Church as Beloved Community

Church as Beloved Community

A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky • January 2021

To the majority white United Methodists in the Greater Northwest Area, with an invitation to others to listen in and join the conversation.

But now, thanks to Christ Jesus, you who once were so far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ…. He broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us…. So now you are no longer strangers and aliens. Christ is building you into a place where God lives through the Spirit.

Ephesians 2, Selections

Beloved in Christ, I have carried you in my heart and prayers every waking moment through these seasons of pandemic, racial reckoning, civic unrest and violent attack on the U.S. Capitol. As we lament the image of a flag of the Confederacy waved brazenly in the Capitol, and brace for more extremist violence there and in state capitols across the country, the burden is heavy on people of conscience, who live in faith, hope and love through such demanding events.

I pray for the outgoing president, Mr. Trump, and for the incoming president, Mr. Biden, for elected and appointed government servants in every place and role. May the good in each prevail, and their sin be quenched. 

A word to People and Pastors of Color in The United Methodist Church

But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way…into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

Ephesians 4:15-16

We have a long journey ahead. It is a testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit that you know and offer your gifts to the whole body of the church. It is not your responsibility to endure disrespect in the church, or to teach me and my white siblings how our words and actions harm and exclude. And yet, out of your love of God and in undying hope of a new day, you generously continue in relationship as the Church strives to grow in faith, service and witness. May God build the church up by showing us how our parts can work properly together in love.

I pray for our nation and its people. May values of respect, freedom, equity and fairness lead the way through our present distress and danger. I pray for people whose anger has spilled out in violence, anger over things both righteous and evil.

I want to bring a hopeful message to the Church. But the hope of this season is only visible through thick clouds. May we walk by the light of faith, in service to love until hope rises again, unobstructed.

As we celebrate the life and leadership of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I bring you a message that I know will be hard. It is rooted and grounded in my love for our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, and my love of all God’s people.

NOW IS THE TIME. THIS IS THE PLACE. WE ARE THE PEOPLE to overturn white privilege and supremacy in our hearts, our minds and in our communities and to build a beloved community of racial justice and equity.
NOW IS THE TIME to dismantle oppressive systems of institutional racism, which
  • violate the dignity and sanctity of God’s creation
  • divide communities
  • deform the body of Christ
  • isolate local churches from their neighbors and
  • silence the prophetic witness of Christians to God’s justice and equity.

White racism arrived in the New World with Christopher Columbus in 1492, long before the Pilgrims or the Declaration of Independence elevated the value of freedom. It took root and has not been rooted out. It is alive and well in America. Now, cell phone videos of police violence against unarmed Black people expose persistent racism for all to see. Race is on the public agenda in a new and urgent way. Protests, demands, personal testimonies, documentaries and webinars have opened a window into how pervasive racism is in the life of our nation.

Compared to people of color, white people enjoy the “good life” disproportionately by nearly every measure: education, health care, environmental health, criminal justice and incarceration, voting rights, business ownership, employment, income, housing, and life expectancy, to name some. This is the privilege white people enjoy in America. The patterns of privilege and poverty in America are embedded in institutions, norms, practices and systems that do not depend upon individual bias, hatred or mistreatment. They have a life of their own.

THE CHURCH IS THE PLACE… to wake up and courageously face the sin of racism and to create beloved community. 

God gives people of faith a vision of diverse human beings living together in right relationship with one another. But through history, the Christian Church has often created and maintained systems of racial inequity in America and around the world. Today, the church is called to recognize and dismantle its own racism and join a movement of racial reckoning and reconciliation in every place.

When the communities where the church is located experience transition especially identified as economic and/or ethnic, the local church shall engage in deliberate analysis of the community change and alter its program to meet the needs and cultural patterns of the new residents.  The local church shall make every effort to remain in the community and develop effective ministries to those who are newcomers, whether of a cultural, economic, or ethnic group different from the original or present members.

¶ 212, Book of Discipline

By the year 2045, white people will be a minority of the U.S. population. In the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, nearly every town and city is rapidly becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, but our United Methodist Churches in the region are predominantly white, middle class, aging and declining. For the most part, our churches are not adapting to the changing population by welcoming or engaging the growing number of their neighbors who come from different national, racial or ethnic heritages.

The UMC recognizes that the sin of racism has been destructive to its unity throughout its history.  Racism continues to cause painful division and marginalization.  the UMC shall confront and seek to eliminate racism, whether in organizations or in individuals, in every facet of its life and in society at large.  The UMC shall work collaboratively with others to address concerns that threaten the cause of racial justice at all times and in all places. 

