Lay and clergy members of the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conferences,
Beloved in Christ, I am writing in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic to notify you that I have canceled the Shared Annual Conference session scheduled for June 2020 at the Washington State Fair Grounds in Puyallup, Washington. The current global health crisis has required strong action on the part of public officials to protect the public health. We don’t know how long the present restrictions of public gatherings, commerce and travel will continue. In deference to public health considerations, to honor the members of the Conferences who must make hotel and travel plans, and in order to avoid a sudden decision close to the scheduled dates, I have made this decision now.
The Greater Northwest is not alone in facing this dilemma. We are living through unprecedented times, requiring adaptations to many of the customs and systems we have known. Alternative plans for the Conference sessions will be developed collaboratively with the cabinets and officers of the Conferences, as well as colleagues across the United States.
Canceling Annual Conference leaves many questions unanswered in the short run that will have to be answered before I can announce alternative plans to conduct the minimal, essential business of the Annual Conferences in a safe and timely manner. Just a few:
How will nominations for the next quadrennium be handled?
What about the clergy session: retirements, commissioning, and ordinations?
I appeal to you for patience and grace as we search for an orderly way to administer the Conferences without compromising the health and safety of our members or the general public. I hope that we will be able to announce the alternative plan to do this very soon.
As we struggle to find our bearings in the turbulence of illness, separation, risk, and economic collapse, I am deeply grateful to each of you for your steadfast faithfulness to God’s promises of abundant life, and for your sacrificial commitment to the Church – your local church home, your neighborhood and the whole global United Methodist family.
Listen, taste and see. God is at work in the turbulence – doing a new thing. Do you not see it?
I wait with longing to be together again. In the meantime, we have challenges to face, work to do, lessons to learn. It’s a great, terrifying time to be alive. May God bless you and keep you until we can meet together.
“Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He answered, “ You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
Luke 10:25b, 27
In the midst of a crisis beyond our imagination, it’s good to go back to basics:
Love God | Love your neighbor | You will live
Jesus doesn’t say that if you do this you will not get the Coronavirus or that if you get it you will not die. Jesus says that, no matter what happens, if you live your life in love with God and neighbor, you will experience the blessing of living life in all its fullness. I pray this for all of us who try to walk in Jesus’ footsteps.
LOVING GOD WHILE PROTECTING PUBLIC HEALTH
Suspension of In-person Worship and Other Gatherings through April As your bishop, I am charged to lead and oversee the spiritual and temporal affairs of The United Methodist Church. For the love of God and of our neighbors in every place, today I am directing continued suspension of in-person worship through April 30, 2020. This directive is in effect for United Methodist Churches across the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington and anywhere in the Greater Northwest Area served by United Methodist clergy under my supervision. This suspension of worship includes Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter. It applies to both indoor and outdoor worship, weddings and funerals and to all days of the week. Please continue to conduct worship, bible study, prayer groups, and fellowship groups if you can do so remotely.
The virus is spreading in every state in the country in an invisible, vicious cycle. When a person becomes infected, symptoms don’t appear for up to two weeks. If they don’t follow hygiene and social distancing guidelines, they will expose others, who won’t show symptoms for two weeks, while they, in turn, expose others. In order to slow the spread of the virus, and to protect health care systems from being overwhelmed, each of us must take precautions to protect ourselves and others as if we are carrying the virus ourselves and as if the people around us are infected. This is what loving ourselves and our neighbors looks like for the foreseeable future, no matter where you live or whether you know anyone who has been diagnosed with the Coronavirus.
Holy Week and Easter For churches that are unable or choose not to lead worship remotely, I am working with a team to produce an Easter Sunday worship video resource that can be accessed by local churches at any time and in any place with internet service. It will include a variety of voices, faces, and landscapes from a wide variety of people and places across the greater northwest. We will encourage groups to organize watch parties on Facebook to share Easter together/apart.
Communion The bishops in the Western Jurisdiction are issuing a letter regarding the online celebration of Holy Communion when we are not “congregating” for worship. This guidance will be available tomorrow. UPDATE – Read the letter here.
Closure of Church facilities to all except essential services All United Methodist church buildings and other facilities are to be closed, effective March 28 to all but essential services and only to the extent allowed by state and local government restrictions or advice. Protective cleaning and hygiene practices are mandatory for all exempt essential services held in United Methodist facilities:
Sanitizing cleaning of the building before and after every use
6 feet social distance among participants
Hand washing with soap and water or hand sanitizer
Coughing and sneezing into tissues which are discarded into closed containers
God loves the faithful, so the faithful can love God’s vulnerable children. This pandemic is putting many people at dire risk of disease, isolation, hunger, unemployment, mental illness. Protecting people from the virus is just the beginning. Our calling is to form life-giving relationships with people who are poor, homeless, outcast, unemployed, abused, despised or forgotten. In every place, I challenge you to think creatively about how your church can hear the cries of the needy and respond in ways that offer dignity, self-determination, and hope. Gift cards to grocery stores, drive-through food pantries, volunteers to purchase and deliver food to people with compromising conditions, phone calls, hygiene kits for homeless. If you ask people in your community what they need, they will tell you.
