you will enjoy good food in the company of people you love, whether family, friends, or strangers. I hope you will pray for those on both ends of gun violence. And as we prepare for the birth of Jesus, learn more and work to ban private ownership of weapons designed for war. I urge you to see how our General Board of Church and Society is helping us get involved in resisting gun violence. I hope you will also consider writing a letter to your elected representatives, as Olympia First UMC encouraged us at our annual conference session in June. We can make it safer for innocent, vulnerable people to gather without fear for work, a concert, a drag show, a movie, a nightclub, school, church, for love.
Love is born at Christmas!
Elaine JW Stanovsky Bishop, Greater Northwest Episcopal Area
Bi-vocational ministry is nothing new. Since the formation of the church, some level of bi-vocational “tentmaking” has allowed pastors to serve the local church while also providing for their families. Proudly, many licensed local pastors have represented this model in The United Methodist Church system. However, due to many factors, it is often hard for a United Methodist clergyperson to think in bi-vocational terms. Inevitably, this consideration leads to conversations around strategy.
Forging new strategies and reimagining existing models of ministry is the Innovation Vitality Team’s (IV Team) focus, in collaboration with the Greater Northwest Cabinet and identified leaders across the area. Collaborative efforts are built on a change theory where the practices of inclusion, innovation, and multiplication can allow for a shift in ministry, community engagement, and new relationships, teaching us how to pivot. For example, the pandemic changed how the whole world functions, especially for pastors, churches, and vital community partnerships. How can we sustain positive social change and community impact as the ground quakes underneath our feet? This brings us to our topic of bi-vocational ministry.
In many ways, tradition tends to hold our churches in the posture of ‘how we’ve always done things.’ Yet as culture emerges and our contexts become increasingly post-Christian, new ways of being church in community need exploration more than ever, both from a pastoral and a congregational perspective. Sustainability, measured impact, and quantifiable change demand it. And we will need to create space for our system to embrace renewed models of pastoral ministry.
“Por la entrañable misericordia de nuestro Dios, Con que nos visitó desde lo alto la aurora, Para dar luz a los que habitan en tinieblas y en sombra de muerte; Para encaminar nuestros pies por camino de paz”.
La Gracia de Dios este contigo esta mañana, estamos en la temporada de fiestas, la temporada de fiestas santas. Y realmente no he conversado últimamente mucho con ustedes, mi gente del Área del Gran Noroeste de la Iglesia Metodista Unida. Una y otra vez, he pensado que quiero dar un buen mensaje, compartir buenas noticias con las personas con las que sirvo. Y, sin embargo, las palabras no han llegado.
Entonces, quiero comenzar esta mañana simplemente agradeciendo nuevamente. Espero que me hayas escuchado decir gracias antes. Esta ha sido una temporada incómoda, difícil, agotadora y ustedes se han mantenido vivos y sanos, la mayoría de ustedes. Y lamentamos aquellos que no han superado esta pandemia por razones de COVID u otras circunstancias de la vida y de salud que les han quitado la vida.
Pero aquellos de ustedes que están escuchando este mensaje, que están escuchando este mensaje hoy, están vivos, están sirviendo, se preocupan y están luchando. Gracias! Dios obra a través de nosotros. Aunque nos sintamos preparados para la tarea o no. La gente encuentra bendición en nosotros. Y así, nos levantamos cada mañana, saludamos al sol, y seguimos adelante de la mejor manera que podamos, contagiando amor, esperanza y ternura a las personas que nos encontramos. Así que gracias!. Gracias, que Dios los bendiga y los guarde.
Sin embargo, es una época extraña y desorientadora, ¿no? ¿No te parece así? Ciertamente lo es. Hay tantos asuntos urgentes a los que prestar atención, a los que abrir nuestro corazón, aprender sobre ellos, responder con compasión y comprensión. Cada vez que pienso en traerte una buena palabra, me encuentro atrapada.
¿Les hablaré sobre el clima, las inundaciones, los incendios forestales y la necesidad de alejarnos de los combustibles fósiles y encontrar nuevas fuentes de energía sostenibles?