¶ 5, Book of Discipline

The executive staff team of the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church recognizes inclusion as an essential practice of a vital church. We are building this practice into our own leadership teams and agendas. At every meeting, we participate in intercultural competency training and applying what we learn to our team and its work. We are intentional about inviting people of color into pastoral leadership of our churches to recognize and engage with the variety of people in their neighborhoods.

Racism persists in our churches.

Racism can exist without racial hatred. In many places, our churches are passive participants in racist systems that we have inherited and may not even be aware of. If we, the white majority, simply continue to do what we have always done – as the community changes and becomes more diverse – we will, silently, and without even recognizing it, perpetuate white privilege and supremacy.

This is why in my episcopal address to Annual Conference in September, I charged every local church to examine the images in your buildings, the priorities in your budgets and the people making decisions for the church, to see whether a rich variety of cultures and voices are present. Decisions are different if different perspectives are included in decision-making. In response to this charge, district superintendents initiated conversations about racism in every local church as part of its charge or church conference.

Sadly, we have begun to notice a pattern of overt racism within several congregations. This pattern is present in all three conferences and all four states. Some expressions of it include:

  • criticizing pastors for preaching about racial justice
  • denying the authority of the pastor over worship
  • withholding respect, deference and trust that are usually extended to pastors
  • criticizing the pastor’s grammar or pronunciation, especially in the case of a pastor for whom English is a second or third language
  • expecting a pastor of color to adopt the cultural norms of the congregation without curiosity, question or discussion
  • refusing to include a variety of cultural expressions within the worship life of the congregation

Sometimes congregations have even refused to accept a pastor I have appointed, due either to overt or more often subtle reasons of race.

As I hear these stories and discuss them within my cabinet, I am sorry to report that these attitudes are present, though often not predominant, in almost all of our churches. Any pastor of color who is appointed to any mostly white congregation can expect to encounter overt or implicit racist resistance, both personally and professionally.

Responsibilities and Duties of Elders and Licensed Pastors – To lead the congregation in racial and ethnic inclusiveness. 

¶ 340.2.c)(4)

Racism has no place in the Church.

The Church is the body of Christ. We cannot allow racism to infect the body by tolerating these behaviors because they are inhospitable and dangerous for the beloved of our Savior. None of us can rest as long as our churches participate actively or passively in the sin of racism.

At Christian baptism, we pledge to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. Whether hot and hateful or gentle and well-intentioned, these comments and attitudes are harmful and they reinforce the narrow, fixed and insular scope of our congregations. Whatever good our churches do, it is necessarily compromised by the shadow cast by attitudes and habits that spring from normative white cultural assumptions.

Open itineracy means appointments [of clergy] are made without regard to race, ethnic origin, gender, color, disability, marital status, or age. 

¶ 425.1

Throughout our lives, Jesus introduces us to new experiences, new people, fresh ideas. When our life paths cross with people from different parts of the world, with different life experiences, different cultural experiences, different aspirations that do not match our own, and may make us uncomfortable, our discomfort is often God at work, stretching and strengthening our love. Jesus invites us to set aside judgment and proceed to curiosity, asking: how is Jesus working through a new relationship to deepen our faith and strengthen the church or community?

The church must not value the familiar, traditional or comfortable over what is right, nourishing, emerging, and hopeful. God says “Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? (Isaiah 42:19a. Embracing the new people and things God sends our way is a spiritual practice that breathes life into the church and through the church, into the world.

 Your bishop watches over you in love.

My charge, as your bishop, is to oversee the spiritual and temporal affairs of the church. I name what I see and encourage the leaders and congregations under my care to grow in faith and witness for the kingdom/kin-dom of God. I see our spirits are not strong enough to follow Jesus into the beloved community he invites us to, nor do we have the courage to speak truth to a world that is awash in lies.

The United Methodist Church can and must become a movement that is awakening, learning, growing and moving toward racial awareness, intercultural competency and inclusive community.

In faithfulness to our baptismal vows, my cabinet and I are committed to working with pastors and laity to re-form our churches to recognize and acknowledge our sin and enter into a journey toward racial equity, justice and inclusion. Just as the members of the cabinet have a monthly discipline of intercultural competency training, the cabinet will develop a process for working with congregations to assess and recognize attitudes and behaviors that give preference to white culture within the church, and to take steps to become more aware and competent in inter-cultural and cross-racial relationships.

Cross-racial and cross-cultural appointments are made as a creative response to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the church in its leadership.  Cross-racial and cross-cultural appointments are appointments of clergy persons to congregations in which the majority of their constituencies are different from the clergyperson’s own racial/ethnic cultural background.  

¶ 425.4

The goal of the cabinet is to assist every church to become an outpost of God’s inclusive love in each place and for all the people. Underlying this goal, we firmly resolve not to allow racially offensive or exclusive comments and behavior within our congregations , to go unchallenged and untransformed.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Wesley inform our anti-racism work.

