Beyond Weapons of War

Beyond Weapons of War

Let all that you do be done in love.

1 Corinthians 16:14


November 22, 2022

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

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A call to prayer and action for Tonga

A call to prayer and action for Tonga


Thursday, January 20, 2022

Credit: Japan Meteorology Agency via AP.

Beloved in Christ, 

Last evening cabinet members and I gathered on Zoom with Tongan pastors in the Greater Northwest Area (GNW) to pray for the safety and recovery of the people in Tonga following the volcanic eruption and tsunamis. They shared the latest information they have heard through media and the few reports received from family and friends in Tonga. As a community, Tongans are dispersed around the world.

“Tonga is home to 106,000 people, but more than double that number live overseas, mainly in the US, New Zealand, and Australia. Remittances from the overseas population have been declining since the onset of the 2008 global economic crisis. The tourism industry is improving but remains modest at under 90,000 tourists per year.” – via Wikipedia 

The Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga is the largest religious group on the islands, representing 36% of the population. Christianity was introduced to Tonga in 1822 by Methodist missionaries, pre-dating the arrival of Methodism in the Northwest in 1834, when Methodist missionary Jason Lee arrived at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River. Tongans are our spiritual elders, embracing the Methodist movement ten years earlier than Northwesterners.

When Tongans immigrated to the GNW, they turned to The United Methodist Church to establish faith communities. Today Tongans gather for worship in six local churches or fellowships that identify as Tongan and are active members of many more congregations. 

I am asking you to do two things before the end of January:
Pray and Act.

1. PRAY for the people of Tonga and their leaders as they work to respond to the immediate crisis. Pray for encouragement in the long, silent waiting; pray for rain to clean the air and settle the ash that has fallen everywhere. 

Rev. Sia Puloka reminded us that “What Tonga needs is your love. We haven’t heard. We cannot be there. But Jesus is there. Your prayer to Jesus is what Tonga needs.” Pray for hospitality and shelter for those who have lost their homes. Pray for no more eruptions and for quick repair of the communication cable that is their lifeline to the world.  

Pray also for our GNW siblings in Christ and their faith communities as they wait for word of their relatives and friends in Tonga. They reminded us last night that, while we cannot be present, our prayers can still encircle them.

And, as you pray, please go to the Facebook pages of these faith communities or their pastors and post your prayers and words of encouragement. We must open our hearts to share this tragedy with those most affected.

2. ACT to share resources in Tonga’s time of need. We are preparing to help the recovery effort in Tonga, where many homes are destroyed and ash blankets the land, killing crops, polluting air, water, and fish, the primary source of protein.   

    Rev. Taufoou mentioned that disasters like in Tonga, and Tongans in other countries are used to sending supplies to help their families recover. But, he said, “this will be a long journey. There may be another eruption; now ashes cover the kingdom. We must send relief for more than our families, for the whole Kingdom.”    

    I encourage you to designate donations to your local church for “Tongan Relief” now. At the same time, we are working to determine the best channel for these funds, perhaps through partners in New Zealand, which can deliver goods to Tonga much quicker than from the United States. Your gifts can be sent to your Annual Conference with this designation and will be channeled for this purpose.

    Joining with you in offering prayer and hope,

    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky


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    Advent Message 2021

    An Advent message for the Greater Northwest Area from Bishop Elaine Stanovsky

    Wednesday, December 1, 2021 | en español

    Having trouble? Watch this video on Vimeo!

    Transcript

    “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

    Grace to you this morning, we are well into the holiday season, the holy holiday season. And I have not been speaking to you, my people across the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church much lately. Time and again, I have thought I want to give a good word, to share good news with the people that I serve with. And yet, the words have not come.

    So, I want to start this morning just by saying thank you again. I hope you’ve heard me say thank you before. This has been an awkward and difficult and trying season and you have kept alive, most of you. And we mourn those who have not made it through this pandemic for reasons of COVID or other life circumstances and health circumstances that have taken their lives.

    But those of you who are listening to this message, who are hearing this message today, you are alive and you’re serving and you’re caring, you’re struggling at times. Thank you. God works through us. Whether we feel up to the task or not. People find blessing in us. And so, we get up each morning, we greet the sun, and we go on, as best we can, spreading love and hope and tenderness to the people that we encounter. So, thank you. Thank you, God bless you and keep you.

    It is a strange and disorienting time, though, isn’t it? Don’t you find it so? I certainly do. There are so many urgent matters to give our attention to, to open our hearts to, to learn about, to respond to with compassion and understanding. Every time I think about bringing you a good word, I find myself caught.

    Shall I speak about the climate and the flooding and the wildfires and the need to move away from fossil fuels and find new sustainable sources of energy?

    Shall I speak to you about COVID and the deaths and the dangers and the trials of not being able to gather and sing together?

    Shall I speak to you of January 6 and the divisions that seem to be separating us as people in our nation and threatening the very foundation of civil society?

    Shall I speak to you about racism and the trials of Rittenhouse and the people who killed Ahmaud Arbery and Charlottesville and the danger of losing voting rights?

    Each time I think about what to speak to you about, I think, if I speak one word, it leaves unspoken those other words, and we carry it all, all at the same time. And yet we can’t speak of it all at the same time. And so, I have found myself in a season of silence. Not because I don’t feel deeply, not because I’m not attuned with what you’re struggling with, with what the world is struggling with. But I find myself unable to speak because it is so broad and so deep and there’s so much, it’s hard to know where to begin.

    I turned to scripture, into prayer, deeply in the last couple of weeks to prepare for this message and what I found there were two great stories in the Gospel of Luke of people being drawn into stillness.

    The first is from Luke 1 and it’s the song of Zechariah. You remember Zechariah is married to Elizabeth and Elizabeth becomes pregnant with the baby that will become John the Baptist. And Zechariah receives this announcement and is puzzled by it and doesn’t quite trust it. He and Elizabeth are older and not sure they can have children. And so, he questions the angel that brings him this news. And the angel strikes him silent, takes his voice away for doubting the word from God.

    And he sits in silence, then until you recall that Elizabeth gives birth, the baby is born. They’re going to name it Zechariah after his father, and Mary says, “No, his name is John.” And that people turn to Zechariah and say, “What do you say about this? What do you think, shouldn’t the baby be named after you?” And Zechariah gets his voice back, his voice returns. And he says, he doesn’t say I want to name him, John. He doesn’t say I name him John. He says, “His name is John” as if it comes from beyond. It’s a powerful moment in the scripture.

    And then I’m drawn also to Mary. And all that she pondered in her heart as the world was swirling around her and she had given birth to this new baby and shepherds and angels, and the sky opened up and prophets are speaking, and she speaks a word. But then she ponders it all in her heart.

