Greater Northwest Area Cabinet begins 2020 with pledge to Resist Harm as it continues to seed a vital, more inclusive church

By Patrick Scriven

Even as members of the Greater Northwest (GNW) Area Cabinet absorbed the implications of the proposed Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation, they recommitted themselves to resisting elements of the Traditional Plan that took effect January 1. Meeting for the first time in 2020 last week, they joyfully reaffirmed their baptisms, pledging together to resist harm as they provide leadership to the Area.

Last November, the bishops of the Western Jurisdiction issued their Safe Harbor Declaration, explicitly refusing to implement the new provisions and prohibitions of the Traditional Plan. The GNW Area Cabinet welcomed this statement at the time and continues its move forward with the clear guidance it provides. 

While the Protocol mentioned above includes a moratorium against the filing of charges against LGBTQ+ clergy, and those performing same-gender weddings, if passed, it would only create a pathway down which full inclusion could be reached. Stopping the harm is only one step down the path.

Both the Cabinet and the GNW Guiding Coalition are continuing to plan for a future of United Methodism in the Northwest that fully includes LGBTQ+ persons in the life of the Church. Additionally, they are continuing to learn and to foster practices, each time they meet, that will help the Area to center voices that are younger and more diverse, recognizing that there is both wisdom and vitality around a table with distinct perspectives. 

The GNW’s Innovation Vitality Team offered the Cabinet an update on projects that are underway across the Area, work that includes both New projects (new church starts or new campus/multisite) and Vitality projects (existing church where an identified planter/innovator is appointed). Of the 37 supported projects, 20 (54%) are led by leaders of color.

Rev. Kathy Neary provided an update on her work with smaller congregations in the PNW Conference, sharing one of her insights this week on the PNW News Blog. The GNW Cabinet also discussed the promising work happening in rural areas through the Rural Church Engagement Initiative. Lynn Egli provides a short progress report you can read here.

Continuing its work of assessing and preparing for the leadership needs of GNW Area churches and ministries, the Cabinet finalized its initial list of Clear Appointment Openings. The practice of sharing Clear Openings allows clergy the opportunity to express an interest in a particular appointment while also allowing them to share their gifts and calling with the Cabinet as the discernment process begins. 

Bishop Elaine Stanovsky and members of the GNW Area Cabinet spent time with participants of the UMC LEAD Conference.

Plans were also finalized at the meeting for the calling of a Special Session of the Alaska United Methodist Conference on February 22 in Anchorage to ask the 2020 General Conference to discontinue its status as a missionary conference. The Alaska Conference will also vote to petition the Western Jurisdictional Conference to provide affiliation and oversight, possibly as a mission district of another annual conference. 

The Conference Treasurers provided the Cabinet with an end of year report on the apportionment giving of the Area’s three conferences. Apportionment receipts for the Alaska Conference reached 84.7% in 2019, down 2.03% from 2018; Oregon-Idaho Conference receipts reached 77.9% in 2019, down 5.4% from 2018; Pacific Northwest Conference receipts reached 93%, up .21% from 2018.

With the Cabinet meeting concluding late on Saturday, Cabinet members visited area churches for worship the following day. Twelve members were also able to attend parts of the UMC LEAD event that began later that day in Seattle, Washington. Bishop Stanovsky offered a greeting to attendees of the LEAD event, offering a word of encouragement and appreciation for The United Methodist leaders, many of whom had traveled across the country to participate.


Patrick Scriven serves as Director of Communications and Young People’s Ministries for the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Alaska Conference surprises GNW Area with generous gift

In this season of uncertainty and anticipation and about the future of The United Methodist Church, its heartwarming to see generosity flowing multiple directions across The Greater Northwest Episcopal Area.

This summer the Pacific Northwest and Oregon-Idaho Conferences committed to a special offering in the local churches to help lower the cost of Alaska Conference members traveling to Puyallup, Wash., for a shared Annual Conference this June. When a cry went out from churches in Oregon, Idaho and Washington located far from the Conference site, the Alaska Conference responded in kind for their siblings in Christ in the Oregon-Idaho Conference who will also endure significant travel costs to attend.