In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote a letter in response to eight white religious leaders who criticized him for leading demonstrations and sit-ins protesting racial segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. In the letter, King reflects on his disappointment in religious leaders during the civil rights struggle, saying,

I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevances and sanctimonious trivialities….

I have found myself asking: What kind of people worship here? Who is their God?  Where are their voices?….

In deep disappointment, I have wept over the laxity of the church….Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and fear of being nonconformists.

Nearly 60 years later, the face of racism has shifted, but the church is no less lax today than it was in the 1963. We must journey together from being “almost Christian,” as John Wesley describes in his famous sermon, to becoming “altogether Christian,” living in ways that not only avoid sin, but that cultivate and promote virtue and justice. 

In the weeks ahead, I’ll invite clergy to a conversation about how we can journey together on the road toward beloved community – freed from the heritage of deep, systemic racism. 

As you live in the maelstrom of the week ahead and those to come, I thank God for your faithfulness, through times of peril and doubt and I pray God’s sustaining grace in your life, your family, and your ministries. Bad news never has the final word.  Keep listening. There’s good news on the way!


Elaine JW Stanovsky
Bishop, Greater Northwest Episcopal Area

Chargeable Offenses Against a Church Member – A professing member of a local church may be charged with the following offenses, . . .  harassment, including, but not limited to racial and/or sexual harassment; racial or gender discrimination . . .

¶ 2702.3

“Seeking to Be God’s Light in the World”

Isaiah 40

A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up, 
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all people shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
– Isaiah 40: 3-5

The Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church has a vision of becoming a “home for all God’s children, gathered around a table of reconciliation and transformation.” Some have called us disobedient. Others claim that we are prophets for recognizing LGBTQ+ persons as beloved children of God, blessing their marriages and ordaining them for ministry long before most of the church. LGBTQ+ inclusion is just one way we in the West have sought to set the table for all God’s children. The Western Jurisdiction embraces immigrants from around the world and has consecrated many “first bishops:” Wilbur Choy, Chinese American; Roy Sano, Japanese American; Elias Galvan, Hispanic American; Leontyne Kelly, Black woman; Minerva Carcaño, Hispanic American woman; and Karen Oliveto, first bishop in a committed, loving same-gender marriage.

United Methodist leaders in the Western Jurisdiction embrace John Wesley’s plea that we “be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion.” We are dedicating a year to noticing, naming and celebrating the variety of ministries “Where Love Lives” – not because we have a corner on the love market, but because love looks different in every place.

Let’s start by seeing where love lives in the extraordinary details of the Christmas story:

Photo by Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky.

Love lives as a homeless couple, weary after a long day of travel, finds rest in an animal shed.

Love lives as this exhausted couple welcomes the untimely birth of their baby and lays him in a manger.

Love lives when a star shines in the night sky or a song spills from heaven – signs that a new and holy thing is happening.

Love lives where shepherd and sojourners show up in the night, after seeing, wondering and following these signs of hope.

The Christmas story shows us that where love lives, things happen that you never thought possible. Just as God was born in Jesus, God can dwell in us, too, as we grow to love as wondrously as God loves, as extravagantly as Jesus loves our neighbors, strangers, and those we think of as enemies. This is very good news when people live in the shadow of death and under the yoke of oppression. Watch for Where Love Lives.

Love lives where a grandma lays her sweater on the shoulders of a sleeping stranger on a chilly bus.

Love lives where a caregiver holds a smartphone or tablet to connect a dying patient with a loved one.

Love lives when a local church welcomes strangers, widows and orphans seeking safety.

Love lives when people who are sorting out their sexuality and identity have a place at the table of faith.

Love lives where Christians live their baptismal promise to ‘resist evil, injustice, & oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.’

Love lives when a passerby tapes a violent, racist atrocity on her phone for the world to witness. Love lives in the anguished cry for justice and love.

Love lives when a church offers space for people evacuated from wildfires to store their belongings, or board their pets.

Love lives when any of us find our hardened hearts open and ready to heal a broken relationship.

May Christ be born this dark Christmas. I pray that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 

Elaine JW Stanovsky
Bishop, Greater Northwest Episcopal Area

Throughout the month of December, the Greater Northwest Area will be sharing videos, stories and other resources for local church and ministry settings across the Western Jurisdiction to use on social media, in online worship, group discussion and more on the topic of “Where Love Lives: Seeking to be God’s light in the World.”

We will be sharing stories, poetry and other resources that speak to the Advent message of God’s love living among us today – calling us to care for our neighbors, seek justice, dismantle racism, fight against a pandemic and committing ourselves to so many other acts of love in Jesus’ name.

Resources will be linked to either or as well as being shared on the various websites, social media channels and newsletters from the conferences which make up the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church.