SHARING THE BURDEN IN CONNECTION
We know that this crisis will create hardships for local churches. Church budgets will be strained as people are laid off from their jobs, struggle to buy food and pay rent, and watch their retirement savings plummet. Your conference leaders are planning for reduced income in local churches and at the conference level. My priorities, as we make adjustments are
Finding ways to lighten the burden on local churches,
Protecting income security for clergy and staff in our churches and conferences,
Re-directing resources to relieve financial strain among the most vulnerable
We recognize that funds saved for a rainy day, are needed now. Watch for concrete plans.
LET’S MAKE IT A STANDING DATE…
Every Wednesday morning through April, clergy and lay members of the Annual Conference can join a Zoom webinar with me and other conference leaders at 9 am PDT (10 am MDT, 8 am AKDT). If you want to be part of these gatherings, mark your calendar now for this hour every Wednesday and watch for the links.
May God bless you and take care of you; May the GOD be kind and gracious to you; May God look on you with favor and give you peace.
El pan de Dios es el que baja del cielo y da vida al mundo. John 6:33
Amigos y Colegas en Cristo, la gracia y la paz estén con ustedes mientras navegamos por las aguas inciertas y desconocidas del COVID-19 que cambian nuestras vidas.
USTEDES HAN SIDO INCREIBLES! Mientras navegaba por una variedad de experiencias de adoración en línea estos dos últimos domingos, observe personas cantando, orando y predicando con todo el corazón. Mi profundo agradecimiento a cada uno de ustedes que están intentando algo nuevo en respuesta a las circunstancias nuevas y desafiantes que vivimos.
Al mismo tiempo, sabemos que esto no va a funcionar para todas las personas ni para todos los lugares. No hay nada de malo si su iglesia decide enviar boletines y sermones impresos o si se une a otra iglesia para su culto en línea. Si intenta algo y no funciona, solicite ayuda o pruebe algo diferente. No hay una sola respuesta correcta para todas las circunstancias y capacidades de nuestras iglesias. Los líderes que se adaptan y no siguen a la multitud, usan los recursos que tienen (o pueden obtener) para atender las circunstancias que enfrentan.
Tu tienes muchas preguntas sin respuesta
Pascua de Resurrección. Usted quiere saber acerca de las celebraciones de Semana Santa y Pascua de Resurrección. Les prometo que antes del martes 24 de marzo les informare si extenderé, enmendaré o levantaré la suspensión de la adoración en persona en nuestras iglesias. Cumpliré esa promesa. Yo esperaba tener una decisión hoy, pero luego de consultar con otros líderes de la conferencia y asesores de la respuesta a esta crisis, voy a esperar para tomar una decisión final. Es probable que extienda la suspensión de la adoración hasta la Pascua de Resurrección, el 12 de abril de 2020 y tal vez más allá, así que prepárense para esta posibilidad. Estamos planeando ofrecer una alternativa en línea para la adoración local durante la Pascua de Resurrección en caso de que la adoración en persona continúe suspendida.
Ayer supimos que la Conferencia General de mayo se pospondrá. Los líderes del área del Gran Noroeste y la Jurisdicción Occidental están monitoreando de cerca las recomendaciones de las agencias de salud pública, ya que el bienestar de todos los participantes es nuestra mayor preocupación. Les informaré tan pronto se tomen decisiones acerca de la Conferencias Anual y Conferencia Jurisdiccional.
Finanzas. Sabemos que estamos en medio de un dramático descenso económico. No sabemos cuánto durará ni qué tan profundo será. Sabemos que ya algunos están experimentando pérdida de empleo e ingresos. También sabemos que algunas iglesias locales ya están experimentando ingresos bien reducidos. Los líderes de la conferencia ya están explorando formas en que podemos aliviar la presión sobre las iglesias locales, y formas en que podemos mantener las funciones esenciales de la conferencia durante este tiempo de escasez.
Trabajo con el Espíritu y el Alma: Cuidar nuestras relaciones personales, nuestro espíritu así también como nuestros cuerpos.
Sabemos que los seres humanos somos vulnerables a la inseguridad y al aislamiento, de la misma manera que somos vulnerables a este virus. Comparto con ustedes sus inquietudes acerca de cuán dañino puede ser el miedo, la escasez y el aislamiento al momento de tratar de mantener un equilibrio entre 1) proteger y preservar la salud física y 2) la preocupación por la salud espiritual y el como fomentar el nutrir nuestras relaciones personales. En el mejor de los casos, vemos, atendemos e invitamos a la integridad de las personas a las que servimos para que estén presentes en la adoración, en la oración, en la vida de la Iglesia. Pero también sabemos que no estamos realmente completos por teléfono, ni en línea, ni con 6 pies de separación.