    The writers of the Bible, know what we’re going through – the fear, the disorientation, the danger, the displacement, exclusion, betrayal, the plagues. They know it all, it’s all in the story. It’s not a happy Christmas Eve story with babies in and animals in a barnyard and halos. It’s also a story of deep displacement, disregard, flight. And yet, it’s a story that invites us to wait, to find our own silence, to anticipate, not to wait passively, but to anticipate and watch for and prepare for, and live in hope.

    Because the core of the scripture is the message that what’s going on around us what we see with our eyes, what we hear with our ears, what we experience in the complex and unpredictable social lives we lead isn’t everything, that beneath it, there is a spirit. There is a place where our souls live, there is a place where God who watches and tends the whole complexity of our lives, tends to us, plans for a good future, and invites us to partner in creating that future.

    So here we are. We’re invited into this season of Advent which is all about coming. Advent means coming. It’s about God coming into the world, yes, in the baby Jesus. But God coming every year as we celebrate Advent, every day, as we awaken to the dawn, to lead us in new ways, to teach us new things, to invite us to participate in our own lives in the world with open eyes, and new awareness.

    I want to read to you Psalm 46 this morning. You can hear this as foolish optimism, superficial wishful thinking, or you can hear it as an invitation to look for where the goodness and the hopefulness that God promises is alive and being born in the world.

    Our defense is sure, our shelter and help in trouble, God never stands far off. So we stand unshaken when solid earth cracks and volcanoes slide into the sea. When breakers rage and mountains tremble, the Lord of cosmic power, Jacob’s God, will shield us.

    A river delights the City of God, home of the Holy One most high. With God there, the city stands. God defends it under attack. Nation’s rage, empires fall. God speaks, the earth melts. The Lord of cosmic power, Jacob’s God, will shield us.

    Come, see the wonders God does across the earth. Everywhere stopping wars, smashing, crushing, burning all the weapons of wars. An end to your fighting. “Acknowledge me as God,” God says. High over nations, high over Earth, the Lord of cosmic power, Jacob’s God, will shield us.

    And so, in the season of Advent, we wait. We anticipate. We prepare. We hope for what the scripture tells us is the truth we sometimes cannot see.

    Be still. Be still with Zechariah. Be still with Mary. Be still with Job. Be still with Jesus in the garden.

    Don’t be consumed by what you see on television or on social media. Watch for help in trouble. Notice where our world, our city, our neighborhoods are being made glad.

    Pray with me this breathing prayer. Come, Jesus, be born in us today. Come, Jesus, be born in us today. Come, Jesus, be born in us today. And see if you can get up about seven in the morning or a little bit earlier and to look outdoors, find a place that looks east and see if you can see the sun rising.

    “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

    May it be so for you, for your congregation, for your neighborhood and for God’s amazing wide world.

    Amen.

    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

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    Greater Northwest Area Cabinet encourages vaccination as an act of love

    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

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    An update on my retirement plans

    Greater Northwest Area clergy and lay members of Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences,

    Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
    looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of our faith…

    After deep reflection, conversation with my family and consultation with trusted colleagues, I am withdrawing my request for retirement, effective January 2022, to continue my assignment to the Greater Northwest Area. I hope and pray that postponing retirement will relieve anxiety and contribute to an orderly transition of leadership for all the conferences in the Western Jurisdiction during this extended pandemic interruption of normalcy. I am not naming a new retirement date at this time but hope that it might follow in-person general and jurisdictional conferences in 2022, with the election and assignments of new bishops, for a new quadrennium, beginning January 1, 2023.

    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

    I never intended my retirement to add to the uncertainty of this wilderness passage. I originally named January 1, 2022 as my retirement date so that my retirement would coincide with that of Bishop Hoshibata and possibly, Bishop Hagiya. At the time, we anticipated regular in-person general and jurisdictional conferences in the fall of 2021, when new bishops might be elected to begin serving as the new quadrennium began with the new year.

    Since that request, general and jurisdictional conferences have been put off again, further postponing the election and assignment of new bishops. In light of these delays, the timing of my requested retirement is no longer helpful.

    I have a renewed sense of focused mission for this extension of my active service and look forward to continuing to work with lay and clergy leadership of the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences.

    Jesus is nudging and tugging the church to engage people and communities with the faith, hope and love of Jesus Christ in ways that bind up wounds, transform lives and overturn systems of exclusion and inequity. We can’t stop now.

    I’m still running the race with Jesus. Won’t you pull up your socks, tie your shoelaces, strengthen your weak knees, and join me for the next leg of the race?

    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

    Two important announcements for the Greater Northwest Area

    Beloved in Christ, 

    I write to you today with two announcements that will impact the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church this year.

    On Epiphany, I requested voluntary retirement as a bishop in The United Methodist Church, effective December 31, 2021. Today, I share this news with you.

    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

    It seems too early to announce my retirement long before it arrives, but the many steps that proceed the assignment of a new bishop demand it. This is truer this year, with denominational strife, the ongoing pandemic, and the financial consequences of each creating additional uncertainty for our United Methodist connection.

    While I regret that my retirement may add to the burden of others, I am convinced that this is the right time and the right action for me personally. I will continue to work diligently with conference leaders through the year to prepare for whatever and whoever comes next. And I trust that God continues to move in the hearts of the faithful to raise up leaders for the next stage of the journey.

    The other news I share is less personal but will impact us all the same.

    Given the continuing presence of COVID-19 in our communities, we now expect to hold Annual Conference 2021, once again, remotely online.

    While a date change is possible, please continue to hold the announced dates, June 9-12, 2021, as we explore alternative possibilities — including multiple virtual sessions. We expect to know more soon as decisions are made about plans for delayed general and jurisdictional conferences.

    We’ll let members of each Annual Conference know more information as it becomes available.

    Despite the many challenges and transitions life brings, in faith, we know that love lives on. Please know that I continue to hold the people and ministries of the Greater Northwest Area in my prayers as we witness this truth together, though still apart from one another.

    With gratitude and hope,

    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

    Preface to COVID-19 Notice # 9, October 23, 2020

    Preface to COVID-19 Notice # 9


    October 23, 2020

    Next week I hope to issue COVID-19 Notice #9. Today I’ll set the stage, and invite you to pray and study with me about the wilderness we find ourselves in. 

    THE PANDEMIC

    Headline: yesterday reported the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States since the beginning of the pandemic. By the end of February, COVID-19 deaths are projected to double to 500,000[i] – about equal to the US death toll from World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars combined. Cases have been on the rise in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington states since early September. 

    THE SEASON

    Snow fell overnight and has turned to rain at our house in the Cascade mountains. By the winter solstice, Nome, Alaska, will see fewer than 4 hours of sunlight; Boise, Idaho, about 9 hours; most of Washington and Oregon about 8.5 hours. Temperatures are falling, and many days are overcast and rainy or snowy. Winter is coming to the Northwest, driving many people indoors and inward with depression. 