Mensaje Episcopal sobre el COVID-19 #9, 10 de Noviembre de 2020

Las circunstancias y los riesgos de COVID-19 varían de un lugar a otro y de tiempo en tiempo. Por lo tanto, el Equipo de Manejo de Crisis de COVID-19 ha adoptado un nuevo apéndice de la Fase 2.1 para Re-imaginar la vida juntos, que abre la posibilidad de reuniones de hasta 25 personas para el culto y otras actividades. En lugares donde los datos muestran un bajo riesgo de propagación del virus, una iglesia u otro ministerio puede presentar un plan de ministerio para su aprobación para pasar a la Fase 2.1 siempre y cuando que el riesgo siga siendo bajo.

Los casos de COVID-19 están aumentando en todo Estados Unidos a lo que un médico de salud pública llamó una “tormenta de fuego furiosa”. El mayor número de nuevos casos diarios de COVID-19 desde marzo ocurrió ayer en Alaska. Los números en Idaho, Oregón y Washington han ido en aumento desde el 8 de septiembre. Este no es el momento de bajar la guardia contra esta enfermedad mortal y altamente contagiosa.

Así que no nos cansemos de hacer lo correcto, porque cosecharemos en el tiempo de la cosecha, si no nos damos por vencidos. Entonces, siempre que tengamos la oportunidad, trabajemos por el bien de todos, y especialmente por los de la familia de la fe.

Gálatas 6: 9-10 NRSV

Aunque los estados no siempre han sometido a las organizaciones religiosas a las mismas restricciones de reunión que a otras organizaciones, he mantenido a los Metodistas Unidos en el área episcopal del Gran noroeste con límites estrictos.  Para la mayoría de nuestras iglesias, este no es el momento de aflojar estas restricciones.  La mayoría de las iglesias se han movido con éxito con la celebración de adoración y otras actividades en línea, ya sea en vivo o preproducidas. Si yo fuera pastor de una iglesia local hoy, no me movería hacia reuniones en persona más grandes en este momento y no animaría a nuestras iglesias a que lo hagan.

Algunos, sin embargo, están ubicados en áreas sin Internet confiable, algunos no tienen la capacidad técnica y algunos miembros y líderes simplemente no usan ni usaran las opciones de la iglesia en línea.

Esta pandemia, y nuestro conocimiento sobre ella, han crecido y cambiado con el tiempo:

  • Desde febrero, la ciencia ha aprendido y enseñado cómo se propaga el virus y cómo limitar su propagación usando máscaras, manteniendo una distancia de 6 pies, limitando la duración de las reuniones, lavándose las manos constantemente y usando desinfectante para manos.
  • Hoy mismo escuchamos la esperanza de que una vacuna eficaz estará disponible para fin de año.
  • La incidencia y el peligro de propagar el virus es muy bajo en algunos lugares y extremadamente alto en otros, y
  • Cuanto más vivamos con restricciones en nuestra libertad de movimiento y reunión, mayor es el riesgo de sufrimiento mental, psicológico y espiritual.

Las iglesias buscan equilibrar el daño causado por la propagación continua del virus y el daño causado al continuar restringiendo las reuniones en persona para la adoración, la oración, el compañerismo y el estudio.  ¿Cómo balanceamos el riesgo de propagación y muerte de COVID-19 frente al riesgo de soledad, depresión, desesperación, abuso de sustancias, violencia doméstica y suicidio a medida que pasan los meses, los días se hacen mas cortos, oscuros y el clima nos empuja a estar mas tiempo en el interior de nuestras casas? Ninguna reunión está libre de riesgos, pero a medida que nos esforzamos por equilibrar los daños en competencia, algunas reuniones con prácticas estrictas de seguridad bajo ciertas condiciones pueden ser prudentes.

Fase 2.1 Apéndice a las pautas de Re-imaginando la vida juntos permite que una iglesia u otro entorno ministerial, con el consentimiento de su pastor, presente un plan para realizar reuniones en persona de hasta 25 personas manteniendo la distancia física y usando máscaras faciales para su aprobación por el Superintendente de distrito, en el caso de iglesias locales, o Director de Ministerios Conexionales en el caso de otros ministerios. Todas las iglesias o ministerios, todos los superintendentes de distrito y directores de ministerios conexionales utilizarán datos de para determinar el nivel de riesgo de su condado, a base a 5 indicadores de riesgo.

 Si una iglesia u otro ministerio se encuentra en un condado donde el riesgo está en la zona verde o amarilla, y si el supervisor designado aprueba el plan del ministerio para la Fase 2.1, entonces se le permitirá reunir hasta 25 personas para el culto u otras actividades ministeriales, siguiendo las prácticas aprobadas en el plan. Si una iglesia se ha movido a la Fase 2.1, pero el riesgo informado por COVIDActNow aumenta a niveles naranja o rojo, deberá regresar a los niveles de actividad de la Fase 2.