Pero nos preguntamos; ¿Cómo profundizamos nuestra confianza en Dios, en los demás y cultivamos la interacción humana mientras practicamos distancias seguras entre nosotros? Un pastor cambio la manera de decir “distancia social” por “distancia física”, enfatizando la importancia de acercarse socialmente, a pesar de la distancia física. Esto un desafío. Pero no es imposible. Sé que estás alcanzando un buen nivel compartiendo ideas creativas: desde la adoración en línea hasta la manera en que compartes las despensas de alimentos y las reuniones de oración para tu comunidad.
¿Qué esperanza nos ofrece Dios?
Su fe en Dios debería ser un recurso para usted en estos tiempos.
El COVID-19 está causando cambios amplios a largo plazo en nuestra vida cotidiana y en toda la raza humana, a nivel mundial. Experimentamos los efectos en nuestra vida diaria: anaqueles en las tiendas vacíos, actividades restringidas y una conciencia inusual de cada estornudo, picor en la garganta y la tos matutina. ¿Cuántos perderán sus trabajos? Casas? Pensiones? ¿Cómo vamos a comer? Nos preocupamos por nuestros padres, abuelos e hijos. Algunas familias viven en un contacto más estrecho de lo habitual y experimentan lo positivo o negativo de una comunidad cercana.
La Biblia reconoce que la vida viene con bendiciones y dificultades. Tiempos de abundancia y tiempos de escasez. Y la Biblia también nos muestra que las malas noticias no son la última palabra. Estamos viviendo en un mundo imperfecto, incierto, peligroso y desconcertante, el mismo mundo que Dios describe en la Biblia.
Como cristianos, tenemos una relación con nuestro Salvador que consuela a los afligidos, rescata a los que perecen, y recibe a los extranjeros. Lo conocemos como un ser humano que vivió en este mundo de miseria, y se desvivió para alcanzar todos los grupos sociales. Lo conocemos como Dios entre nosotros. Y Jesús nos invita a ser socios de la gracia salvadora de Dios al estar con otros. Jesús conoce nuestra fuerza mejor que nosotros. Escucha la voz del Salvador, que te dice que tu estás viviendo un momento de prueba. Lo puedo ver!. No estoy causando esta enfermedad!. Esto es parte de un mundo imperfecto. Estoy contigo!, llevándote a ser una bendición en este mundo de dolor.
Te estoy pidiendo que no compartas Comunión por un tiempo. Pero no olvides el pan y la copa. La vida de Jesús, dada por ti. El amor derramado por ti. Jesús dice: este soy yo: mi cuerpo, mi sangre. La Copa de Salvación. No necesitas los símbolos para experimentar la presencia real de Dios. Recuerda el amor de Dios por ti. Dios nos pone en este mundo para amarnos unos a otros.
Nada puede separarnos del amor de Dios en Jesucristo. La gracia del Señor Jesucristo, el amor de Dios y la comunión del Espíritu Santo sean con todos ustedes.
For the bread of God… comes down from heaven
and gives life to the world.
Friends and Colleagues in Christ, grace and peace be with you as we navigate the life-changing and uncertain waters of COVID-19.
YOU HAVE BEEN AMAZING! As I surfed a variety of online worship experiences these last two Sundays, I saw people singing, praying and preaching their hearts out. My deep gratitude to each of you who is trying something new in response to new and challenging circumstances.
At the same time, we know this isn’t going to work for everyone or every place. There’s nothing wrong if your church decides to send out printed bulletins and sermons or joins another church for its online worship. If you try something and it doesn’t work, ask for help or try something different. There isn’t one right answer for all the circumstances and capacities of our churches. Adaptive leaders don’t follow the crowd, they use the resources they have (or can get) to address the circumstance they face.
You have a lot of Unanswered Questions
Easter. You want to know about Holy Week and Easter observances. I promised I’d let you know by Tuesday, March 24 whether I will extend, amend or lift the suspension of in-person worship in our churches. I will keep that promise. I hoped to have a decision today, but in consultation with other conference leaders and crisis response advisors, I am waiting to make a final decision. It is likely that I will extend the suspension of worship through at least Easter, April 12, 2020 and perhaps beyond, so be prepared for this possibility. We are planning to offer an online alternative to local worship on Easter in case in-person worship continues to be suspended.
General Conference. Annual Conferences. Jurisdictional Conference.
We learned yesterday that May’s General Conference will be postponed. Leaders across the Greater Northwest Area, and the Western Jurisdiction, are closely monitoring the recommendations of public health agencies, with the wellbeing of potential participants our utmost concern. I’ll let you know as soon as decisions are made about Annual and Jurisdictional Conferences.