    WE, THE PEOPLE are living with a deadly virus, churches closed to most gatherings, virtual school and work from home, financial insecurity and job loss, rising domestic violence, addiction, suicide and national political unrest. People are crying out to meet in person for worship. We, the people live at the intersection of conflicting values: protection from the virus vs. emotional/spiritual/mental health and personal freedom. 

    GOD’S VIEW

    God sees the headlines and aches for each and every life that is taken by the virus, for all the exhausted workers, stretching to meet every need. 

    God sees the darkening moods, and the shortened tempers that come with the changing seasons.

    God feels the fatigue as days become weeks and months and nearly a whole year.

    God knows the hunger in our hearts to be together, share a long-delayed hug and sing aloud and together the songs of faith:

    • I’ll praise my maker while I’ve breath…
    • Cantemos al Señor…
    • O, for a thousand tongues to sing…
    • I’m gonna sing when the Spirit says sing…
    • How can I keep from singing?…

    I’m asking how God would have me lead in this moment and I invite you to join me in study and prayer so that you know what informs me as I prepare COVID-Notice #9. 

    1. This week I find the latest COVID-19 statistics for your county at covidactnow.org by clicking on the map of your state and then selecting your county. See for yourself how the virus is affecting your county:
      1. What is the risk of COVID outbreak in your State? How does the risk level compare to a neighboring state?
      2. Now, select your county from the list on the state page. What is the risk of COVID outbreak in your county? How does it compare to the whole state?
      3. How many cases of COVID are reported per 100,000 people in the county?
      4. Are the number of cases in the county rising or falling?
      5. How do the number of cases today compare to the number in April or July?
      6. What is the infection rate in your county? How does it compare to the infection rate for the whole state? Is it about 1% or less, indicating slow spread?
    2. Pray that God will show us what it means to love God with our whole hearts, minds, souls and strength and our neighbors as ourselves during these unpredictable days.
    3. By November 1, watch for new guidance about how United Methodists will continue to adapt to the challenges we face.

    In prayerful reflection,

    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
    Greater NW Episcopal Area

    Next week I hope to issue COVID-19 Notice #9. Today I’ll set the stage, and invite you to pray and study with me about the wilderness we find ourselves in. 

    THE PANDEMIC

    Headline: yesterday reported the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in the United States since the beginning of the pandemic. By the end of February, COVID-19 deaths are projected to double to 500,000[i] – about equal to the US death toll from World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars combined. Cases have been on the rise in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington states since early September. 

    THE SEASON

    Snow fell overnight and has turned to rain at our house in the Cascade mountains. By the winter solstice, Nome, Alaska, will see fewer than 4 hours of sunlight; Boise, Idaho, about 9 hours; most of Washington and Oregon about 8.5 hours. Temperatures are falling, and many days are overcast and rainy or snowy. Winter is coming to the Northwest, driving many people indoors and inward with depression. 

    WE, THE PEOPLE are living with a deadly virus, churches closed to most gatherings, virtual school and work from home, financial insecurity and job loss, rising domestic violence, addiction, suicide and national political unrest. People are crying out to meet in person for worship. We, the people live at the intersection of conflicting values: protection from the virus vs. emotional/spiritual/mental health and personal freedom. 

    GOD’S VIEW

    God sees the headlines and aches for each and every life that is taken by the virus, for all the exhausted workers, stretching to meet every need. 

    God sees the darkening moods, and the shortened tempers that come with the changing seasons.

    God feels the fatigue as days become weeks and months and nearly a whole year.

    God knows the hunger in our hearts to be together, share a long-delayed hug and sing aloud and together the songs of faith:

    • I’ll praise my maker while I’ve breath…
    • Cantemos al Señor…
    • O, for a thousand tongues to sing…
    • I’m gonna sing when the Spirit says sing…
    • How can I keep from singing?…

    I’m asking how God would have me lead in this moment and I invite you to join me in study and prayer so that you know what informs me as I prepare COVID-Notice #9. 

    1. This week I find the latest COVID-19 statistics for your county at covidactnow.org by clicking on the map of your state and then selecting your county. See for yourself how the virus is affecting your county:
      1. What is the risk of COVID outbreak in your State? How does the risk level compare to a neighboring state?
      2. Now, select your county from the list on the state page. What is the risk of COVID outbreak in your county? How does it compare to the whole state?
      3. How many cases of COVID are reported per 100,000 people in the county?
      4. Are the number of cases in the county rising or falling?
      5. How do the number of cases today compare to the number in April or July?
      6. What is the infection rate in your county? How does it compare to the infection rate for the whole state? Is it about 1% or less, indicating slow spread?
    2. Pray that God will show us what it means to love God with our whole hearts, minds, souls and strength and our neighbors as ourselves during these unpredictable days.
    3. By November 1, watch for new guidance about how United Methodists will continue to adapt to the challenges we face.

    In prayerful reflection,

    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
    Greater NW Episcopal Area


    Episcopal Address Part 3 | The United or Untied Methodist Church – shaping the future of the Church?

    The United or Untied Methodist Church – shaping the future of the Church?

    Episcopal Address Part III  (Part IPart II) | September 16, 2020

    Remember February of 2019?

    General Conference met in St. Louis, Missouri, with high hopes that The United Methodist Church would adopt “The One Church Plan,” eliminating the prohibitions and punishments which have marginalized and excluded full participation of LGBTQ+ people in the Church and its ministries for nearly 40 years. When the plan failed, hopes crashed and the General Conference ended in open anger and hostility, while conversations began across the church about what needed to happen next.

    How can United Methodists who cannot tolerate the exclusive policies and practices resist? Hang banners outside the church, run newspaper ads, withhold apportionments, plan to leave the denomination? Should we try again at another General Conference? Should the denomination plan for an orderly separation with fair division of assets to be presented to the next General Conference? Should we abandon the idea of a global church, and give more autonomy to national or regional churches? One thing we quickly realized is that we needed to intentionally invite into leadership as we shape the future that they will carry forward.

    A year ago, I called together a Guiding Coalition of diverse leaders from the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences. It organized into ten working groups that began to look at options for the future. 

    And then COVID-19 grabbed our attention, threatening the very health of the nation and world. It became the critical focus as we adjusted every aspect of our lives to keep safe and prevent the spread of the disease. Concern for the future of The United Methodist Church receded into the background. Almost everything we understand as Church moved online. Conferences were cancelled or postponed and conducted remotely like this one.

    And then the world saw George Floyd, with a policeman’s knee on his neck, struggle, plead, call for his Mama and die on a street in Minneapolis. Again, the headlines shifted, attention focused on real and present systemic racism in America. People cried out, rose up and poured out into the streets to demand racial justice and equity.

    We live in a different world today than we did even a year ago. These movements are overwhelming. They demand all our attention and resources. We are weary. But no rest for the weary.