Lea el apéndice de la Fase 2.1, una opción dentro de la Fase 2

Mientras miramos los informes diarios de una pandemia que está fuera de control y consideramos aflojar las restricciones sobre las reuniones de la iglesia, recuerde estos pensamientos que compartimos en el documento de Re-imaginando la vida juntos:

A medida que volvemos a entrar en la vida juntos, debemos permitir que nuestro sueño o memoria de comunidad se desvanezca para dejar espacio para que el amor emerja de formas nuevas y diferentes.  La tarea que tenemos es re-imaginar la iglesia, todo lo que somos, hacemos, para que podamos ser lo que Dios sueña que seamos.  Después de todo, la iglesia no es un edificio; no son puertas ni un campanario. La Iglesia es la gente en ministerio y servicio.  Si no podemos hacer este ministerio como lo hemos hecho en el pasado, encontraremos nuevas formas de hacerlo. Vamos a encontrar la manera. Nuestra imaginación puede mostrarnos lo que es posible.

¡Voy a hacer algo nuevo!
Ya está sucediendo, ¿no se dan cuenta?
Estoy abriendo un camino en el desierto,
y ríos en lugares desolados.

Isaías 43:19

¡Que Dios guíe nuestros pies por el camino de la paz!

Obispa Elaine JW Stanovsky
Área Episcopal del Gran Noroeste

Translated and Adapted to Spanish by:
Rev. Cruz Edwin Santos
Director of Hispanic/Latinx Ministry

Bishop’s COVID-19 notice #9, Nov. 10, 2020

The circumstances and risks from COVID-19 vary from place to place and from time to time. Therefore, the COVID-19 Crisis Management Team has adopted a new Phase 2.1 addendum to Reimagining Life Together, which opens the possibility of gatherings of up to 25 for worship and other activities. In places where data shows a low risk of spreading the virus a church or other ministry can present a ministry plan for approval to move to Phase 2.1 as long as the risk remains low.

Cases of COVID-19 are on the rise across America in what one public health doctor called a “raging firestorm.” The highest number of daily new cases of COVID-19 since March occurred yesterday in Alaska. Idaho, Oregon and Washington and have been rising since September 8. This is not the time to let down our guard against this highly contagious, deadly disease.

So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.      Galatians 6: 9-10 NRSV

Although states have not always held religious organizations to the same gathering restrictions as other organizations, I have held United Methodists in the Greater Northwest Area to strict limits. For most of our churches, this is not the time to loosen these restrictions. Most churches have moved successfully to holding worship and other activities online, either live streamed, or pre-produced. If I were a pastor of a local church today, I would not move toward more and larger in-person gatherings at this time and I do not encourage our churches to do so.

Some, however, are located in areas without reliable internet, some do not have the technical ability, and some members and leaders simply will not and do not use online church options.

This pandemic, and our knowledge about it, have grown and changed over time:

  • Since February, science has learned and taught us about how the virus spreads and how to limit its spread by wearing masks, keeping 6 feet apart, limiting the length of time of gatherings, and washing hands and using hand sanitizer.
  • Just today we heard hope that an effective vaccination may be available by the end of the year.
  • The incidence and danger of spreading the virus is very low in some places and extremely high in others, and
  • The longer we live with restrictions on our freedom of movement and gathering, the higher the risk of mental, psychological and spiritual suffering.

Churches seek to balance the harm caused by continued spread of the virus and the harm done by continuing to restrict in-person gatherings for worship, prayer, fellowship and study. How do we weigh the risk of COVID-19 spread and deaths against the risk of loneliness, depression, despair, substance abuse, domestic violence and suicide as the months wear on, the days grow short and dark and the weather pushes us indoors? No gatherings are risk-free, but as we strive to balance competing harms, some gatherings with strict safety practices under certain conditions may be prudent.

Phase 2.1 Addendum to Reimagining Life Together guidelines allows a church or other ministry setting, with the consent of their pastor, to present a plan for holding in-person gatherings of up to 25 persons with physical distancing, and facemasks in use for approval by their District Superintendent, in the case of local churches, or Director of Connectional Ministries in the case of other ministries. All church or ministry settings and all District Superintendents and Directors of Connectional Ministries will use data from to determine their county’s risk level, based upon 5 risk indicators.

If a church or other ministry is located in a county where the risk is found to be in either the green or yellow zone, and if the designated supervisor approves the ministry’s plan for Phase 2.1, then it will be allowed to gather up to 25 people for worship or other ministry activities, following the practices approved in the plan. If a church has moved to Phase 2.1, but the risk reported by COVIDActNow increases to levels orange or red, it will need to retreat to Phase 2 levels of activity.

