Beyond Weapons of War

Beyond Weapons of War

Let all that you do be done in love.

1 Corinthians 16:14


November 22, 2022

Friends in Christ, Thanksgiving is Thursday and Advent starts next Sunday.

My heart is anguished after the murders at Club Q in Colorado Springs last weekend. In “barely a minute,” five people died, 17 others were shot, and two others were injured. The 22-year-old shooter, carrying an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle, stalked his prey in a place people came for sanctuary from anti-LGBTQIA+ hatred. They were unarmed in an enclosed space, like sitting ducks or fish in a barrel.

No one has the right to hunt and kill innocent people. No civilian should have the right to carry an assault weapon designed for war.

If you are a person who identifies as LGBTQIA+, I see you, I love you, I need you to survive. You should not be targeted for ridicule, bullying, or bodily harm by people who don’t understand you or hate you. I believe that Jesus calls every Christian to be a trustworthy ally as you seek to live the fullness of life God sets before you, but many are slow to respond to this call.

If you are a person who hates or fears LGBTQIA+ people, I’m sorry for you; you don’t have to remain where you are today. Each of us is held to account for our fear, our hatred, and our inaction. In the gospels, we have a front-row seat as Jesus meets all kinds of misunderstood and marginalized people – leper, blind, possessed, lame, tax collectors, women caught in adultery or with a flow of blood, robbers. He seeks them out, speaks with them, and invites them into his circle of friends. He saved his disdain for high priests and pious people he thought should know better – like us.

If you follow Jesus, he will introduce you to LGBTQIA+ people, and you will be given the opportunity to grow in your knowledge and love of Jesus by seeing what Jesus sees in them. We must love our way out of hate, or we will find ourselves on the side of Herod, slaughtering innocents in the pursuit of his rival, Jesus, instead of on the side of humble shepherds, tending their flocks and welcoming his arrival. 

Regardless of political party, it is time for Christian people, striving to walk in the way of Jesus, to join with others of generous spirit, to rise up to stop the sale of assault weapons. Courageous citizens have the power to protect innocent victims from people who lack the intellectual, moral, emotional, or spiritual ability to resist an impulse to wholesale slaughter. It is blasphemous to pray for God to do what we have the power but not yet the will to do. We are our brother’s/sister’s/sibling’s keeper. We can act, and so we must, to save countless lives.

This Thanksgiving, I hope you will enjoy good food in the company of people you love, whether family, friends, or strangers. I hope you will pray for those on both ends of gun violence. And as we prepare for the birth of Jesus, learn more and work to ban private ownership of weapons designed for war. I urge you to see how our General Board of Church and Society is helping us get involved in resisting gun violence. I hope you will also consider writing a letter to your elected representatives, as Olympia First UMC encouraged us at our annual conference session in June. We can make it safer for innocent, vulnerable people to gather without fear for work, a concert, a drag show, a movie, a nightclub, school, church, for love.

Love is born at Christmas!

Elaine JW Stanovsky
Bishop, Greater Northwest Episcopal Area

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Lift Every Voice and Sing

Lift Every Voice and Sing

Prepare the way of the Lord,
Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

— Excerpts from Luke 3

When he was still in elementary school, I took our oldest son, Walker, to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day rally at the Langston Hughes Center in Seattle’s Central District and the march downtown that followed. When the standing-room-only crowd broke into song, I was surprised to see our son rise, respectfully to his feet, and sing the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” by heart, and sang it with all his heart.

The music teacher at Madrona Elementary School was married to an Africa Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) pastor. She had taught her students to stand and sing the song with conviction. I was moved to tears as my son participated in that powerful gathering of people honoring the legacy of the civil rights struggle and continuing to call out and demand equity and justice. He participated in the power of the history, the lament, the community, the cause, the witness, the hope.

This month, I was grateful when the local UMC I attended for worship on MLK Day included the song in their service, invoking the long, bloody struggle from enslavement to justice and equity for Black people in America.