    As wildfires rage across the West, we find ourselves in another crisis in Oregon and Washington, and to a lesser degree, to this point, in Idaho. And the church digs deeper, finds reserves it did not know it had, invents new ways to mobilize to offer relief to people who are evacuated, homeless, and stricken by sooty, ashen air.

    Disaster response volunteers are working with district superintendents, local church pastors and laity, our Hispanic ministry coordinator and communicators to provide emergency shelter – a necessary service. They are also responding to the need to store the personal belongings of people who have evacuated in church buildings that have been closed for months. All the while they adopt practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The faithfulness, courage, and generosity of the churches is urgently needed and ready in this time of uncertainty. And the “connections” The United Methodist Church brings to these crises are the blessings of generations of faithful folks who have given, organized, volunteered, prayed, and reached out.

    United or Untied: what is the future of United Methodism?

    I think about this as a telescoping question, beginning in every local church, and expanding out until it includes the whole global UMC.

    At the Center: Local Churches 

    At the center of questions about United Methodism is the local church. We know, going back to Paul’s church in Corinth, that every local church struggles to have a center that is strong enough to hold people together despite strong differences of understanding, practice, opinion and actions. This is nothing new, though it looks different in every generation and every location. Churches fight about anything and everything: music, the color of the carpet, worship time, Sunday school curriculum, who should have keys to the building, or the kitchen. And they fight about abortion, gun rights, human sexuality and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in its ministries.  Divisions have become even more intense as attitudes toward the pandemic, racism and LGBTQ+ inclusion have become politicized and threaten to divide congregations that have lived in peace for decades.

    First Ring: The Alaska Conference

    The Alaska Conference, which is 49 years old, is asking to become a mission district in the Pacific Northwest Conference. This proposal will come before the Annual, General and Jurisdictional Conferences in 2021. What will life together look like if this proposal is adopted next year? What must we be doing now, planning now, changing now to fully embrace Alaska in the PNW?

    Second Ring: The Greater Northwest Area – Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences

    What does it mean that the area shares one bishop? It’s easy to see it as a burden – less bishop per conference. Even as the churches and communities across the Greater Northwest decline and struggle to connect with new generations and new populations in their communities, we are learning that as we work together across conference lines, we often expand our capacity, our innovation, our community engagement, our connectional strength. Cooperation across conference lines has blossomed during COVID-19 and now in response to the wildfires that are ravaging Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. Crisis response, communications, Grocery Gift Cards for Families and the Fund for Families, all benefited from cross-conference collaboration.

    • Let’s hear it for disaster response volunteers and the district superintendents who have worked as a crisis management team consistently from the earliest days of the pandemic, to learn the best science as it emerged, to listen to the best advice, and to lead our churches to put health and life first, and to adjust and limit their activities to prevent spread of the virus. Oh, and they just secured two $10,000 UMCOR emergency grants, one for Pacific Northwest and one for Oregon-Idaho Conference, to provide relief to victims of the wildfires. And they are working with district superintendents to help local churches that have been closed for months, open to provide emergency shelter and other relief services.
    • Let’s hear it for conference communicators, who have worked tirelessly during COVID-19 to help us keep connected while we were staying at home, closing church buildings, and learning to worship, pray and give online. Communicators from the three conferences have worked together to provide timely updates on the pandemic, host weekly webinars on topics like online worship and giving, providing pastoral care, staying healthy. They promoted the best practices for hygiene, including a campaign to sew and wear masks. They helped local churches learn to use Zoom, Facebook and other platforms for online worship and meetings. They published notices to local churches on staying safe, postponing in-person worship and Reimagining Life Together. They produced online Easter Worship available across the area, and resources for local churches to incorporate into online Pentecost worship.
    • Let’s hear it for the Innovation Vitality (IV) Team, that initiates and supports innovative ministry projects across the area, within existing churches and with new leaders working in communities our churches don’t reach. 

    Now take a deep breath. I’m going to ask a question that I mostly hear in whispered tones:

    Is it time for the conferences to merge into one?  

    Hear me. I know that simply uttering this question causes some blood pressure to rise, and other blood to boil. I have been slow to consider this question until and unless it arises from within the area. Friends, this question is arising from within the area. We can pretend we don’t hear it, but it’s being asked. And as it is asked, I hear two responses: 

    1. This is the time to merge into the Greater Northwest Conference – when everything is disrupted already, and we are working well together, and
    2. Never! The conferences have distinctive cultures, history. We don’t want to lose that. We’ll get lost in a bigger conference.

    We owe it to ourselves and to each other to have this conversation, and to ask: Where is God leading us? Where are we finding new life?

    The Western Jurisdiction

    Our jurisdiction has more unanimity about the divisive questions of LGBTQ+ inclusion than almost any other sector of the Church. LGBTQ+ clergy have been ordained and survived in ministry, and LGBTQ+ weddings have been performed in every conference in the West. So, what does the future look for in the West? If the main branch of United Methodism continues to prohibit and punish LGBTQ+ inclusion, what is to become of the Western Jurisdiction? Can it remain part of a church that excludes or marginalizes LGBTQ+ people, working and praying for another General Conference to solve the conflict? Across the United States and around the world, United Methodists who are LGBTQ+ inclusive look to the Western Jurisdiction to lead. What might that look like? How do we have those conversations? God didn’t lead United Methodists in the West out of the slavery of homophobia to let us wander eternally in the present wilderness. We search for the path to promises fulfilled.

    The United Methodist Church

    For nearly 40 years our church has struggled to reach a consensus about inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the life and ministry of the Church. But it hasn’t been just about human sexuality. Some strategic people chose this as the issue over which to divide the church. This conflict came to intense and agonizing conflict at the General Conferences held in 2016 and 2019, with no resolution. It does not appear that United Methodists can remain together in the one, global church we have been since 1968. So, what will become of this one great “connectional” church of 12 million members worldwide when the ties that bind us stretch and break? Will it break into national churches? Will it splinter into many small fragments based on worship style, inclusive language, sexual identity and orientation or social policy? Will every local church have to decide who to affiliate with? Or will Annual Conferences make this decision, forcing some local churches to vote to stay or withdraw from their Annual Conference? How will property and other assets be divided? And most importantly, what will the division be for?  What purpose will it serve?  What vision is God leading us toward? Who do we want to be for one another and how does God want us to transform the world? 

    The existential question we face in the Greater Northwest is, will we stay together? Do we want to stay together? Do we love each other enough, to stay in communion with one another despite real differences? The annual conferences of the Greater Northwest Area have been LGBTQ+ inclusive for many years. LGBTQ+ inclusion is already part of the identity of United Methodism in the area. And we have had a commitment to include ministries with immigrant people, and to be racially and ethnically diverse. Both urban and rural. Young and old. Red and blue.