Read the Phase 2.1 addendum – an option within phase 2

As we watch daily reports of a pandemic that is out of control, and consider loosening the restrictions on church gatherings, remember these thoughts from Reimagining Life Together:

As we reenter life together, we must allow for our dream or memory of community to fade to make room for love to emerge in new and different ways. The task we have is to reimagine church – and all we are and do –  so that we can be what God dreams us to be. After all, church isn’t a building; it isn’t doors or a steeple. Church is the people in ministry and service. If we can’t do this ministry in the ways we have in the past, we will find new ways to do it. We will find a way. Our imaginations can show us what is possible.

God will open a new way before us.

I am about to do a new thing;
                     now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
                        and rivers in the desert.         Isaiah 43: 19

May God guide our feet into the way of peace!

Elaine JW Stanovsky
Bishop, Greater Northwest Episcopal Area

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. 


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. 


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 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 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. 


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. 


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 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 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


[ii] “The Bull Romanus Pontifex, English translation:, 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.



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

Episcopal Address Part 2 | Becoming Anti-Racist – Dismantling Racism

Becoming Anti-Racist – Dismantling Racism

Episcopal Address Part II  (Part I) | September 8, 2020

In faithfulness to Jesus’ model of inclusive love and justice, as bishop of the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church I am committed to leading United Methodists in the Alaska Conference, Oregon-Idaho Conference and Pacific Northwest Conference to make dismantling systemic racism within the church and throughout society a long-term missional priority.

The Original Sin is taking what isn’t yours.

After studying the scriptures and observing how people abuse their power in many inventive ways, I have come to believe that the original sin is taking what isn’t yours. Think of Adam and Eve in the garden abundant with food, animals, plants, provided by a generous Creator. Good climate. Good company. And all God asks of them is to leave one tree alone. You can have it all. Enjoy everything in this garden — just don’t eat the fruit of this one tree. But they couldn’t resist temptation. They picked the fruit that wasn’t theirs and ate it. By this one small act, the entire balance between creator and human creatures was disrupted. 

Taking what isn’t yours is not only the original sin, it is the pervasive sin throughout the human family. What is rape or sex trafficking if not an invasion and claiming of rights to another person’s body, privacy, autonomy? What is the refusal to acknowledge a person’s self-knowledge and identification as LGBTQ? Doesn’t child abuse rob the child of innocence, trust, security? What is the confiscation and removal of Native Americans from their ancestral lands and repression of their languages and cultures if not a taking? The internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Armed invasions and occupations. Think of the separation of children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Employers callously take workers’ health by exposing them to pesticides, coal dust or COVID-19. Human beings are cunning in the ways they deny each other the fullness of life Jesus came for us to enjoy (John 10:10). The thing about original sin is that it is hard to give up the sweet taste of the stolen apple. 

Today I want to talk with you about the original sin of enslavement and its enduring legacy of racism, especially, though not exclusively, anti-Black racism in America.

A prophetic word for my siblings who are targeted by systemic racism

Isaiah 54

11 O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted,….
13 All your children shall be taught by the Lord,
    and great shall be the prosperity of your children.
14 In righteousness you shall be established;
    you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear;
    and from terror, for it shall not come near you.
15 If anyone stirs up strife,
    it is not from me;
    whoever stirs up strife with you
    shall fall because of you….
17 No weapon that is fashioned against you shall prosper,
    and you shall confute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
    This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord
    and their vindication from me, says the Lord.

Friends, I speak first to you who suffer at the hands of oppressors – you, who have not been shown dignity and respect, and afforded the rights God breathed into every member of the human family at creation. I address, particularly, those who bear the accumulated burden of centuries – generations – of white supremacy, and who daily feel the eye of distrust, suspicion, accusation, exclusion, hatred, rejection.

I am learning to hear and see that in America, systems that we call equal, just and fair – equal opportunity, criminal justice, fair housing – have injustice and bias baked into them. I am learning to hear and see that implicit racial bias, [i] pervasive among white people in America, ensures that white police, teachers, judges, parole officers, congresspersons, election officials, parking lot attendants, neighbors and strangers carry into their work and lives, suspicion of people of color, and preference – not for the poor and outcast, but for white people. This is what is called white privilege. 