As United Methodist Christians, I hope that we all carry in our hearts a yearning for racial equity and justice as a gift and challenge from Jesus. I hope we all know the work isn’t finished,

  • that all Americans have work to do to make the American Dream equally accessible to every American,
  • that white European-American immigrants to this land have had unfair access to the riches and opportunity embodied in the “American Dream” since Christopher Columbus first landed in 1492, and since people were first captured and enslaved in Africa and transported to America in 1619.

God’s good vision of human community cannot be achieved without racial justice and equity.  And it cannot be achieved unless people who benefit from inequality and those who are deprived by it work to name and dismantle the systems that protect white privilege and preserve exclusion and oppression.

February is Black History Month. I hope you will use “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in some way in worship this month. It is # 519 in The United Methodist Hymnal and is in the public domain, so you don’t need copyright permission to use the words or music. Be sure to share the history of the hymn, when it was written, by whom, for what occasion and how it came to be known as the Black National Anthem.

Consider using the TREASURE HUNT below to deepen your appreciation and love of this song. Use the linked resources to find the answers to the questions in the box and the resources offered.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

“Lift Every Voice and Sing” TREASURE HUNT

Searching for Treasure

  • When was the song written? In Black history, what is this period of history called?

  • Who wrote the words and music?
  • How are United Methodists connected to the writers/composers?
  • Is the Black National Anthem only for Black people to sing?
  • Why is it called the Black National Anthem?
  • What occasion was it written for?
  • What member of Congress proposed legislation to designate “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as America’s national hymn?
  • What one line from the song will you carry in your hearts, as a follower of Jesus?

Following the Map

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A call to prayer and action for Tonga

A call to prayer and action for Tonga


Thursday, January 20, 2022

Credit: Japan Meteorology Agency via AP.

Beloved in Christ, 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Joining with you in offering prayer and hope,

    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky


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    From the Bishop, RE: Boy Scout units chartered by local United Methodist Churches

    Aug. 27, 2021

    Dear Greater Northwest United Methodists of the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences:

    We send this letter with heavy hearts, knowing that many young people have been harmed while participating in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), over many decades. While countless young persons have benefited from the different programs and levels of Boy Scouting, some have experienced demeaning and abusive behavior while participating in scouting activities and events and have taken their claims to the courts.

    Many local United Methodist churches partner as charter organizations for Boy Scout units across the country. The United Methodist Church (TUMC) is committed to being a safe and nurturing place for all people, to healing harm that has been done and, to partnering with organizations that share this commitment. The United Methodist Church is reviewing its relationship with BSA to ensure that the Church is acting responsibly to protect the safety of children and ensure that it is not responsible for harm done during Boy Scout activities.

    BSA Current Reality

    The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is overwhelmed with potential liability exposure from sexual assault allegations nationwide. The BSA has filed for bankruptcy protection. Under both of the proposed plans that the BSA has suggested as ways to continue after the bankruptcy, they are leaving their chartered organizations out on a limb by themselves. The chartered organizations are the local churches, schools, and civic groups that sponsor or host a Scout Troop, Pack, Crew, or other unit. The details of these plans are still being played out, but the BSA is placing all of our United Methodist churches who have ever been involved in Scouting in a very difficult position.

    Despite their consistent past assurances that they held enough insurance to cover their chartered organizations in case of injured scouts, we now know that the BSA did not have enough or sufficient insurance. The local churches are at risk of having to pay significant sums to victims to compensate them for the damages they suffered at the hands of some Scout leaders. In addition, the local churches will have to pay for the cost of their own attorneys to defend those claims. All of this is because the BSA did not fulfill their promise to have enough insurance to protect the local churches.
     
    Future Relationship with the BSA

    Our team, made up of the Bishop, her GNW Area assistant, and the treasurers and chancellors of the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conferences, recommends that local churches change their relationships with Scouting units.

    If your local church currently charters a Scout unit, we recommend that you NOT renew that chartering agreement when it is up for renewal or re-chartering this fall. Instead, we recommend one of three options, the choice of which is up to you:

    1. Tell the local Scout council that you will NOT renew that chartering agreement but will only extend the current agreement until December 31, 2021.  
    2. Tell the local Scout council that you will NOT renew that chartering agreement but will enter into a Facilities Use Agreement with their unit until December 31, 2021.
       
