“Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
– 1 Corinthians 15:54b-55
Beloved of God,
This is a hard scripture. We have stood in the shadow of death. We feel its sting. In hospital emergency rooms On war-torn streets As neighbors stalk joggers In a smoke-choked subway station As storm, flood and wildfire snatch the innocent.
Death’s shadows – sorrow, fear, anger, despair – darken our days. How can we sing “Alleluia” when death is as close as your phone and the TV?
On Easter morning, I will look toward the east. The sun will rise, push back the shadows and shed its warm light upon the earth. But what about the shadows in our hearts that haunt our spirits? The sun does not simply chase those away.
In the Bible, we walk with Jesus of Nazareth as he meets all kinds of people. We listen as he speaks to the reality of their lives, and we learn that Jesus also knows us, recognizes us, and shares our struggles, sin and sorrow. And knowing us inside and out, Jesus loves us. It’s like dawn breaking!
But it’s easy to wander into the shadows and forget that Jesus loves us. So, in faith, we love each other in ways that remind us of Jesus’ love. And we strive to love people who don’t know God’s love, just like Jesus loves us and like we love each other. Love is how hope rises like the sun. Love soothes the sting of death. Love is the spiritual light that can’t be put out, that has the power to save us at the end of our ropes.
Therefore, my beloved friends, “be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
Christ is Risen! Love never ends, on Easter and through the longest, darkest nights.
Prepare the way of the Lord, Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
— Excerpts from Luke 3
When he was still in elementary school, I took our oldest son, Walker, to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day rally at the Langston Hughes Center in Seattle’s Central District and the march downtown that followed. When the standing-room-only crowd broke into song, I was surprised to see our son rise, respectfully to his feet, and sing the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” by heart, and sang it with all his heart.
The music teacher at Madrona Elementary School was married to an Africa Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) pastor. She had taught her students to stand and sing the song with conviction. I was moved to tears as my son participated in that powerful gathering of people honoring the legacy of the civil rights struggle and continuing to call out and demand equity and justice. He participated in the power of the history, the lament, the community, the cause, the witness, the hope.
This month, I was grateful when the local UMC I attended for worship on MLK Day included the song in their service, invoking the long, bloody struggle from enslavement to justice and equity for Black people in America.
As United Methodist Christians, I hope that we all carry in our hearts a yearning for racial equity and justice as a gift and challenge from Jesus. I hope we all know the work isn’t finished,
that all Americans have work to do to make the American Dream equally accessible to every American,
that white European-American immigrants to this land have had unfair access to the riches and opportunity embodied in the “American Dream” since Christopher Columbus first landed in 1492, and since people were first captured and enslaved in Africa and transported to America in 1619.
God’s good vision of human community cannot be achieved without racial justice and equity.And it cannot be achieved unless people who benefit from inequality and those who are deprived by it work to name and dismantle the systems that protect white privilege and preserve exclusion and oppression.
February is Black History Month. I hope you will use “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in some way in worship this month. It is # 519 in The United Methodist Hymnal and is in the public domain, so you don’t need copyright permission to use the words or music. Be sure to share the history of the hymn, when it was written, by whom, for what occasion and how it came to be known as the Black National Anthem.
Consider using the TREASURE HUNT below to deepen your appreciation and love of this song. Use the linked resources to find the answers to the questions in the box and the resources offered.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” TREASURE HUNT
Searching for Treasure
When was the song written? In Black history, what is this period of history called?
Who wrote the words and music?
How are United Methodists connected to the writers/composers?
Is the Black National Anthem only for Black people to sing?
Why is it called the Black National Anthem?
What occasion was it written for?
What member of Congress proposed legislation to designate “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as America’s national hymn?
What one line from the song will you carry in your hearts, as a follower of Jesus?
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.
“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
“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.
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
Dear Greater Northwest United Methodists of the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences:
We send this letter with heavy hearts, knowing that many young people have been harmed while participating in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), over many decades. While countless young persons have benefited from the different programs and levels of Boy Scouting, some have experienced demeaning and abusive behavior while participating in scouting activities and events and have taken their claims to the courts.
Many local United Methodist churches partner as charter organizations for Boy Scout units across the country. The United Methodist Church (TUMC) is committed to being a safe and nurturing place for all people, to healing harm that has been done and, to partnering with organizations that share this commitment. The United Methodist Church is reviewing its relationship with BSA to ensure that the Church is acting responsibly to protect the safety of children and ensure that it is not responsible for harm done during Boy Scout activities.