¿Les hablare del COVID, de las muertes, los peligros, las pruebas, de no poder reunirnos y cantar juntos?
¿Les hablare del 6 de enero y de las divisiones que parecen separarnos como pueblo, como nación y amenazar los cimientos mismos de una sociedad civilizada?
¿Les hablare sobre el racismo y los juicios de Rittenhouse y las personas que mataron a Ahmaud Arbery y Charlottesville y el peligro de perder el derecho al voto?
Cada vez que pienso en qué hablarles, creo que, si hablo una palabra, esas otras palabras no se dicen, y lo llevamos todo, todo al mismo tiempo. Y, sin embargo, no podemos hablar de todo al mismo tiempo. Y así, me he encontrado en una temporada de silencio. No porque no tengo un sentimiento profundo, no porque no esté en sintonía con lo que estás luchando, con lo que el mundo está luchando. Pero me encuentro incapaz de hablar porque es tan amplio y profundo y hay que tanto de que hablar, que es difícil saber por dónde empezar.
Busque en las Escrituras, en la oración, profundamente en las últimas dos semanas para prepararme para este mensaje y lo que encontré fueron dos grandes historias en el Evangelio de Lucas de personas que se sentían atraídas a la quietud.
El primero es de Lucas 1 y es el cántico de Zacarías. Recuerda que Zacarías está casado con Isabel y ella queda embarazada del bebé que se convertirá en Juan el Bautista. Y Zacarías recibe este anuncio y está desconcertado y no confía del todo en él. Zacarías e Isabel son mayores y no están seguros de poder tener hijos. Y entonces, cuestiona al ángel que le trae esta noticia. Y el ángel lo calla, le quita la voz por dudar de la palabra de Dios.
Y Zacarías espera en silencio, hasta que Isabel da a luz y nace el bebé. Lo van a llamar Zacarías en honor a su padre, y María dice: “No, su nombre es Juan”. Y la gente se vuelva hacia Zacarías y les dicen: “¿Qué dices acerca de esto? ¿Qué piensas? ¿No debería el bebé llevar tu nombre?” Y Zacarías recupera su voz, su voz regresa. Y él responde, no dice que quiero nombrarlo, Juan. No dice que lo llamo Juan. Dice: “Su nombre es Juan” como si viniera del más allá. Este es un momento poderoso en las escrituras.
Y luego también me atrae María. Y todo lo que ella meditaba en su corazón mientras el mundo giraba a su alrededor, ella había dado a luz a este nuevo bebé entre, pastores, ángeles, el cielo se abrió, los profetas estaban hablando, y ella habla una palabra. Pero luego reflexiona sobre todo en su corazón.
Los escritores de la Biblia saben por lo que estamos pasando: el miedo, la desorientación, el peligro, el desplazamiento, la exclusión, la traición, las plagas. Lo saben todo, está todo en la historia. No es una historia feliz de Nochebuena con bebés, animales en un corral. También es una historia de profundo desplazamiento, indiferencia, huida. Y, sin embargo, es una historia que nos invita a esperar, a encontrar nuestro propio silencio, a anticiparnos, no a esperar pasivamente, sino a anticiparnos, a estar atentos, a prepararnos y a vivir con esperanza.
Porque el núcleo de las Escrituras es el mensaje de que lo que sucede a nuestro alrededor, lo que vemos con nuestros ojos, lo que escuchamos con nuestros oídos, lo que experimentamos en las complejas e impredecibles vidas sociales que llevamos no lo es todo, es lo que esta debajo de eso, el lugar donde hay un espíritu. Hay un lugar donde viven nuestras almas, hay un lugar donde Dios que observa y atiende toda la complejidad de nuestras vidas, nos atiende, planea un buen futuro y nos invita a asociarnos en la creación de ese futuro.
Aquí estamos. Estamos invitados a esta temporada de Adviento que está a punto de llegar. Adviento significa venir. Se trata de la venida de Dios al mundo, sí, en el niño Jesús. Pero Dios viene todos los años cuando celebramos el Adviento, todos los días, cuando nos despertamos al amanecer, para guiarnos por nuevos caminos, para enseñarnos cosas nuevas, para invitarnos a participar en nuestras propias vidas en el mundo con los ojos abiertos, y nueva conciencia.