Finances. We know that we are in the midst of
a dramatic economic downturn. We don’t know how long it will last, or how deep it will crash. We know that others are experiencing loss of employment or income. We do know that some local churches are already experiencing reduced income. Your conference leaders are exploring ways we can relieve pressure on local churches, and ways in which we can sustain essential conference functions
through this time of scarcity.
SOUL WORK: Caring for relationships and spirits as well as bodies.
that human beings are vulnerable to insecurity and isolation as well as to the virus. I share your concerns about how damaging fear, scarcity and isolation can be toward maintaining a balance between 1) protecting and preserving physical health and 2) concern for spiritual health and nurturing relationships. At our best, we see and tend and invite the wholeness of the persons we serve to show up in worship, in prayer, in play – in Church. And we know we aren’t really whole on the phone, or online, or with 6 feet of
How do we deepen our confidence in God and each other and cultivate human community while practicing safe distances from each other? One pastor shifted from saying “social distance” to “physical distance,” emphasizing the importance of drawing near to one another socially, despite physical distance. It’s a challenge. But it’s not impossible. I know you are rising to it and sharing creative ideas: from online worship to drive-up food pantries and parking-lot meet ups for neighborhood prayers.
What hope does God offer?
Your faith in God should be a resource for you in these times.
is causing far-reaching, long-term changes in our daily lives and in the human race, globally. We experience the effects in our daily lives: empty store shelves, restricted activities, unusual awareness of every sneeze, throat tickle, morning cough. How many will
lose their jobs? Homes? Pensions? How will we eat? We worry for our parents, grandparents, children. Some families are living in tighter contact than usual and experiencing both the blessings and curses of close community.
acknowledges that life comes with blessings and curses. Full times and lean times. And the Bible also shows us that bad news
isn’t the final word. We are living in the imperfect, uncertain, dangerous, perplexing world God reveals in the Bible.
As Christians, we have a relationship with a Savior who comforts the afflicted, rescues the perishing and welcomes strangers.
We know him as a man who lived in a world of human misery, and he went out of his way to reach out across social distances of every kind. We know him as God-with-us. And Jesus invites us to be partners in God’s saving grace by being with others. Jesus
knows our strength better than we do. Listen for the voice of the Savior, saying, you are living through a time of trial. I see you. I am not causing this disease. It is part of an imperfect world. I am with you, leading you to be a blessing
in a world of hurt.
I’ve asked you not to share Communion for a while. But don’t forget the bread and the cup. Life, given for you. Love, poured
out for you. Jesus says, this is me: my body my blood. Cup of Salvation. You don’t need the symbols to experience God’s real presence. Remember God’s love for you. God puts you in the world to love one another.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ.The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.
Estimado Pastor/a metodista unido, miembros y amigos:
NO HAGA DAÑO. HAZ EL BIEN. MANTÉNGASE EN EL AMOR DE DIOS.; STAY IN LOVE WITH GOD.
Las tres simples reglas de John Wesley (Adaptadas)
NO HAGA DAÑO
Día a día estamos aprendiendo más sobre COVID-19, o el Coronavirus. Sabemos que pueden pasar hasta 14 días entre el momento en que una persona está expuesta al virus y cuando comienzan los síntomas. Esto significa que, como ha pasado en los condados King y Snohomish en el estado de Washington, el virus puede pasar desapercibido durante algún tiempo antes de ser identificado. Durante ese tiempo, la persona infectada con el virus está exponiendo a otros a la infección sin siquiera saberlo. También sabemos que el virus es altamente contagioso, pero que las medidas de precaución pueden reducir la velocidad de propagación. Disminuir la propagación baja el porciento de casos de una epidemia como esta.
Si hay demasiados casos que necesitan atención médica al mismo tiempo, esto puede inundar nuestros hospitales y clínicas, lo que hace imposible que todos los casos críticos de COVID-19, así como otras emergencias médicas no relacionadas, reciban un tratamiento oportuno y adecuado.
En acuerdo con las directrices y recomendaciones emitidas por el Gobernador de Oregon Brown y el Gobernador de Washington Inslee y reconociendo que las personas mayores de 60 años o que tienen condiciones de salud pre-existentes se les aconseja no asistir a reuniones de más de 10 personas, Estoy ordenando a las iglesias locales de cualquier tamaño y otros ministerios en los estados de Alaska, Idaho, Oregon y Washington que suspendan el culto y otras reuniones de más de 10 personas durante las próximas dos semanas, a partir de hoy. Sus líderes de la conferencia y yo evaluaremos como se estan desarrolando los eventos y actualizaremos esta directrices según corresponda, pero no más tarde del 24 de marzo, antes del Domingo de Ramos y la Semana Santa.