    3. Tell the local Scout council that you will terminate the existing charter agreement and replace it with a Facilities Use Agreement with their unit until December 31, 2021.

    In options 2 and 3, the Facilities Use Agreement will act similar to a lease allowing the Scout unit to continue using your space, but they will be responsible for everything else, including the selection of leaders. A proposed agreement template can be found here. Also, please let your Conference Treasurer know if you are currently hosting a scout troop in any of the above described manners.

    After December 31, 2021, we should be in a better position to see how the future will unfold. Once a reorganization plan is approved by the bankruptcy court, we will know better how to proceed.

    If your local church does not charter a Scout unit at this time, we recommend that you NOT consider chartering a unit until the bankruptcy case is finalized and we have an understanding of how The United Methodist relationship with Scouts will continue in the future.

    We understand that these suggestions are dramatic, but we think them to be the prudent course of action at this time. We want to protect our local churches from being accused of contributing to the abuse of children and to the resulting risk of costly litigation.

    Closing Thoughts

    Boy Scout councils have begun contacting local churches directly that host Boy Scout units. One such letter is attached here. If you receive any communication from a local Scout council or the BSA advising or encouraging you to contact a Boy Scout attorney, please report this at once to Rev. Carlo A. Rapanut, Assistant to the Bishop. His email is carlorapanut@gmail.com.

    We know the value of scouting. It has played a very large role in the mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church for a very long time. But the BSA is not proving faithful to The United Methodist Church as they leave us without the protections that they promised. We simply cannot currently commit to the relationship with the BSA as we have in the past. Until we know how the BSA will be organized and operate in the future, we must make some changes. Hopefully, we will be able to continue our long connection with scouting in some way, but we need to make some changes today to help prevent us from being dragged down with the BSA in the future.

    May God’s mighty, surprising, Holy Spirit work a miracle of healing in the lives of people harmed by abuse. May God bless and keep us honest, diligent and wise through this process.

    Faithfully,



    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
    Greater NW Area
    The United Methodist Church

                       




    Rev. Carlo A. Rapanut
    Assistant to the Bishop
    GNW Area of The UMC





    Brant Henshaw
    Conference Treasurer
    Pacific Northwest & Alaska Conferences





    Rev. Dan Wilson-Fey
    Conference Treasurer/Benefits Officer
    Oregon-Idaho
    Attached documents:
    Facility use agreement template for Boy Scouts of America.
    Letter related to BSA sent to pastor at Homer UMC in Alaska.

    Stepping forward safely in love and trust

    Clergy Siblings in Christ,

    Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, 
    so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. 
    Help each other out. And run for it!–Hebrews 12:12, The Message

    Friends, we have been running to care, serve and survive COVID-19 for more than 14 months and the end is not yet in sight. You have been our essential workers in ministry for many months as our buildings have been largely closed and activities severely restricted.

    We have not crossed the finished line, though we have learned a lot, adapted incredibly, and experienced the presence of God in ways we never expected. From my heart, thank you for your endurance, your courage and fortitude, your vulnerability, your compassion, your faithfulness in the valley of the shadow of death.

    Attached is new guidance for churches as they Stepping forward safely in love and trust, that builds upon, but replaces Reimagining Life Together.& It acknowledges the continuing risk of disease, advances in science, and the increasing capacity of our local church leaders to manage the risk in their contexts. New responsibility falls to local leaders to understand and guide their ministry settings wisely and safely with fewer mandated guidelines.

    Some of you will welcome the shift of responsibility to local leaders. Others may dread managing intense differences of opinion within your congregation as you make difficult decisions locally. I want to call your attention to two provisions from the document that may help you lead with strength.

    1. “…please remember Saint Paul’s admonition that what is “permissible” is not always “beneficial” to the common good. (I Corinthians 10:23). While some churches may act quickly to adopt new, less restrictive practices, it is always OK for a church or ministry to choose to remain more cautious for any reason.”