    But we fall short of our own inclusive aspirations. And we squabble over which diverse communities can stay together and which ones are incompatible. Between now and General Conference in September 2021, we need to test and grow our faith to a deeper level where we trust that Jesus gives us One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism, even though we live out our faith in different ways. At the core we are not divided. Our gifts all serve one Savior, who gives us the grace to live, worship and serve together. We can endure this rough patch if we stay in relationship, if we learn to talk about what we hold most close, if we let love bind us together with cords that cannot be broken. 

    A year ago, when I called the Guiding Coalition and its working groups, we started to explore the complicated questions surrounding our United Methodist Future. When COVID hit in the spring, we all shifted our focus from the future of United Methodism to the immediate present. All except one group that called itself “Weaving a Grassroots Connection.” The members of the group continued to experiment with initiating conversations among people in The United Methodist Church about why they are United Methodist. They had a great time doing it. And they want to help us all have these conversations. Watch this first fruit example of their efforts.

    They believe, and I believe that if we grow to know and love one another, we will be united and connected in the love and grace of Jesus Christ. What was it Jesus said? “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20). What would Jesus do with us if we gathered in small gatherings, learned to love each other, and asked him what he wants for us? What if the “connection” became personal instead of institutional? What if it was about loving relationships with one another, about how a local church relates to its community or how one local church comes alongside another local church in times of joy and distress – to share each other’s burdens? What if the future of United Methodism rested on a weaving of connections between people who are learning to see, know and love each other? Now that would be a strong connection.

    So, my friends, my siblings, and cousins, my neighbors and you who may be strangers – I invite you to be the hopeful, faithful, loving, courageous, audacious, humble people that God, in holy scripture, invites us to be. We can stop the spread of a deadly virus. We can root out racism and create beloved community. We can and we will recover from flood, earthquake, storm, and wildfire. We can be a “big tent” church, where people can journey with each other, in the presence of Jesus, toward a future where everyone has a place, and the parts all fit together. We might even be able to save the planet and all the teaming creatures that call it home.

    When faced with a very difficult assignment that the disciples did not feel capable of, Jesus said to them, “truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20)

    How do we move forward together?

    For the next 15 months, the Greater Northwest Cabinet is committed to focusing our leadership on three ministry foci:

    • Do No Harm

      Fighting COVID-19

    • Do Good

      Dismantling Racism
    • Stay in Love with God

      Weaving a Connectional Future for United Methodism

    Alongside these priorities, we will, of course, help our churches provide relief to people harmed by wildfire. And we will always keep our eyes on the horizon to receive what comes our way of blessing or curse and respond with love. This is what love requires. And what is possible – with the faith of a mustard seed.

    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
    Greater Northwest Episcopal Area

    Responding to Wildfires across the Greater Northwest Area

    Responding to Wildfires across the Greater Northwest Area

    Friends in the Greater Northwest Area,

    United Methodist leaders from across our area have been meeting to monitor and respond to the wildfires ravaging our land and threatening many communities across Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. People in many areas have evacuated or are preparing to evacuate from their homes. If you are not in immediate danger, you may be like many ­others who see and taste these wildfires in smoke-filled skies and with every breath we take.

    People of faith want to do good in the face of danger, but we need to work to ensure that the good we intend does not accidentally do harm. Because of the massive evacuations being issued across our states, and because our churches and ministry settings are committed to doing no harm, doing good, and staying in love with God, an addendum has been added to the Reimagining Life Together guidelines for our church and ministry settings to guide United Methodist responses to the wild fire crisis.

    As we seek to respond to these wildfires, I acknowledge how weary everyone is right now from these demands, on top of coronavirus, on top of dismantling racism, on top of escalating partisanship that is eroding our ability to work together for the common good. Amazing disaster response teams in the Greater Northwest Area act as the hands and feet of Jesus in communities across the area and in partnership with local churches. When a disaster strikes, survivors often lose so much – the roof over their heads and other property, livelihoods, even loved ones. These wildfires show how devastating these disasters can be. Yet this year it seems like one crisis erupts on top of the next.

    And so, we call out to God, seeking mercy. Seeking relief. Seeking just one day when we do not feel danger near at hand and it doesn’t feel like the weight of the world is on each of our shoulders.

    ADDENDUM to Reimagining Life Together for 2020 Northwest Wildfire Relief

    Effective September 11, 2020

    For Wildfire Relief only, this addendum supersedes the Disaster Response guidance in the Reimagining document.

    Ministry settings planning to provide relief support in their communities will work with their District Superintendent (local churches) or Director of Connectional Ministries (other ministry settings) to discuss the community need and the request from a local government authority and/or established disaster response agencies (such as the Red Cross) for relief support.  District Superintendents or Directors of Connectional Ministry must approve plans to use church facilities for wildfire relief support activities.

    Join me in praying for the safety of our friends and neighbors and for those who have already suffered loss of life. Join me in praying for the first responders and wild land firefighters putting themselves in harm’s way to help others seek shelter, save homes and property. Join me in praying for God’s good creation, that we may tend to her more carefully.

    Join me, also, in a call to action through our gifts of financial resources. We know some of our communities have already been decimated by fire and know there are others in potential danger.

    I am grateful to report that the Pacific Northwest and Oregon-Idaho Conferences have each received emergency grants of $10,000 from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to support response efforts. But it’s just a drop in the bucket of what will be needed.

    In the Oregon-Idaho Conference, you can give online to the Conference Disaster Response Fund.

    Give Online to OR-ID Disaster Response Fund

    You can also give to the OR-ID Conference’s Disaster Response Fund (Fund #260) through your local church or by sending a check made out to the Oregon-Idaho Conference Treasurer with Conference Advance #260 on the memo line to:

    Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Center
    ℅ Conference Treasurer
    1505 SW 18th Avenue
    Portland, Oregon, 97201-2524

    In the Pacific Northwest Conference, you can give online to the Conference Disaster Response Fund.

    Give Online to PNW Disaster Response Fund

    You can also give PNW Conference’s Disaster Response Fund (Advance #352) through your local church or by sending a check made out to the PNW Conference Treasurer with Conference Advance #352 on the memo line to:

    Pacific Northwest Conference Office
    ℅ Conference Treasurer
    P.O. Box 13650
    Des Moines, WA 98198 

    Finally, local church leaders, please stay in touch with your District Superintendents if your community is impacted by wildfire. Let your superintendent know what is going on in your community and what your church is doing – or has been asked to do – in response. Your superintendent will coordinate with the conference disaster response coordinator to help support your work during this crisis.

    Stay safe my friends, and know the steadfast love of God each day.