Algunas personas se preguntan si estas fuertes directrices están justificadas en Alaska, donde se confirmó el primer caso o en Idaho, donde COVID-19 aún no se ha detectado. Le pido que adopten esta disciplina como un acto valiente de prevención. Es probable que este virus esté presente, aun sin ser detectado, como lo ha estado en muchos lugares.
¡No queremos arriesgarnos a que nadie contraiga o propague este virus en la iglesia! También solicito al personal de la conferencia a que suspendan los viajes aéreos innecesarios y aconsejo al clero que haga lo mismo hasta nuevo aviso.
HAZ EL BIEN
El Departamento de Salud de Oregón nos recuerda que “Juntos, podemos minimizar el impacto de COVID-19 en los miembros mas vulnerables de nuestra comunidad”. Los metodistas unidos nos esforzamos por vivir una vida que promuevan el bienestar de los demás. En esta temporada de propagación de la enfermedad, hago un llamado a “extender la hospitalidad a los extraños”
mantengan una distancia social de 6 pies, sin abrazos, apretones de manos o golpes de codo
“Contribuya a la necesidad de los mas vulnerables”, al continuar apoyando a su iglesia local y otros ministerios vitales con sus oraciones, presencia (en espíritu y en línea), dones (incluyendo el apoyo financiero), servicio y testimonio para que los ministerios de compasión y la justicia no sean interrumpidos. Información de preparación para emergencias de la Conferencia de Oregon-Idaho, información de preparación de la Conferencia PNW, información de preparación de la Conferencia de Alaska.
Para que los ministerios que sirven a poblaciones vulnerables permanezcan abiertos, tal como: cuidado de niños, programas de alimentación, servicios para personas sin hogar, AA, es estrictamente recomendado el cumplimiento de las medidas de seguridad del Departamento para el Control de Enfermedades u otras agencias de salud pública para la limpieza, el distanciamiento social y estas pautas de detección de salud son obligatorias.
MANTÉNGASE EN EL AMOR DE DIOS
En tiempos de incertidumbre y vulnerabilidad, el contacto humano y la conexión espiritual son importantes. Le animo a que encuentren formas creativas de mantenerse en contacto con sus colegas y sus feligreses durante este tiempo. Las redes sociales son geniales, pero no sustituyen una llamada telefónica o tiempo de atención.
A pesar de que se nos alienta a quedarnos en casa, evitar el contacto social y adorar en línea, las iglesias y las agencias de servicios sociales necesitan un apoyo constante de la comunidad para continuar su crucial trabajo de justicia y compasión. Espero que experimenten ofreciendo cultos en línea, donaciones y reuniones durante esta emergencia.
Hay buenas noticias para las iglesias sobre las licencias Zoom y CCLI. Finalmente, en tiempos de crisis, el miedo da paso al odio. Las personas de ascendencia asiática, o aquellos que han viajado al extranjero, informan que han sido hostigados y estigmatizados bajo el supuesto de que trajeron el virus aquí.
Las personas no son responsables del virus, y cualquiera de nosotros podría ser portador. Solo el perfecto amor echa fuera el miedo (1 Juan 4:18).
Tomen precauciones para que usted, sus seres queridos, extranjeros, congregaciones y comunidades esten seguras.
Con gratitud por ti y tu liderazgo, y con confianza en el firme amor y la gracia de Jesucristo,
Dear United Methodist Clergy, Members and
DO NO HARM. DO GOOD. STAY IN LOVE WITH GOD.
John Wesley’s Three Simple Rules, adapted
Day by day we are learning more about COVID-19, or the Coronavirus. We know that as many as 14 days may pass between when a person is exposed to the virus, and when symptoms begin. This means that, as in King and Snohomish Counties in Washington State, the virus can go undetected for some time before it is identified. During that time, the person infected with the virus is exposing others to infection without even knowing it. We also know the virus is highly contagious but that cautious measures can slow down the rate of its spread. Slowing the spread flattens the curve of the peak of an epidemic like this. If there are too many cases needing medical attention at the same time, they can swamp our hospitals and clinics, making it impossible for all the critical COVID-19 cases, as well as other unrelated medical emergencies to receive timely and proper treatment.
Consistent with the directives and recommendations issued by Oregon Governor Brown and Washington Governor Inslee and recognizing that persons over 60 or who have compromising health conditions are advised not to attend gatherings of more than 10 people, I am directing the local churches of any size and other ministries in the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington to suspend in-person worship and other gatherings of more than 10 people for the next two weeks, starting today. Your conference leaders and I will assess unfolding events and update this directive as appropriate, but no later than March 24, before Palm Sunday and Holy Week.