    2. “A local church is not permitted to hold in-person worship without the approval of the pastor. For local churches, decisions about the use of church property for worship or other gatherings belong to the pastor without interference from the Board of Trustees (Book of Discipline, ¶ 2533).”

    Your trusted lay leaders and clergy colleagues, district superintendents and directors of connectional ministry are your partners in ministry as you lead one more challenge in the fight against this deadly disease.

    And most of all, GOD IS WITH US.

    May God bless and keep you all in your circles of care — members, friends, family, neighbors, strangers — so no one will trip and fall!

    Elaine JW Stanovsky
    Bishop, Greater Northwest Area
    The United Methodist Church

    A pastoral update on our COVID-19 response

    Dear Siblings in Christ, 

    We are making progress, but we are not quite there yet. It has been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted life as we knew it. We continue to persevere, exhausted at times, yet anticipating the day when we can gather, greet each other, share communion and other precious rhythms of life and spiritual practice in person without risking harm to one another. Hopeful also that we now carry with us new learnings and practices, hard lessons of necessity that will continue to connect us in new ways in life and ministry.  

    The rapid vaccine rollout gives us hope that we can enjoy more freedom to gather as families and faith communities soon. Vaccinations coupled with continuous strict adherence to safety protocols are expected to lower infection rates, hospitalizations and COVID-19 related deaths. Overall, we have seen the number of cases decline since the winter peak in many places, but progress has been stalled by premature re-openings, the easing of restrictions in some places, resistance by some to being vaccinated and observing simple safety practices: washing hands, social distancing, wearing a mask. I hope that each of us is continuing to follow these practices, as well as being vaccinated, consistent with medical advice, as soon as we are eligible.  

    I was surprised by the deep joy that welled up in me when those shots went in my arm, protecting not only me but also everyone I encounter from the dangers of this virus. I’m grateful to every person who is able and willing to join this movement toward health and safety.   

    As Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reminded us in a briefing earlier this year,  

    “We may be done with the virus, but clearly the virus is not done with us. We cannot get comfortable or give in to a false sense of security that the worst of the pandemic is behind us – not now; not when mass vaccination is so very close.” 

    Permissible not Necessarily Beneficial 

    In an article for The Atlantic, Dr. James Hamblin of the Yale School of Public Health points out,  

    “Our social lives can resume, but only when the whole community is ready. The turning point does not arrive for individuals, one by one, as soon as they’ve been vaccinated; it comes for all of us at once, when a population becomes immune.” 

    With this understanding, we are advised that the number of coronavirus cases needs to decrease further before we resume regular activities, especially in light of the arrival of new fast-spreading variants of the virus. A premature reopening, even if allowed by the state, may run the risk of not just stalling but even reversing the recent progress we have already achieved.  

    I am reminded of Saint Paul’s admonition that things that are “permissible” are not necessarily things that are “beneficial” to the common good. (I Corinthians 10:23).  

    While we should celebrate the good news of vaccines providing a layer of protection already for a significant number of members in some of our congregations, the church does not belong solely to those who are vaccinated. Especially as we have just now reached a time when all adults are eligible to receive a vaccine, we must continue to be patient to allow them the privilege of receiving this gift of security before we consider letting our guard down. At the same time, we will need to find ways to protect and include children in church life while continuing to wait for vaccination eligibility to be extended to them. 

    As the church, God calls us always to do things that are beneficial because we bear responsibility towards the well-being of others, especially the most vulnerable among us.  

    A Posture of Hopeful Caution 

    The progress we see in vaccinations, tempered by the potential threat of variants we race, leads me toward a posture of hopeful caution; we are almost there but not quite there yet. Even as our hope is renewed with the increasing percentage of those vaccinated, our decisions and actions must continue to manifest the utmost concern for one another as an act of love in response to Jesus’ command for us to love one another as he had loved us (John 13:34).  

    Accordingly, I am asking churches to remain vigilant in their planning and decision-making processes. The COVID-19 Response Team, made up of lay and clergy members from across the area, is continuing to review and amend its guidance to local churches. By May 5th, we will release updated guidelines for Phase 3, shifting more responsibility to local leaders to guide their congregation’s, camp’s or other ministry setting’s COVID-19 response.  