BSA Current Reality
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is overwhelmed with potential liability exposure from sexual assault allegations nationwide. The BSA has filed for bankruptcy protection. Under both of the proposed plans that the BSA has suggested as ways to continue after the bankruptcy, they are leaving their chartered organizations out on a limb by themselves. The chartered organizations are the local churches, schools, and civic groups that sponsor or host a Scout Troop, Pack, Crew, or other unit. The details of these plans are still being played out, but the BSA is placing all of our United Methodist churches who have ever been involved in Scouting in a very difficult position.
Despite their consistent past assurances that they held enough insurance to cover their chartered organizations in case of injured scouts, we now know that the BSA did not have enough or sufficient insurance. The local churches are at risk of having to pay significant sums to victims to compensate them for the damages they suffered at the hands of some Scout leaders. In addition, the local churches will have to pay for the cost of their own attorneys to defend those claims. All of this is because the BSA did not fulfill their promise to have enough insurance to protect the local churches.
Future Relationship with the BSA
Our team, made up of the Bishop, her GNW Area assistant, and the treasurers and chancellors of the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conferences, recommends that local churches change their relationships with Scouting units.
If your local church currently charters a Scout unit, we recommend that you NOT renew that chartering agreement when it is up for renewal or re-chartering this fall. Instead, we recommend one of three options, the choice of which is up to you:
Tell the local Scout council that you will NOT renew that chartering agreement but will only extend the current agreement until December 31, 2021.
Tell the local Scout council that you will NOT renew that chartering agreement but will enter into a Facilities Use Agreement with their unit until December 31, 2021.
Tell the local Scout council that you will terminate the existing charter agreement and replace it with a Facilities Use Agreement with their unit until December 31, 2021.
In options 2 and 3, the Facilities Use Agreement will act similar to a lease allowing the Scout unit to continue using your space, but they will be responsible for everything else, including the selection of leaders. A proposed agreement template can be found here. Also, please let your Conference Treasurer know if you are currently hosting a scout troop in any of the above described manners.
After December 31, 2021, we should be in a better position to see how the future will unfold. Once a reorganization plan is approved by the bankruptcy court, we will know better how to proceed.
If your local church does not charter a Scout unit at this time, we recommend that you NOT consider chartering a unit until the bankruptcy case is finalized and we have an understanding of how The United Methodist relationship with Scouts will continue in the future.
We understand that these suggestions are dramatic, but we think them to be the prudent course of action at this time. We want to protect our local churches from being accused of contributing to the abuse of children and to the resulting risk of costly litigation.
Boy Scout councils have begun contacting local churches directly that host Boy Scout units. One such letter is attached here. If you receive any communication from a local Scout council or the BSA advising or encouraging you to contact a Boy Scout attorney, please report this at once to Rev. Carlo A. Rapanut, Assistant to the Bishop. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
We know the value of scouting. It has played a very large role in the mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church for a very long time. But the BSA is not proving faithful to The United Methodist Church as they leave us without the protections that they promised. We simply cannot currently commit to the relationship with the BSA as we have in the past. Until we know how the BSA will be organized and operate in the future, we must make some changes. Hopefully, we will be able to continue our long connection with scouting in some way, but we need to make some changes today to help prevent us from being dragged down with the BSA in the future.
May God’s mighty, surprising, Holy Spirit work a miracle of healing in the lives of people harmed by abuse. May God bless and keep us honest, diligent and wise through this process.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky Greater NW Area The United Methodist Church
Rev. Carlo A. Rapanut Assistant to the Bishop GNW Area of The UMC
“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”John 8: 31-32
June 19, known as Juneteenth, celebrates the freedom of enslaved Black Americans, by recalling the day in 1865 when the news of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was finally proclaimed in Texas, three years after it was issued.
On Saturday, June 19th at 10 a.m., the Coos Bay Museum in Coos Bay, Oregon, will dedicate a memorial to the only confirmed lynching of a Black man in the state of Oregon. Alonzo Tucker was lynched in Coos Bay in 1902 as a crowd of 300 people watched. Sponsors of Saturday’s memorial event hope at least 300 people will attend the online dedication of a memorial to Alonzo Tucker.
The memorial to Alonzo Tucker’s lynching is part of a movement of the National Memorial of Peace and Justice to remember and mark the sites where more than 4,400 Black people died by lynching between 1877 and 1950. Taylor Stewart began the Oregon Remembrance Project after visiting the National Memorial as part of a Civil Rights tour of southern states.
Much of our nation’s violent racial history has been forgotten or suppressed by white Americans or assumed to have occurred only in slave states. This event, on Juneteenth, 2021, is an opportunity for citizens of the Northwest to remember and realize that this region has its own violent past that is ours to reckon with and heal.
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.
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?
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.