Some people wonder if this strong action is warranted in Alaska, where the first case was just confirmed and Idaho, where COVID-19 has not been detected yet. I am asking you to adopt this discipline as a courageous act of prevention. It is likely that the virus is present, though undetected, as it has been in so many places. We don’t want to risk anyone contracting or spreading this virus in church!
I am also asking conference staff to suspend unnecessary air travel and advising clergy to do the same until further notice.
The Oregon Health Authority reminds us that “Together, we can minimize the impact of COVID-19 on our most vulnerable community members”. United Methodists strive to live in ways that promote the well-being of others. In this season of spreading disease, I appeal to “extend hospitality to strangers:”
keep a social distance of 6 feet, no hugs, hand-shakes or elbow bumps
“Contribute to the needs of the saints,” by continuing to support your local church and other vital ministries by your prayers, presence (in spirit and online), gifts (including financial support), service, and witness so that ministries of compassion and justice are uninterrupted. Oregon-Idaho Conference emergency preparedness info, PNW Conference preparedness info, Alaska Conference preparedness info.
In order for ministries serving vulnerable populations to remain open – like childcare, feeding programs, homeless services, AA – strict adherence to safety measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control or other public health agencies for cleaning, social distancing and health screening guidelines is mandatory.
STAY IN LOVE WITH GOD
In times of uncertainty and vulnerability, human contact and spiritual connection are important. I encourage you to find
creative ways to keep in contact with your colleagues and your parishioners during this time. Social media is great, but it’s no substitute for a phone call or face time.
Even as we are encouraged to stay at home, avoid social contact, and worship online, churches and social service agencies need unfailing community support to continue their crucial work of justice and compassion. I hope you will experiment with offering online worship, donations and meetings during this pause. There is great news for churches about Zoom
and CCLI licenses.
Finally, in times of crisis fear gives way to hate. People of Asian descent, or those who have traveled abroad report that they have been harassed and stigmatized on the assumption that they brought the virus here. Individuals are not responsible for the
virus, and any of us could be carriers. Only perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4: 18). As people of faith, let your words and
actions cultivate love all God’s people.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to
strangers. Romans 12: 12-13
Please take precautions to keep yourself, loved ones, strangers, congregations, and communities safe.
With gratitude for you and your leadership, and with confidence in the steadfast love and grace of Jesus Christ,
What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out… We saw the glory with our own eyes… Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. John 1, The Message
This morning United Methodists around the world received a word of hope that the strife that has racked our Church might find a peaceful end.
A group of sixteen United Methodist leaders from around the world, who hold a wide range of theological and social convictions, have negotiated protocols for a graceful separation within The United Methodist Church. If adopted by the General Conference in May, the proposal would:
Maintain The United Methodist Church intact.
Allow local churches and annual conferences that choose not to remain affiliated with The United Methodist Church to leave, while maintaining their property, assets, and liabilities.
Commit $39 million to racial and ethnic inclusion and anti-racism work.
Convene the first session of the post-separation United Methodist Church, perhaps before leaving Minneapolis in May, to create four regional conferences.
Allow for the first session of the newly established North American Regional Conference to act on proposals to remove prohibitive language regarding LGBTQ clergy and weddings. In the meantime, signers to the Protocol have agreed to abeyance on complaints against clergy for related offenses.
While this is not the resolution I hope for, I believe it may be the best next step for the people called United Methodists who have been unable to find a way forward that maintains the unity of the Church. It does not move the Church toward Christ’s vision that we “may all be one…so that the world may believe” (John 17:21), but it is a faithful effort “to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3), even as we find it necessary to walk separate paths for a season.
I trust this proposal is designed to unbind us from our “irreconcilable differences” and free us to focus on the future. It does not guarantee a particular outcome, but it appears to offer United Methodists in the United States the opportunity to choose a future that is fully inclusive of LGBTQ persons.
Please read the attached proposal, asking prayerfully whether it offers Life and Light as we seek to create a new movement of Wesleyan faithfulness in the Northwest and around the world.
May the Life of Christ live in us, and the Light of Christ lead us into the future,
Please enjoy this Christmas message for United Methodists across the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area from Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky. She invites us to step outside to see what God is up to beneath the surface.
When I was a little girl and it was just about Christmastime, we’d go out as a family in the station wagon and we’d get a Christmas tree at a lot. We’d bring it home and we’d get out the boxes of decorations to hang on the tree, and when we came to the tinsel, the shiny tinsel; in my family we called it rain.
Now, my friends when I grew up made fun of me for that. They thought hanging rain on a tree was a pretty dismal thing to do. But as a child, it was the rain that reflected the light and that reflected symbolically the love of God in our lives, and so that taught me that at Christmas time it isn’t so much about what’s really going on on the surface of things. It’s really about what’s going on in here that matters.