    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
    Greater Northwest Episcopal Area

    Discurso episcopal Parte II

    Convirtiéndonos en anti-racistas: desmantelando el racismo

    Discurso episcopal Parte II (Parte I) | 8 de septiembre de 2020

    En fidelidad al modelo de inclusividad de Jesús sobre el amor y la justicia, como obispa del Gran Área del Noroeste de la Iglesia Metodista Unida, estoy comprometida a liderar a los Metodistas Unidos en la Conferencia de Alaska, la Conferencia de Oregón-Idaho y la Conferencia del Noroeste del Pacífico para desmantelar el racismo sistémico en la iglesia y en toda la sociedad como una prioridad misional de largo alcance.

    El Pecado Original es tomar lo que no es tuyo.

    Después de estudiar las Escrituras y observar cómo las personas abusan de su poder de muchas maneras ingeniosas, he llegado a creer que el pecado original es tomar lo que no es tuyo. Piense en Adán y Eva en el jardín con abundantes alimentos, animales y plantas, proporcionados por un Creador generoso. Buen clima. Buena compañía. Y todo lo que Dios les pide es que no toquen un árbol. Tu puedes tenerlo todo. Disfruta de todo en este jardín, pero no comas la fruta de este árbol. Pero no pudieron resistir la tentación. Tomaron la fruta que no era de ellos y se la comieron.  

    Con este pequeño acto, se rompió todo el equilibrio entre el creador y las criaturas humanas.

    Tomar lo que no es tuyo no es solo el pecado original, es un pecado impregnado en toda la familia humana. ¿Qué crees que es la violación o el tráfico sexual, es sino una invasión de los derechos sobre el cuerpo, la privacidad y la autonomía de otra persona?

    ¿Cuál es la negativa a reconocer el autoconocimiento y la identificación de una persona como LGBTQ? ¿El abuso infantil no le roba al niño/a la inocencia, la confianza y la seguridad? ¿Qué es la confiscación y expulsión de los nativos americanos de sus tierras ancestrales y la represión de sus idiomas y culturas, sino una toma de lo que no es tuyo?  El internamiento de japoneses estadounidenses durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Invasiones y ocupaciones armadas. Piense en la separación de los niños/as de sus padres en la frontera entre Estados Unidos y México. Los empleadores que toman cruelmente la salud de los trabajadores al exponerlos a pesticidas, polvo de carbón o COVID-19. Los seres humanos son astutos en la forma en que se niegan unos a otros la plenitud de la vida que Jesús vino a darnos para que la disfrutemos (Juan 10:10).  Lo que pasa con el pecado original es que es difícil renunciar al dulce sabor de la manzana robada.

    Hoy quiero hablar con ustedes sobre el pecado original de la esclavitud y su legado perdurable de racismo, especialmente, aunque no exclusivamente, el racismo anti-negro en Estados Unidos.

    Una palabra profética para mis hermanos que son victimas del racismo sistémico

    Isaías 54

    11 ¡Oh, afligido, azotado por la tormenta y no consolado,….
    13 Todos tus hijos serán enseñados por el Señor,
        y grande será la prosperidad de tus hijos.
    14 En justicia serás establecido;
        estarás lejos de la opresión, y nada tendrás que temer;
        y el terror se apartara de ti, porque no se acercará a ti.
    15 Si alguno suscita contiendas,
        no ser de mi parte;
        el que suscita contiendas contigo
        caerá ante ti….
    17 Ningún arma que se forme contra ti prosperará,
        y refutarás toda lengua que se levante contra ti en juicio.
        Esta es la herencia de los siervos del Señor
        y su reivindicación de mí, dice el Señor.

    Amigos, les hablo primero a ustedes que sufren a manos de los opresores, a ustedes, a quienes no se les ha mostrado dignidad y respeto, ni se les han otorgado los derechos que Dios soplo a cada miembro de la familia humana en la creación.

    Me dirijo, en particular, a aquellos que llevan la carga acumulada de siglos – generaciones – de supremacía blanca, y que diariamente sienten la mirada de la desconfianza, la sospecha, la acusación, la exclusión, el odio, el rechazo.

    Estoy aprendiendo a escuchar y ver que en Estados Unidos, los sistemas que llamamos iguales, justos y equitativos – igualdad de oportunidades, justicia penal, vivienda justa – tienen injusticias y prejuicios incorporados. Estoy aprendiendo a escuchar y ver que el prejuicio racial implícito, [i] omnipresente entre la gente blanca en Estados Unidos, asegura que la policía blanca, maestros, jueces, oficiales de libertad condicional, congresistas, funcionarios electorales, asistentes de estacionamientos, vecinos y extraños lleven a cabo su trabajo y vidas con sospecha de las personas de color y con una preferencia que no es favor de los pobres y marginados, sino por los blancos. Esto es lo que se llama privilegio blanco.

    Estoy aprendiendo a oír y ver que durante más de 500 años, la iglesia cristiana ha concedido a los exploradores europeos permiso para “invadir, buscar, capturar, vencer y someter” a todos los musulmanes, paganos y enemigos de Cristo, “los reinos, los duques”. , principados, dominios, posesiones y todos los bienes muebles e inmuebles que posean para reducir a sus personas a la esclavitud perpetua … y convertirlos para su uso y beneficio ”. [ii]

    Estoy aprendiendo cómo en Estados Unidos, la esclavitud de los cuerpos negros no terminó con la abolición de la esclavitud y la emancipación de las personas esclavizadas, sino que la esclavitud continuó a través de la segregación de Jim Crow y la negación del voto a los ciudadanos negros. Cuando las Leyes de Derechos Civiles y Derecho al Voto desmantelaron la segregación de Jim Crow en la década de 1960, no se erradicó el control de los cuerpos y las vidas de los negros, se incrustó en otros lugares: la Guerra contra las Drogas, detención, registro, arrestos desproporcionados, condenas de negros ciudadanos, especialmente hombres, y en la negación de acceso a programas de asistencia pública, y el derecho a votar o servir en un jurado para delincuentes condenados. [iii]

    Los teléfonos inteligentes y las redes sociales han abierto una ventana a la opresión racial en Estados Unidos; que había sido negada, ocultada e ignorada durante generaciones.

    Recuerdo y vuelvo a decir sus nombres: Trayvon Martin, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Freddy Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland y muchos más que nunca llegaron a los titulares. Los desesperados últimos suspiros de George Floyd, grabados en video, y la implacable crueldad del oficial de la ley que le quitó la vida cuentan una historia innegable.  Ocho minutos y 46 segundos; cuando la rodilla del oficial presionó el cuello de George Floyd contra el pavimento, hubo mucho tiempo para que el oficial se detuviera, pensara y reevaluara la situación. Era tiempo suficiente para reconocer que el Sr. Floyd no era una amenaza para él, para reconocer que la presunta ofensa era una insignificancia comparada con la sentencia de muerte que el oficial ejecutó – mucho tiempo para escuchar la voz de Dios, y las voces de los transeúntes gritando: ” ¡DETENENTE! Este es mi hijo amado. Lo estás matando “. Y Ahmaud Arbery, perseguido por hombres que tenían un plan, lo acecharon y lo mataron. Rayshard Brooks, asesinado a tiros por la policía en un drive-thru de Wendy’s. Breonna Taylor, en su propia casa durmiendo. Jacob Blake, siete disparos por la espalda. Su disparo fue seguido unos días después por un justiciero blanco, armado con un arma semiautomática, que disparó y mató a dos manifestantes e hirió a un tercero. Que regresó a casa sin haber sido confrontado ni interrogado por la policía.