“People just really resonated with the idea that we want to come alongside in solidarity,” said Rev. Carlo Rapanut, Superintendent for the Alaska Conference.

Rev. Carlo Rapanut

This reciprocal giving from the Alaska Conference for a travel fund started after Rapanut received inspiration during a General Board of Global Ministries gathering in Atlanta earlier in the fall.

Bishop Hector Ortiz-Vidal of Puerto Rico asked for a moment of privilege during the gathering and called on Bishop Tom Bickerton, president of United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) to stand with him. Churches and communities in Puerto Rico received massive UMCOR support in 2017 after Hurricane Maria.

“Bishop Ortiz takes out an envelope with a check in it and says, ‘this is a gift from the thankful people of Puerto Rico,’” Rapanut recalled from the presentation.

Ortiz said the check, a significant amount, was being presented to help those in the Bahamas recovering from Hurricane Dorian in 2019.

“Everybody was in tears. (Puerto Ricans) are people still in need, yet they wanted to help people in the Bahamas,” Rapanut said. “It was just a Holy Spirit moment for me.”

Rapanut came back from that meeting and wanted to inspire his church members — many of whom will travel hours to get on a plane to fly to Anchorage to connect another flight to Seattle – that are already financially strapped to extend their generosity beyond Alaska’s boundaries.

He personally promised $50 at each of his charge conference gatherings to raise fund to assist remote churches in the other two GNW conferences with travel expenses. To date the 29 churches in the Alaska Conference have given $4,271.

“The response has just been incredible,” Rapanut said.

The PNW and Oregon-Idaho Conferences have raised approximately $11,000 to date to assist with Alaska travel funds.

The GNW Area cabinet recently met and decided, because of distance, it would be up to Sage District Superintendent Rev. Karen Hernandez and Crater Lake District Superintendent Rev. John Tucker to utilize this gift. The two district superintendents in the Oregon-Idaho Conference are still working out exactly which churches will qualify for the support.

“In a time of crisis in the denomination, when the Alaska Conference is trying map out its future with limited finances, this is the most beautiful response I can imagine,” Hernandez said. “Because of the timing it’s so selfless of them.”

Homer United Methodist Church responded to Rapanut’s call with great enthusiasm, raising more than $1,000 for the other two conferences.

Rev. Lisa Talbott, Homer UMC

Rev. Lisa Talbott, pastor of Homer UMC said their church has been supported by churches in the lower 48 states for more than 70 years, allowing it to establish its ministries in Homer and the lower Kenai Peninsula of Alaska.

“[The churches] sustained us through really tight years.  Now that we are a financially self-sustaining church this is our response with gratitude toward the churches who may have supported us,” Talbott said. “For me this is also a way to remind everyone that mission and ministry don’t go in one direction in the Greater Northwest Area. We are all partners in ministry together.”

Conferences of the Greater Northwest Area commit to 100% payment of General Church apportionments in 2019

Conference treasurers report decision as Area Cabinet meets to begin appointment work for 2020

Story by Patrick Scriven, Photos by Rev. Dr. William Gibson

DES MOINES, WA — The three United Methodist conferences that comprise the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area have each committed to paying 100% of their General Church apportionments for 2019. The announcement, which comes toward the end of a tumultuous year where giving has slipped significantly across the denomination, was delivered by conference treasurers during the recent Greater Northwest Area Cabinet meeting.

For several years, the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho (OR-ID), and Pacific Northwest (PNW) Conferences have each stretched to honor this commitment to the General Church and our shared ministries, ministries which touch and save lives around the globe. The majority of the conferences in The United Methodist Church’s Western Jurisdiction have also met this commitment on an annual basis.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky welcomed the treasurers’ report while also acknowledging the pain and mixed feelings many are experiencing about the Church. “While I know that many faithful United Methodists across the Greater Northwest Area were hurt by the actions of the 2019 General Conference, it is important that we don’t allow our pain to do harm,” she said. “When Christians hear bad news, there’s always a good word coming. As we prepare for Christmas, I trust that Jesus is being born again in our hearts and in the world, and that he can even transform our Church.”          