That amazing couple, Joseph and Mary, traveled to a distant town. It’d be like my family going to the mountains of western Virginia where my family first migrated to this nation. They were in a place they didn’t know. They were not among family. They were about to have a baby out of wedlock. They were homeless. They were displaced. They were alone.
And it was there that they experienced this amazing miracle as this tiny baby was born to them. God’s miracle that life can come with joy, and anticipation, and incredible blessing even in the worst of circumstances. And so, we all these years later, we celebrate what happened that night and we do it by lighting lights and listening to music, making music, singing music. We do it by eating great food and inviting people over to our homes and saying, “Oh, let’s get together and celebrate this amazing thing that happened to Joseph and Mary when the tiny baby Jesus was born.”
You know you can get lost in all of that. You can make it about the food and the song and the lights.
I invite you this Christmas to step outside. Step outside of your home. Step outside of your preparation. Step outside of your expectations, your anxiety. Step outside of your sorrow to see what God’s up to this year this Christmas. What’s being born?
Step outside to see the goodness, the kindness, how merciful God is, and take a deep breath.
The heavens will dance. Peace will settle gently. Hope will shine again and anew for us. God is faithful. God is steadfast.
May it be to us according to God’s promises for this day, for our lives, for our church, for our nation, for the whole beautiful world. A blessing to you. Amen.
Video by Rev. David Valera, Exec. Dir. of Connectional Ministries (PNW)
This week the Council of Bishops met and issued a public statement that aspired to be pastoral and prophetic. Thank you for your prayers as we met. Here are some of the reasons I am hopeful after the meeting.
bishops are keenly aware that United Methodism is in crisis. The
backlash in Europe, parts of the United States and other places around the
world to the recent General Conference, makes a unified future for the UMC appear
impossible. Some people hold out hope for a change at the 2020 General
Conference. Others anticipate schism. No-one seems to believe that United
Methodists around the world will simply implement policies that exclude and
punish LGBTQ+ people.
The bishops kept the main thing the main thing. Placing the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, at its center, we devoted 11 hours over 4 days focused on the deep fractures in our Church. We felt deeply the despair of LGBTQ+ persons, their families, and of a new generation of leaders in the United States. We also awoke to the increased risk to poor and vulnerable people caused by funds being withheld or re-directed from apportionments, The Advance, UMCOR, Africa University and other United Methodist causes.
bishops recognize that this crisis offers a rare opportunity. United
Methodism is overdue for a spiritual and practical revival to address systemic
racism, sexism, colonialism, heteronormativity, irrelevance to young people,
and a governance system that is not designed or capable of addressing our
global complexity. How can the Church use this crisis to help God give rise to
a new movement of Methodism? Don’t waste a good crisis!
The bishops see that division keeps
us distracted from mission. We’ve
had split decisions on sexuality for 45 years as a denomination. In February we
took our best shot at adopting legislation that could hold us together and
failed. Our established legislative and judicial processes are not able to heal
the breach. United Methodist spiritual practices and resources are weak. We
find ourselves adrift in turbulent waters.
The bishops began to tell the truth:
maybe not the
whole truth, but a lot of new truth. We spoke more frankly about our ministry
contexts and the conflicting demands within our areas. We challenged each other
honestly about ways our leadership may contribute to division and distrust. Some
challenged participation by bishops in caucuses and reform groups on both sides
of the divide. Some reported conservatives being blamed for the actions of the
General Conference. I recalled that the Western Jurisdiction has been fully
inclusive since before the Church prohibited ordination of LGBTQ+ people and
blessing of their relationships.
The bishops acknowledged that worldly powers and principalities are at work, intending to divide the Church and silence its prophetic voice.
In some places, bishops report that disruption in their areas was amplified by outside groups spreading accusations of influence peddling, delegate voter fraud and defamatory rumors about individuals and regions of the Church. We asked ourselves, are we just too nice to investigate and expose these actions? Should bishops identify ourselves with these groups? Should there be a standard of disclosure and transparency for any group that wants to be considered a trustworthy partner? You may have seen the photo of bishops meeting with the Reform and Renewal Coalition comprised of Good News, the Confessing Movement, the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) and The Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA), during the Council meeting. Bishops who were not there asked the other, “Why did you go to the meeting?” Bishops who attended raised strong objections to unethical and dishonest tactics of some affiliated with the coalition.
African American bishops testified to their survival in an unjust system. In a wrenching witness, African American bishops described decades of racial segregation within the Church in the United States and the faithfulness of African Americans who stayed and supported the Church, despite being marginalized. The church has never healed those wounds, and black voices are still not heard in the Church today. Some resent the outcry in support of LGBTQ+ people, when there has never been acknowledgement and advocacy for full racial inclusion. Through their pain, these colleagues offered another oppressed group encouragement to survive in structures that deny your humanity. I heard them saying – don’t leave. You can stay, despite the pain inflicted on you, because God loves you and makes you strong. The Church needs you to be whole.