Quiero leerles el Salmo 46 esta mañana. Puedes escuchar esto como un optimismo limitado, una ilusión superficial, o puedes escucharlo como una invitación a buscar dónde está viva y naciendo en el mundo la bondad y la esperanza que Dios promete.
Dios es nuestro amparo y fortaleza, Nuestro pronto auxilio en las tribulaciones. Por tanto, no temeremos, aunque la tierra sea removida, Y se traspasen los montes al corazón del mar; Aunque bramen y borboteen sus aguas, Y tiemblen los montes a causa de su ímpetu. Selah
Hay un río cuyas corrientes alegran la ciudad de Dios, El santuario de las moradas del Altísimo. Dios está en medio de ella; no será conmovida. Dios la ayudará al clarear la mañana. Braman las naciones, se tambalean los reinos; Lanza él su voz, y se derrite la tierra. Jehová de los ejércitos está con nosotros; Nuestro refugio es el Dios de Jacob. Selah
Venid, ved las obras de Jehová, Que ha puesto asolamiento en la tierra. Que hace cesar las guerras hasta los confines de la tierra. Que quiebra el arco, rompe las lanzas Y quema los carros en el fuego. Estad quietos, y conoced que yo soy Dios; Seré exaltado entre las naciones; enaltecido seré en la tierra. Jehová de los ejércitos está con nosotros; Nuestro refugio es el Dios de Jacob.
Y así, en la temporada de adviento, esperamos, anticipamos, nos preparamos. Esperamos que lo que nos dicen las Escrituras sea la verdad que a veces no podemos ver.
Estate quieto. Quédate quieto con Zacarías. Quédate quieto con María. Quédate quieto con Job. Quédate quieto con Jesús en el huerto.
No se deje consumir por lo que ve en la televisión o en las redes sociales. Busque ayuda en medio de los problemas. Fíjense en dónde se alegra nuestro mundo, nuestra ciudad, nuestros vecindarios.
Únete conmigo en esta oración de respiración. Ven, Jesús, nace en nosotros hoy. Ven, Jesús, nace en nosotros hoy. Ven, Jesús, nace en nosotros hoy. Y fíjate si puedes levantarte alrededor de las siete de la mañana o un poco más temprano y mirar hacia afuera, encontrar un lugar que mire hacia el este y ver si puedes ver salir el sol.
“Por la entrañable misericordia de nuestro Dios, Con que nos visitó desde lo alto la aurora, Para dar luz a los que habitan en tinieblas y en sombra de muerte; Para encaminar nuestros pies por camino de paz”.
Que sea así para usted, para su congregación, para su vecindario y para el asombroso mundo de Dios.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Translated and Adapted by: Rev. Cruz Edwin Santos Director of Hispanic/Latinx Ministry December 6, 2021
Greater Northwest Area Cabinet encourages vaccination as an act of love
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
When the Greater Northwest Area Cabinet met in September, we discussed much of the work that is ahead of us this year. Pastoral consultations, charge conferences, connectional ministry opportunities and, of course, appointments. Lament permeated these discussions as we shared stories of the prolonged pandemic and its impact on so much of what we all do.
The vaccination status of our ministry leaders across the area was one topic that we discussed. Our Greater Northwest Area Cabinet is fully vaccinated, as are most of the staff working in the conference and district offices across the region. From conversations with so many of our local leaders, we suspect the majority of our pastors, and many if not most of local church and ministry staff are also fully vaccinated.
This is all a good thing because we know that vaccination is not only practical and wise, but also an act of love. We trust the science that tells us that vaccines significantly reduce the chance that we will get infected, hospitalized, and die because of this virus. And we love our neighbors enough to do all we can to avoid spreading this disease to them.
Throughout the pandemic, John Wesley’s Three General Rules have guided our response, including to the vaccine: Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God. Getting vaccinated is yet another way we can faithfully respond from our Methodist tradition.