I am learning to hear and see that for more than 500 years, the Christian church has granted European explorers permission “to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue” all Muslims, pagans and enemies of Christ, “the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery….and to convert them to their use and profit.” [ii]

I am learning how in America, enslavement of Black bodies didn’t end with the abolition of slavery and emancipation of enslaved people, but that enslavement continued through Jim Crow segregation and the denial of the vote to Black citizens. When the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts dismantled Jim Crow segregation in the 1960s, control of Black bodies and lives wasn’t eradicated, it became embedded elsewhere: the War on Drugs, stop and frisk, disproportionate arrests, convictions, and sentencing of Black citizens, especially men, and in the denial of access to public assistance programs, and the right to vote or serve on a jury for convicted felons. [iii]  

Smart phones and social media have opened a window on racial oppression in America; denied, hidden and ignored for generations.

I remember and say their names again: Trayvon Martin, Walter Scott, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Freddy Gray, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and many more that never made the headlines. George Floyd’s desperate last breaths, caught on video, and the relentless cruelty of the officer of the law who took his life tell an undeniable story. Eight minutes and 46 seconds; when the officer’s knee pressed George Floyd’s neck into the pavement, there was plenty of time for the officer to pause, think, and re-evaluate the situation. It was time enough to recognize that Mr. Floyd was no threat to him, to recognize that the suspected offense was a trifling compared to the death sentence the officer carried out – plenty of time to hear God’s voice, and the bystander’s voices shouting – “STOP! This is my beloved son. You are killing him.” And Ahmaud Arbery, hunted down by men who had a plan, stalked him, and killed him. Rayshard Brooks, shot and killed by police at a Wendy’s drive-thru. Breonna Taylor, in her own home asleep. Jacob Blake, shot seven times in the back. His shooting was followed a few days later by a white vigilante, armed with a semi-automatic weapon, shooting and killing two protesters and wounding a third. He returned home without ever being confronted or questioned by police. 

A prophetic word for my white siblings

Isaiah 55

Seek the Lord while he may be found,
    call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
    and the unrighteous their thoughts;
    let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

God looked at God’s chosen people and saw their sin. He named it and called them to account. As I read this passage, I hear the voice of God speaking to dominant culture Americans and to me in this season of anti-racism uprising, saying, “My thoughts are not your thoughts. My ways are not your ways.” The crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways smooth (Luke 3:5). Leave the crooked path you have walked all these years. It’s a severe charge. It’s hard to look back over your life, over the teachings of your family, school, church and say, “Wait a minute. Maybe we’ve got this wrong.  Perhaps we need to look again, think again, listen anew. Maybe the way our world has been ordered, all the things we take for granted aren’t right.” 

I am learning to hear and see that the standards, norms and habits I was taught to value are not universally shared by all people from every culture. Slowly, I am learning that as a leader, that if I simply, unconsciously, lead the Church according to the cultural norms that are natural to me, I will inadvertently, unconsciously perpetuate ways of working and relating that do not work for many of its members. I will continue practices that silence the gifts, insights and wisdom of people raised in different cultural contexts. I am learning to recognize that white people and Black people do not share the same life experiences or the same generational memory and interpretation of history. These differences mean that we view the ways of the world we share very differently. And when I hear someone say something from a different perspective that doesn’t make sense to me and is contrary to how I have always thought of it, I may want to say, “that’s ridiculous!” “You’re crazy.” “Let me show you how you are wrong.” “The world just doesn’t work that way – it can’t work that way!” “Let me teach you the right way.”

You see, until I learn to have ears to hear, I cannot see beyond my own cultural perspective. This is what is called cultural normativity. [iv]

An Eye-Opening Moment

Late one night, I found myself riding in a car we had borrowed from a Native American friend, who had borrowed it from a relative. The driver was a Black male colleague with a blonde, white woman in the passenger’s seat. I sat with a young Filipino man and a young gay Hispanic man in the back. On a dark, remote rural Oklahoma highway, we were pulled over for a broken tail light. None of us was from Oklahoma. No two of us were from the same state. We didn’t know the name of the person the car was registered to. In that moment, I experienced something I knew nothing about – driving while Black. Our suddenly serious and vigilant driver’s training kicked in:

  • Be quiet and respectful
  • No-one speaks but me
  • No acting up. No jokes
  • No quick movements

Nothing bad happened that night, but it was easy to see how it might have, if the car registration or the driver’s license had been expired, if there was an unpaid parking ticket, or there hadn’t been several clergy in the car. Suppose our driver had been alone in the car. Suppose the officer had been in a bad mood. Who would have known and told the truth? I will never doubt the real danger and fear of driving while Black.

Without the videos, the brazen police actions we witness in cities across America would never have seen the light of day. A story would have been woven that “justified” unjustifiable police actions: 

  • the suspect was menacing
  • police acted in self-defense or thought there was a weapon
  • evidence is lost, tampered with or suppressed
  • the witnesses aren’t credible
  • or they just don’t show up to testify

Since smartphones have become commonplace, individuals can shine a light on a pattern of abusive power that has gone unacknowledged and unaddressed for far too long. Endemic, systemic racism now confronts white Americans who have been able to pretend it didn’t exist or have explained it away. 