The bishops began to see that human sexuality cannot be considered as an either/or proposition to be settled by an up or down vote. If there is one new thing I am learning from the LGBTQ+ community, it is that binary options are not adequate. Either/or choices don’t take account of how fearfully and wonderfully God has made us. Making sense of LGBTQ+ requires and deserves deep conversation, biblical scholarship, ethical consideration and prayer-filled spiritual maturity. It requires the wisdom of scripture, tradition, reason and experience. People are not simply male or female, slave or free, Jew or Gentile, biblical literalists or biblical critical thinkers, rule-follower or people-lover. Binary choices cannot reveal the whole truth, because you have to ignore part of the truth to answer a complex question with a simple answer.
In the midst of the messiness of the struggle I find hopeful
signs that the Church is alive, and at work, humble, and learning. The Council
of Bishops did not propose a top-down 5-year plan. It’s not time to have a plan
yet. Most of us are so rooted within our side of the divided question, we don’t
know how complicated the questions are for someone stuck on the other side. We
have to keep listening, and searching for the whole truth that has room for
each of our particular truths.
Later this month I’ll travel to Minneapolis to participate
in the UM Forward Conference, inviting voices of Young, Queer and people of
Color to speak at the center of the conversation. From there I will travel to
Church of the Resurrection near Kansas City, where some 600 people will gather
at the invitation of Pastor Adam Hamilton, to pray and think together about the
future of the Church. I hope there will be lots of listening and truth-sharing in
both groups. I’ll check in with you after I return, as we prepare for Annual
In the meantime, by every prayer, every step, every sermon, every Bible study, every act of generosity, we are crossing over, and making the road by walking.
To the People of God in The United Methodist Church,
“Spare your people, O LORD, and do not make your heritage a mockery, a byword among the nations. Why should it be said among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?'” – Joel 2:17b
This past week, the special session of the General Conference of our church gathered in search of a way forward out of a decades-old conflict over attitudes toward homosexuals and LGBTQIA people. Rather than finding a way forward, the church chose to turn back the clock and to intensify its exclusion.
The conference did not create space for United Methodists with different perspectives to live together. Rather, the church reaffirmed its assertion that “The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching,” (UM Book of Discipline, 2016, ¶ 161.G). It intensified standards and punishments for bishops who ordain and appoint gay clergy, and for clergy who perform marriages for same-sex couples. The outcome was devastating for LGBTQIA people, whose very self-worth was debated, and for all persons in the church who believe Jesus models and invites us to become a radically inclusive community of faith.
To LGBTQIA persons in our churches and other ministry settings, I say,
I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” – Philippians 1:3-6
I appeal to every pastor, member, and attendee, to be tender and merciful as you extend care to LGBTQIA persons in your care, and their families, and to continue to create opportunities to promote understanding and justice within the church and society.
I join many of you who feel abandoned by your Church home. I am ashamed that the Church has turned its back on so many people who Jesus has loved and called. I cannot abide by or enforce the new rules in conscience. My soul cries out to God, “do not make your heritage a mockery. Why should it be said among the people, ‘Where is their God?’” And I know that many of you also find yourselves adrift. I hear questions like, Is our Church redeemable? Or, is it time to leave the church that has left us and form a new expression of Church that opens doors and affirm people, rather than closing doors and denying or punishing them.
Let me offer you some reassurances. First, none of the actions of the General Conference take effect until January 1, 2020. Practices of candidacy, ordination and weddings will continue unchanged for the time being. Challenges to the constitutionality of some of the new provisions are underway that may overturn them. Regardless of how that turns out, as your bishop, I don’t intend to lead us backward. We have come too far together to turn back now.
Pastors and people from large and small churches across the United States are looking for an expression of Church that affirms LGBTQ persons and recognizes them as full members and leaders. Coalitions of individuals and groups who will not submit to the recent actions are forming to develop plans for full inclusion, either inside or outside the existing UMC. We do know that a majority of the North American delegates to the recent General Conference opposed the actions taken. If you are among them, please indicate your interest in being part of this movement at: OneChurch4All.org
At the same time, I strongly believe that the Church should and must be a place where people who love Jesus, but don’t see eye to eye, are in fellowship, prayer, study, and conversation with one another. I don’t want to be in a church that does not welcome and honor people who hold different opinions from mine. I hope that our love of Jesus, and the people Jesus loves and asks us to love, is stronger than our differences of opinion. I believe we must stay together in charity, if we can. For, as Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus,
“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6)
With trust in God, who will lead us even if the Church wanders away and loses itself.
Your bishop and friend in Christ,
Elaine JW Stanovsky
If you haven’t already seen it, please watch the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishop’s response to the actions of General Conference that you’ll find below. Please also share it with your congregation on Sunday Morning or whenever you are able.