Jesus tells us how to manage difficult times when siblings of Christ do not see eye to eye on an issue: Treat people in the same way you want them to treat you (Luke 6:31 CEB). This isn’t a call to “me firstness.” It is how we live out our faith. In the context of vaccinations and this pandemic, it calls us to get the shot – I don’t want someone else getting sick because of me just as I don’t want to get sick because of someone else – it is how we treat others as we want to be treated.
We sincerely hope that many who read this message will have already been vaccinated. Please consider a booster shot if and when it is recommended for you.
For those who remain unvaccinated, we would implore you to do so unless there is a medical reason you cannot. For those who have questions, we would strongly encourage you to reach out to your doctor or other health care professional, and to trusted friends or colleagues who have been vaccinated to have an honest conversation about your concerns. We care about you, your health, your family, their health and for all those with whom you are in ministry.
Finally, for those who are long vaccinated and find themselves frustrated at times with those who are not, let love guide your words and actions, whatever those may be. May we be moved to be ever generous in spirit, and even in action as we partner with others to provide access to vaccines, however they may be constrained.
In continuing prayers for you and our shared ministry!
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky Resident Bishop Greater Northwest Episcopal Area
Rev. Carlo Rapanut Alaska Conference Superintendent Assistant to the Bishop, Greater Northwest Area
Rev. Tim Overton-Harris Dean of Cabinet, Columbia District Superintendent Oregon Idaho Conference
Rev. Kathleen Weber Dean of Cabinet, Crest to Coast District Superintendent Pacific Northwest Conference
In late August, you received a letter from Bishop Elaine Stanovsky regarding the ongoing Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy, with some guidance originating in our denomination’s legal advisors. This group of chancellors, advised by bankruptcy experts and in consultation with church leaders, is engaged in this very complex matter to ensure that any of our churches who act as chartering organizations, are protected to the fullest extent possible as we wrestle with the shadow of abuse in our midst over many decades.
Previously, the guidance was to pause the chartering/re-chartering of scouting troops with a reset on December 31, 2021. We have now received updated guidance to extend this pause until March 31,2022. With this additional time, the BSA and legal representatives of the UMC will continue work on a new chartering arrangement that protects both organizations appropriately. This means that whatever status (charter or facility use agreement) that your church now has with your troop, old or newly negotiated, can remain in force until the end of March 2022.
There will be a joint statement released this week that will outline this extension for the bankruptcy case to run its course and to give time for development of a new agreed-upon form of agreement for United Methodist organizations wishing to charter a Scout unit in the future.
The two organizations agree that whatever agreements are currently in place can be extended until March 31, 2022, after which a new charter agreement should be available to take the relationship into the future.
Today we ask that you extend your current relationship with BSA troops, at whatever CURRENT status it is, until March 31, 2022, and pray for the survivors’ healing. God has gifted us with compassion and wisdom to reach just settlements and faithfully steward the resources of the UMC.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of us if you have any questions.
As United Methodists begin to understand the historical role the church has played in generations of colonization and harm to Native American peoples, a petition has emerged, calling on churches to tell the truth and repent for their historical role in the loss of countless lives and devastation of rich indigenous cultures.
Greater Northwest Area Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky has signed the petition, as has Rev. Dr. Allen Buck, director of the GNW Circle of Indigenous Ministries and other leaders in the GNW Episcopal Area.
“Join with us in calling for deeply transparent exploration and truth-telling about our role and complicity in taking land, culture, resources and children from the First Peoples here and around the globe,” said Buck, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation who also pastors Great Spirit UMC in Portland. “The Church has helped build and maintain systems which prioritize and benefit ‘whiteness’ – contributing to trauma that impacts generations of Indigenous people.”
History has revealed that these boarding schools were used to abuse hundreds of thousands of Native American children who were removed – often violently – from their homes and families and placed in these schools in the years between 1869 and the 1960s. There were 367 government-funded Native American Indian Board Schools, according to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition and many of those schools were run by churches.
Children at these schools were regularly beaten, had their hair forcefully cut and their sacred traditions, languages and identities stolen or destroyed. They were abused physically, emotionally and sexually and were abused or mutilated for speaking their native languages.
