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

United Methodists in the Pacific Northwest Conference,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

A message to the PNW: “Where are we headed?”

Installment #1: New West-Side Districts

The purpose of the annual conference is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by equipping its local churches for ministry and by providing a connection for ministry beyond the local church; all to the glory of God.[i]

Making disciples of Jesus Christ can be a tough mission in the midst of generational change, religious pluralism, and political polarization. The Pacific Northwest Annual Conference is trying to be good stewards of the resources we have and put all our energy into ministries that change lives and the world to reflect God’s vision of abundant life. Last June the Conference acted to reduce the number of districts from 6 to 5, even as we are learning new ways to strengthen ministry both through existing congregations and by starting new ministries.

The reduction in districts will occur on the west side of the Cascade Mountains. The new districts will become reality on January 1, 2018 but you won’t notice much change until July 1, 2018. At that time we will add the word “Missional” to the name of each district, as a reminder that churches exist not only to support their members, but also to engage their context. Every church, fellowship and ministry is on a mission frontier, where people hunger and thirst for spiritual community.

Your district superintendent, and district programming will continue as they are now through the end of June, 2018, to coincide with the pastoral appointment year. Current district superintendents will continue in place through June, 2018, and they will continue to relate to churches and clergy in their present districts through the  2017-2018 appointment season. Beginning July 1, 2018, there will be one fewer district superintendent and churches and clergy will align to the new districts.

The assignment of churches to districts creates a new urban SeaTac Missional District, with the intention of developing specific initiatives for missional engagement in these growing urban areas, with their extreme economic disparities. Across the conference your staff is committed to both helping existing churches to engage their communities in new and life-giving ways, and to cultivating bold, new ministries that create new places for new people to become disciples of Jesus.

During 2018 churches will be aligned in districts as follows:

Inland Missional District:  no change
Seven Rivers Missional District:  no change
Puget Sound Missional District:  [Click here for the list
SeaTac Missional District: [Click here for the list]
Crest to Coast Missional District:  [Click here for the list]

Click here to view a dynamic Google map of the new missional districts. An embedded version of this can be found at the bottom of this page.

Between January and June district superintendents will work with current leadership of groups like UMW, district lay leaders, district boards of church location and building, and disaster coordinators to adapt to the new district alignment. District superintendents are prepared to help you find answers to your questions.

God is saying, “Behold, I am doing a new thing…. Do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43: 19). We’re trying to do a new thing with God. I hope you will bring your patience and creativity to this time of transition.

May God guide and guard us through this change,

Living in Faith,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater Northwest Area


[i] The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 2016, ¶ 601.