    Una palabra profética para mis hermanos blancos

    Isaías 55

    6 Busquen al Señor mientras pueda ser hallado,
        llámalo mientras está cerca;
    7 Dejen los impíos su camino,
        y los injustos sus pensamientos;
        que se vuelvan al Señor, para que él tenga misericordia de ellos,
        y a nuestro Dios, el cual será amplio en perdonar.
    8 Porque mis pensamientos no son los tuyos,
        ni tus caminos son los míos, dice el Señor.
    9 Porque así como los cielos son más altos que la tierra,
        así son mis caminos más altos que los tuyos
        y mis pensamientos que los tuyos.

    Dios miró al pueblo escogido de Dios y vio su pecado. Lo nombró y los llamó a rendir cuentas. Mientras leo este pasaje, escucho la voz de Dios hablando a los estadounidenses de la cultura dominante y a mí en esta temporada de levantamiento contra el racismo, diciendo: “Mis pensamientos no son tus pensamientos. Mis caminos no son los tuyos “.

    Lo torcido se enderezará y los caminos ásperos se allanaran (Lucas 3: 5). Deja el camino torcido que has recorrido todos estos años. Esto es una carga severa. Es difícil mirar hacia atrás a su vida, a las enseñanzas de su familia, escuela, iglesia y decir: “Espera un minuto. Quizás nos hemos equivocado en esto. Quizás necesitemos mirar de nuevo, pensar de nuevo, escuchar de nuevo. Tal vez la forma en que se ha ordenado nuestro mundo, todas las cosas que damos por sentado no están bien.

    Estoy aprendiendo a escuchar y ver que los estándares, normas y hábitos que me enseñaron a valorar no son universalmente compartidos por todas las personas de todas las culturas.  Lentamente, estoy aprendiendo que como líder, si simplemente, inconscientemente, dirijo de acuerdo con las normas culturales que son naturales para mí, inadvertidamente, inconscientemente perpetuaré formas de trabajar y relacionarme que no funcionan para muchos de sus miembros. Y continúo prácticas que silencian los dones, las percepciones y la sabiduría de personas criadas en diferentes contextos culturales. Estoy aprendiendo a reconocer que los blancos y los negros no comparten las mismas experiencias de vida o la misma memoria generacional e interpretación de la historia. Estas diferencias significan que vemos las formas del mundo que compartimos de manera muy diferente. Y cuando escucho a alguien decir algo desde una perspectiva diferente que no tiene sentido para mí y es contrario a cómo siempre lo he pensado, tal vez quiera decir, “¡eso es ridículo!” “Estás loco.” “Déjame mostrarte en qué estás equivocado”. “El mundo simplemente no funciona de esa manera, ¡no puede funcionar de esa manera!” “Déjame enseñarte de la manera correcta”.

    Ve, hasta que aprenda a tener oídos para oír, no puedo ver más allá de mi propia perspectiva cultural. Esto es lo que se llama normatividad cultural. [iv]

    Un momento revelador

    Una noche, tarde, me encontré viajando en un automóvil que le habían pedido prestado a un amigo nativo americano, que se lo había pedido prestado a un pariente.  El conductor era un colega negro con una mujer blanca rubia en el asiento del pasajero. Me senté con un joven filipino y un joven hispano gay en la parte de atrás. En una carretera rural oscura y remota de Oklahoma, nos detuvieron por una luz de la parte de atrás del carro que estaba rota. Ninguno de nosotros era de Oklahoma. Ni siquiera dos de nosotros éramos del mismo estado. No sabíamos el nombre de la persona de la cual estaba registrado el automóvil. En ese momento, experimenté algo de lo que no sabía nada: conducir cuando eres negro. Nuestro entrenamiento de conducción repentinamente serio y atento se puso en marcha:

    • Sea callado y respetuoso
    • Nadie habla excepto yo
    • No actúes. Nada de bromas
    • Sin movimientos rápidos

    No pasó nada malo esa noche, pero era fácil ver cómo podría haber sucedido, si el registro del automóvil o la licencia de conducir habían expirado, si había una multa de estacionamiento sin pagar o no había varios clérigos en el automóvil. Supongamos que nuestro conductor hubiera estado solo en el coche. Supongamos que el oficial hubiera estado de mal humor. ¿Quién hubiera sabido y dicho la verdad? Nunca dudaré del peligro real y el miedo de conducir mientras eres de la raza negra.

    Sin los videos, las inaceptables acciones policiales que presenciamos en ciudades de todo Estados Unidos nunca hubieran visto la luz del día. Se habría tejido una historia que “justificaba” acciones policiales injustificables:

    • el sospechoso estaba amenazando
    • la policía actuó en defensa propia o pensó que había un arma
    • la evidencia se pierde, se manipula o se suprime
    • los testigos no son creíbles
    • o simplemente no se presentan a testificar

    Debido a que los teléfonos inteligentes se han convertido en algo común, las personas pueden arrojar luz sobre un patrón de abuso de poder que no se ha reconocido ni abordado durante demasiado tiempo. El racismo endémico y sistémico ahora se enfrenta a los estadounidenses blancos que han podido fingir que no existía o que lo han tratado de explicar.

    Este año, en esta temporada, mientras vemos protestas que continúan después de cuatro meses, cada uno de nosotros tiene que decidir si prestar atención a la evidencia y reevaluar si el racismo está vivo y coleando en nuestro mundo, o si continuaremos engañándonos al negar la evidencia.

    ¿Continuaremos minimizando el papel del racismo en los eventos que vemos y adoptaremos teorías de conspiración que nos protegen de tener que enfrentar un pecado duro y profundo en nuestra sociedad?

    Por eso les hablo de esto hoy. Estados Unidos se ha roto desde que se podía ganar dinero secuestrando, encarcelando, enviando como cargamento a través del océano y literalmente entregando desde África cuerpos negros al nuevo mundo, llevando africanos, para venderlos a los que los esclavizaban para que construyeran la nación más rica del mundo a sus espaldas. Y todos estos años después, las profundas heridas causadas por ese pecado original no han sanado.

    Pero hoy tenemos la oportunidad, en esta generación, de aprender a escuchar y ver lo que no hemos querido admitir: que nuestra nación no es justa, los derechos no son iguales y los sistemas no son justos. Y tenemos la oportunidad de caminar con Jesús por un camino recto que podría conducir a una comunidad justa, equitativa y amada.