    I am grateful for each of you and your faithfulness and commitment, especially during this long time of physical separation due to this pandemic. May the hard lessons learned as we have persevered, and new skills developed as you have adapted, empower our work together and witness to God’s love which never fails us. 

    “Those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength.” (Isaiah 40:31) 

    With love and grace, 

    Elaine JW Stanovsky 
    Bishop, Greater Northwest Episcopal Area 

    Offered in consultation with the COVID-19 Response Team, as currently composed: 

    • Rev. Alyssa Baker, pastor, Open Door Churches of Salem-Keizer, OR-ID Conference 
    • Laurie Day, OR-ID Conference Director of Connectional Ministries 
    • Rev. Jim Doepken, pastor, Moose Pass & Seward Memorial UMCs, Alaska Conference 
    • Rev. Mark Galang, Puget Sound District Superintendent, PNW Conference 
    • Rhondalei Gabuat, Executive Assistant for Bishop Stanovsky Greater Northwest Episcopal Area  
    • Rev. Karen Hernandez, Sage District Superintendent, OR-ID Conference 
    • Rev. Pat Longstroth, pastor, Bremerton UMC, PNW Conference 
    • Becky Platt, lay member, Boise (ID): Whitney UMC, OR-ID Conference 
    • Patrick Scriven, PNW Conference Director of Communications 
    • Jim Truitt, lay member, Renton (WA): Fairwood Community UMC, PNW Conference 

    Two important announcements for the Greater Northwest Area

    Beloved in Christ, 

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

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

    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    With gratitude and hope,

    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

    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

    A Message from Bishop Stanovsky on Juneteenth 2020

    24 February, 1791

    Balam. England

    Dear Sir:

    Unless the divine power has raised you up to be as “Athanasius against the world,” I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy, which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them stronger than God? O be not weary of well-doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.

    Reading this morning a tract wrote by a poor African, I was particularly struck by the circumstance, that a man who has a black skin being wronged or outraged by a white man, can have no redress; it being a LAW in all of our Colonies that the OATH of a black man against a white goes for nothing. What villainy is this!

    That He who has guided you from youth up may continue to strengthen you in this and all things is the prayer of, dear sir,

    Your affectionate servant,

    John Wesley[i]                        

    Juneteenth, 2020

    To the People Called Methodist,

    BLACK LIVES MATTER
    BLACK VOTING RIGHTS MATTER
    BLACK VOICES MATTER

    Since George Floyd died beneath the crushing knee of a police officer, the cry for justice has been heard around the world, with new urgency. The cry and demand for racial justice can be found in the very origins of the Methodist movement, in John Wesley’s letter encouraging William Wilberforce to persevere in the seemingly hopeless battle against the “execrable villainy” of racial injustice embedded in the law and practice, trusting that, “if God be for you, who can be against you?”

    Nearly 230 years later, this villainy has not been rooted out, but embedded in systems that we mask with words. A new generation of activists for the just treatment of Black people joins generations who have fought for decades and centuries to put right what is so very wrong and corrosive of the principle that all are created equal. The struggle is long and hard, and many people who benefit from the injustice work to perpetuate the unequal, cruel and even lethal treatment of Black Americans.

    Today is celebrated as Juneteenth, remembered as the day emancipation of slaves was announced to the last state in the United States on June 19, 1865, following the Civil War. I pray that God continues in the midst of the struggle, with people in police departments, courtrooms, on the streets, in worship, attending funerals, behind prison bars. I pray that God is using the people called “Methodist” in our day to continue the struggle. 

    May all who see the injustice, say what we see, share what we see and never “never be worn out by the opposition of men and devils” who stand against justice. God is with all who stand and speak and work for racial justice.

    Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

                                                          Hebrews 12:12

    But let justice roll down like waters,
        and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

    Amos 5: 24

    Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky


    [i]  John Wesley’s last letter before his death, sent to William Wilberforce, quoted in https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/wesley-to-wilberforce/