This year, in this season as we watch protests that continue after four months, each one of us has to decide whether to pay attention to the evidence and re-evaluate whether or not racism is alive and well in our world, or whether we will continue to kid ourselves by denying the evidence.

Will we continue to minimize the role of racism in the events we see, and adopt conspiracy theories that protect us from having to face a deep, hard sin in our society?

This is why I am talking to you about this today. America has been broken since there was money to be made by kidnapping, imprisoning, shipping like cargo across the ocean and literally delivering people with Black bodies from Africa to the New world to be marketed to enslavers who built the wealthiest nation in the world on their backs. And all these years later, the deep wounds caused by that original sin have not healed.

But we have a chance today, in this generation, to learn to hear and see what we have not wanted to admit – that our nation is not fair, rights are not equal, and systems are not just. And we have the opportunity to journey with Jesus on a straight path that might lead to a just, equal, fair and beloved community.

I want to be part of that project! Don’t you?

And yet, even as I say that I want to be part of the project of dismantling racism in the Greater Northwest, in The United Methodist Church, in the human family, I can feel a little fear rising in myself.  I will have to give up something for justice.  Justice would not have given me all the advantages I enjoy.  God’s justice will lift up the lowly and humble the rest of us (Luke 1: 52).

What if I – if we – venture outside the values, beliefs and ways of living that I have spent a lifetime learning? What if we can’t find a way forward? What if it’s a wilderness and not a promised land? Well, friends, we’re in the wilderness already, wouldn’t you say? Were the Israelites right to leave slavery in Egypt in search of something better? 

And you know what God says to our fearful selves? Don’t be afraid of the wilderness. You have been there before. There is a better way than the way things are now. I will show you the way. Take a step on the path of right relationship.

Fear not. Perfect love casts out fear.

Your cabinet members and I are stepping out in love, and I hope that United Methodists in Alaska, British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon and Washington will join us on a walk from fear to love.

Dismantling Racism and Creating Beloved Community

Phillipians 2:1, 3-5

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy…. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus…

When Boise First United Methodist Church, known as the Cathedral of the Rockies, was built and dedicated in 1960, it included was a stained-glass window with the image of Robert E. Lee alongside George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  Robert E. Lee was the Civil War general who led the fight to protect and preserve the legal right to enslave people in the United States. In recent years lethal attacks on Black Americans brought renewed attention to this widow and raised the question whether it was appropriate to elevate Robert E. Lee to the company of Washington and Lincoln.

After George Floyd’s cruel death, as the public display of Civil War monuments and confederate flags was challenged across the country, criticism of the window at Boise First flared up on social media. Church leaders decided the window should be removed. In July, Clint and I drove to Boise, Idaho, to participate in a small, socially distanced gathering to deconsecrate this window as workers removed it permanently. [v]

At the deconsecration, I issued a call to United Methodists in the Greater Northwest Area to enter a season of self-examination, confession, repentance and housecleaning in our churches.

A Call to Dismantle Racism

In the Greater Northwest, we recognize and strive for “inclusion” as one of three practices of a vital, healthy church.  As I lead the church in its mission of helping people become disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, I call upon the United Methodist clergy and laity of the Greater Northwest Area to promote greater cultural and racial equity and inclusion in our communities of faith.  I call every pastor and lay member of the Annual Conferences to lead their church(es) to:

  1. Learn the history and current reality of racism, anti-blackness, Native American exclusion, anti-immigrant attitudes, implicit racial bias and white supremacy.
  2. Examine the visual images present in worship spaces and facilities, newsletters, for imagery that is culturally biased or exclusionary.
  3. Reflect on traditions, decision-making, and communication styles that assume and privilege Euro-centric culture and values.
  4. Examine the values and people prioritized in church budgets and activities.
  5. In word and deed, intentionally to appreciate and honor the God-given goodness of a diverse human family.
  6. Intentionally to welcome the wide diversity of God’s children into full, authentic voice and leadership in our churches.
  7. Initiate and enter into partnerships with groups in the community that are not now present in each congregation.

During Charge Conferences this fall and winter, district superintendents will work with congregations to begin to engage these challenges. God has opened a door for us listen, to grow and to honor people who bring varied experiences of life in America. God is leading us in this work, to make us whole, and to help our churches deepen their discipleship, broaden their engagement with the racially diverse people in their communities, and become places where the inclusive love of Jesus Christ will be evident to people from all races and walks of life.

We can do this. God is in this work. Jesus leads the way. The Holy Spirit is with us for encouragement. We must do it.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Greater Northwest Episcopal Area


[ii] “The Bull Romanus Pontifex, English translation:, 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.



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