    ¡Quiero ser parte de ese proyecto! ¿tu no?

    Y sin embargo, incluso cuando digo que quiero ser parte del proyecto de desmantelar el racismo en el Gran Noroeste, en la Iglesia Metodista Unida, en la familia humana, puedo sentir un poco de miedo en mí. Tendré que renunciar a algo por la justicia. La justicia no me habría dado todas las ventajas de las que disfruto. La justicia de Dios enaltecerá a los humildes y humillará al resto de nosotros (Lucas 1: 52).

    ¿Qué pasa si yo, si nosotros, nos aventuramos fuera de los valores, creencias y formas de vida que he pasado toda mi vida aprendiendo?

    ¿Qué pasa si no podemos encontrar un camino a seguir? ¿Y si es un desierto y no una tierra prometida? Bueno, amigos, ya estamos en el desierto, ¿no crees? ¿Tenían razón los israelitas al dejar la esclavitud en Egipto en busca de algo mejor?

    ¿Y sabes lo que Dios nos dice a nosotros mismos que estamos temerosos? No le tengas miedo a la naturaleza. Has estado ahí antes. Hay una forma mejor que como están las cosas ahora. Te mostraré el camino. Da un paso hacia el camino de la relación correcta.

    No temáis. El amor perfecto echa fuera el miedo.

    Los miembros de su gabinete y yo estamos dando un paso adelante en el amor, y espero que los Metodistas Unidos de Alaska, Iritis Columbia, Idaho, Oregon y Washington se unan a nosotros en una caminata del miedo al amor.

    Desmantelando el racismo y creando una comunidad amada

    Filipenses 2:1, 3-5

    Si, entonces, hay algún aliento en Cristo, algún consuelo del amor, alguna participación en el Espíritu, alguna compasión y simpatía…. No hagáis nada por egoísmo o engreimiento, sino consideraos con humildad a los demás como mejores que vosotros. Que cada uno de ustedes no mire por sus propios intereses, sino por los intereses de los demás. Sea en ti la misma mente que estaba en Cristo Jesús …

    Cuando la Primera Iglesia Metodista Unida de Boise, conocida como la Catedral Rocosa, fue construida y dedicada en 1960, incluía un vitral con la imagen de Robert E. Lee junto a George Washington y Abraham Lincoln. Robert E. Lee fue el general de la Guerra Civil que lideró la lucha para proteger y preservar el derecho legal de esclavizar a las personas en los Estados Unidos. En los últimos años, los ataques letales contra los estadounidenses negros atrajeron una renovada atención hacia esto y se plantearon la cuestión de si era apropiado elevar a Robert E. Lee a la compañía de Washington y Lincoln.

    Después de la cruel muerte de George Floyd, cuando la exhibición pública de monumentos de la Guerra Civil y banderas confederadas fue desafiada en todo el país, las críticas a la ventana de la primera Iglesia de Boise estallaron en las redes sociales. Los líderes de la iglesia decidieron que se debería remover la ventana. En julio, Clint y yo manejamos a Boise, Idaho, para participar en una pequeña reunión socialmente distanciada para un acto de desconsagración,  de esta ventana mientras los trabajadores la retiraban permanentemente. [v]

    En este acto de desconsagración, hice un llamado a los Metodistas Unidos en el gran área del noroeste para entrar en una temporada de autoexamen, confesión, arrepentimiento y limpieza de la casa en nuestras iglesias.

    Un llamado a desmantelar el racismo

    En el Gran Noroeste, reconocemos y luchamos por la “inclusión” como una de las tres prácticas de una iglesia vital y saludable. Mientras dirijo a la iglesia en su misión de ayudar a las personas a convertirse en discípulos de Jesucristo para la transformación del mundo, hago un llamado al clero Metodista Unido y a los laicos del Gran Noroeste para promover una mayor equidad e inclusión cultural y racial en nuestras comunidades de fe. Llamo a todos los pastores y miembros laicos de las Conferencias Anuales para que dirijan a sus iglesias a:

    1. Conozca la historia y la realidad actual del racismo, la lucha contra la negritud, la exclusión de los nativos americanos, las actitudes antiinmigrantes, el prejuicio racial implícito y la supremacía blanca.
    2. Examine las imágenes visuales presentes en los espacios e instalaciones de culto, los boletines informativos, en busca de imágenes que sean culturalmente tendenciosas o excluyentes.
    3. Reflexione sobre las tradiciones, la toma de decisiones y los estilos de comunicación que asumen y privilegian la cultura y los valores euro-céntricos.
    4. Examine los valores y las personas priorizadas en los presupuestos y actividades de la iglesia.
    5. De palabra y de hecho, aprecie y honre intencionalmente la bondad dada por Dios a una familia humana diversa.
    6. Dar la bienvenida intencionalmente a la amplia diversidad de los hijos de Dios en una voz, un liderazgo pleno y auténtico en nuestras iglesias.
    7. Iniciar y formar asociaciones con grupos de la comunidad que ahora no están presentes en cada congregación.

    Durante las conferencias de cargo de este otoño e invierno, los superintendentes de distrito trabajarán con las congregaciones para comenzar a enfrentar estos desafíos.  Dios nos ha abierto una puerta para que escuchemos, crezcamos y honremos a las personas que traen variadas experiencias de vida en América. Dios nos está guiando en este trabajo, para sanarnos y ayudar a nuestras iglesias a profundizar su discipulado, ampliar su compromiso con las personas racialmente diversas en sus comunidades y convertirse en lugares donde el amor inclusivo de Jesucristo será evidente para las personas de todas las razas y  que están en diferentes caminos de la vida.

    Podemos hacer esto. Dios está en esta obra. Jesús abre el camino. El Espíritu Santo está con nosotros para animarnos. Debemos hacerlo.

    Obispa Elaine JW Stanovsky
    Área Episcopal del Gran Noroeste


    [i] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-think-about-implicit-bias/

    [ii] “The Bull Romanus Pontifex, English translation:  www.doctrineofdisovery.org/dum-diversas/, cited in Mark Charles and Soong-Chan Rah, Unsettling Truths:  The Ongoing, Dehumanizing Legacy of the Doctrine of Discovery, (Downers Grove, Illinois, Intervarsity Press, 2019 page 15.

    [iii] Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, (New York, The New Press, 2010.

    [iv] https://thewitnessbcc.com/denominational-diversity-cultural-normativity/

    [v] https://www.umoi.org/newsdetail/boise-idaho-church-deconsecrates-and-removes-stained-glass-window-depicting-confederate-general-robert-e-lee-as-it-repents-of-racism-14145799


    Translated and adapted by: Rev. Cruz Edwin Santos, Director of Hispanic/Latinx Ministries Office of Connectional Ministries Pacific Northwest Conference