This petition calls for churches to commit to discovering the locations and records of Methodist run boarding schools and search the physical properties for mass graves “by whatever means necessary” and to listen to and collect the stories from family members whose ancestors were impacted by a Methodist boarding school.
The petition also calls on The United Methodist Church to set aside October 6 as a day of remembrance as part of The Boarding School Healing Project. On Oct. 6, 1879, Gen. Richard Pratt took children from the First Nations and opened the boarding school in Carlisle, Penn. Because of this date and recent gravesite discoveries, the petitioners ask The UMC to observe Oct. 6, 2021 as a “Day of Truth and Repentance for Our Children.”
Stanovsky urges United Methodists and others in the GNW Area to sign the petition as an act of repentance and a commitment to continuing the long work of addressing the historical harms the church has caused for generations of Native Americans.
“This is just the first step in many acts of repentance we must commit to listen to the voices of Native American neighbors, to acknowledge the sins embedded in the teachings and actions of Christian churches and to repent of these sins as a Church, and followers of Christ, to begin addressing the generational atrocities the church has committed,” she said. “There is much, much more work to be done. It is about becoming trustworthy in our relationships with people whose trust has been deeply betrayed time and time again. It goes far beyond putting names to a statement. It requires deep soul searching to understand what went wrong among followers of Jesus.”
Recommendations for mask usage with Delta variant, indoor congregational singing
Today, the GNW COVID-19 Response Team is releasing two recommendations based on our ongoing conversations and broader developments in the fight against this disease. Both are directed primarily to churches and ministries in Option 2, though Option 1 ministries should note the words of caution regarding the Delta variant. The first is a recommendation to return to masking indoors in all public settings like worship due to the rampant spread of Delta. The second is our promised guidance on congregational singing.
When we released the last major COVID-19 update – “Stepping forward safely in love and trust” – in May to the Greater Northwest Area, significant latitude was offered to local churches and ministries choosing Option 2. Accepting the responsibility to return to in-person ministry in contextually innovative ways, these ministries have been free to work beyond the cautious GNW recommendations offered in Option 1 with three major expectations and one remaining restriction.
The first major expectation was that local churches and ministries would work carefully within both the guidelines offered by the CDC and parameters set by local and state governments, following whichever was more cautious wherever they might differ. The second major expectation Option 2 churches committed to was watching these standards for changes and regularly monitoring local risk using CovidActNow and information from local and state resources. And the final major expectation was that churches would carefully assess this information, making changes to their practices, especially when risk levels might increase.
In short, “Stepping forward…” allows Option 2 churches the freedom to adapt safely to new possibilities as states reopened this summer, and the responsibility to do so carefully, and possibly to step back as new developments like the Delta variant[i] threaten our progress against this disease.
The one major restriction left in place when “Stepping forward…” was released was a prohibition against indoor congregational singing. At the time, our GNW COVID-19 Response Team engaged in several conversations on the topic, reviewing as we did emerging science often funded by groups committed to these performance arts (read: people who love and dedicate their lives to performing and teaching music). Subsequently, we hosted a webinar to help leaders better understand the unique risks posed by singing.
The following resources are being offered today primarily to churches and ministries in Option 2, though Option 1 ministries should note the words of caution regarding the Delta variant.
While we are not updating Option 1 at this time, we are continuing to monitor and discuss the impact of this variant and other changes in public policy. We will make changes as the situation warrants.
In ministry with you,
The GNW COVID-19 Response Team
[i]According to OPB & NPR, the Delta variant “appears to be about 225% more transmissible than the original SARS-CoV-2 strains” with – on average – “about 1,000 times more copies of the virus in their respiratory tracts than those infected.” Prior to their update this week, a growing number of epidemiologists were questioning the CDC masking guidance for vaccinated persons in light of Delta, especially for those who are elderly, or those with compromised immune systems or health conditions putting them at risk.
As friendships and ministries with Native American and Indigenous peoples grow, the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church is creating the Circle of Indigenous Ministries. Developing mutual, healing, and life-affirming relationships with Native Americans and Indigenous peoples in and outside the church is part of the GNW Area’s ongoing efforts to heal historic trauma and dismantle racism.
Rev. Dr. Allen Buck, pastor of Great Spirit United Methodist Church in Portland and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, is being appointed as the director of the Circle of Indigenous Ministries, beginning July 1. Rev. Buck will also continue as part-time pastor at Great Spirit.
The Circle will support Native American and Indigenous churches, fellowships, and ministry partners through resourcing, coaching, consultation, and friendship in the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences.
“The goal is to do what we have been doing, but do it more intentionally,” said Buck.
Since Buck was appointed to Great Spirit UMC in Portland in 2017, he has assisted the Oregon-Idaho Conference, as well as his colleagues in the Pacific Northwest Conference and Alaska Conference, in acts of repentance, land return and healing with Native American communities across the area.
“The Christian Church has done deep and lasting harm to Indigenous peoples and cultures around the world for centuries,” Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky said. “Rev. Buck is helping us learn our history, repent of our sins and form healing partnerships based on humility and mutual respect. ”
“The Circle of Indigenous Ministries will amplify Indigenous voices and their wisdom while also empowering more authentic leadership of Native American and Indigenous peoples within the church,” said Oregon-Idaho Conference Director of Connectional Ministry Laurie Day, who also serves assistant to Bishop Stanovsky.
For years, the Oregon-Idaho Conference has supported Huckleberry Camp for Native American youth at Camp Magruder in the summers as well as a Nez Perce culture camp at Wallowa Lake Camp in northeastern Oregon. In 2016, the unofficial spiritual home of Native American United Methodists in Oregon-Idaho Conference, Wilshire United Methodist Church in Portland, was on the verge of closing. Former Columbia District Superintendent, Rev. Erin Martin, recruited Buck, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, to serve Wilshire UMC and help grow its ministry into what is now Great Spirit UMC.
The Greater Northwest Area has moved recently into larger acts of repentance and healing, including returning a portion of Wallowa Lake Camp to The Nez Perce Tribe in 2018. In April, the Conference returned the former Wallowa UMC property to the Nimiipuu as well.
Day said Buck has also helped leadership across the Greater Northwest Area begin acts of land recognition, repentance and building more friendships with local tribes and native organizations.
In addition to its work with the Nez Perce Tribe, Great Spirit UMC took ownership of the Chiloquin United Methodist Church building in southern Oregon, when the congregation was officially closed in 2020. Great Spirit UMC has since turned building use over to The Stronghold, a Native-led organization which partners with the Klamath Tribe to provide culturally responsive peer support services to Native people in transition – be it homelessness due to natural disasters, domestic abuse, drug addiction or more.
Buck said there were no conditions placed upon The Stronghold’s use of the building, because as the church works to decolonize white spaces, it is important to listen to what the Native and Indigenous communities want or need.
“It’s all about relationships,” Buck said. “You can’t do Indigenous ministries without relationships.”
Buck said he is excited to mentor and walk with emerging Native and Indigenous leaders who could serve churches in Native communities. He is eager to partner with the GNW Innovation and Vitality Team to help identify and train culturally responsive leaders in the church.
Day said financial support for The Circle of Indigenous Ministries is coming from across the GNW Area and beyond. This work of recognizing and partnering with Native American, Alaska Native and other populations often marginalized by the church is ongoing.
“All of these opportunities are growing, which is why we’re creating the Circle of Indigenous Ministries and we believe Allen Buck is the right leader to continue developing these strong friendships and healing bonds,” Day said. “The need and ministry have grown so much that we cannot wait any longer.”
Grant funding and conferences support will not be enough to develop and sustain the project long-term, which is why the Greater Northwest Area has established a Circle of Indigenous Ministries fund so that individuals may contribute to this growing ministry in the life of the church.
As the incoming director of the new Circle of Indigenous Ministries, Buck said he could use everyone’s prayers as he embarks on this exciting new journey in ministry.
“Pray for us and help us make sure this becomes the priority it needs to be,” he said.