The decision to fully pay the General Church apportionment involved many conversations and several leadership teams as each conference wrestled with new questions raised by the Special Session of General Conference held last February.

“As I worked with groups in the Alaska and PNW Conferences, we openly discussed the costs and benefits of continuing this practice,” said Alaska and PNW Conference Treasurer Brant Henshaw. “Ultimately, we decided that we would continue for this year in the hope that the denomination would make space for God’s movement as we are experiencing it in our ministry context.”

Apportionment giving from local churches across the area has been mixed as members also continue to wrestle with the serious questions raised by last year’s events. In the PNW Conference, giving hasn’t deviated much from previous years, currently at 81%, down .5% after 11 months. Giving in the Alaska and OR-ID Conferences dropped a few points more with OR-ID reporting in at 65%, down 3.5%, and Alaska at 78%, up 2.75% after 11 months.

To meet 100% of their General Church apportionment, all three conferences will need to rely on reserve funds or investment earnings.

“While giving is down modestly in the Oregon-Idaho Conference this year, we continue to see and hear an interest in being part of a church whose reach extends globally,” offered OR-ID Conference Treasurer Rev. Daniel Wilson-Fey. “There is a deep love for ministry abroad, as evidenced by the continuing tremendous support by our local churches of the United Methodist Committee on Relief and Advance Specials, as well as continuing Volunteers in Mission trips to countries like Kenya. The vote in February did make some people’s feelings toward the denomination more complicated.”

In other work, the Cabinet identified 14 openings in local churches and new ministries that will require some recruitment of gifted individuals. The audit, as it is often referred to, also identified thirteen clergy persons who are planning to retire in the coming year; it is common for this number to grow modestly as the new year begins.

Members from Alaska, OR-ID, and PNW will gather in a shared annual conference the second week of June in Puyallup, Washington.  Reports were offered regarding ongoing fundraising to ease the costs of persons traveling from Alaska, and those traveling significant distances in the two other conference.

It was also reported that over $14,000 has been raised for the Safe Harbor Fund, initiated by Bishop Stanovsky earlier this year. These gifts are helping the cabinet to be responsive to requests from LGBTQ+ clergypersons and candidates outside of the Greater Northwest Area endangered by the new provisions, prohibitions, and punishments of the Traditional Plan that come into effect January 1, 2020. 

Planning is also underway for a retreat in the Spring of 2020 to gather ethnic leaders together for deep and frank conversations about the denomination and our future together in the Greater Northwest Area. While smaller gatherings have, and will continue to take place, leaders aspire to offer more time for better, relational conversations to occur.

In this period of denominational uncertainty, the Greater Northwest Area Cabinet is committing to reporting out from their meetings, as appropriate, to provide transparency and information that people might be interested in. The Cabinet will meet again in January of 2020, when they will continue conversations about the year ahead, and explore new ministry possibilities taking shape by the Greater Northwest Innovation Vitality Team, in addition to their regular pastoral appointment-related work.


Patrick Scriven serves as Director of Communications and Young People’s Ministries for the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Dr. LaVerne Lewis joins Innovation Vitality Team as Associate Director of Innovation for a New Church

Dr. LaVerne Lewis is the newest member of the Innovation Vitality Team (IV Team) for the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church. Serving in a part-time role as the Associate Director of Innovation for a New Church, Lewis joins forces with Rev. Dr. William Gibson in the work of resourcing planters/innovators in the area of entrepreneurship, social enterprise, financial sustainability, and intentional multiplication.

Dr. LaVerne Lewis

“We are incredibly excited about LaVerne joining the ongoing work of the IV Team,” said Rev. Dr. William Gibson, Director of Innovation for a New Church and Team Leader. “LaVerne brings a broad range of experience and gifts in an important area of concentration for our work this season — that of financial sustainability and entrepreneurship. Her experiences as a successful entrepreneur, tax consultant, and college professor are invaluable. She and I speak the same language, and I am over-joyed about our collaborative work moving forward.”

Raised in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Lewis has faithfully served as a member of Gresham United Methodist Church in Gresham, OR, and as the Church Treasurer. She was instrumental in the development and launch of the Rockwood Center — previously Rockwood United Methodist Church — where she also served as the Executive Director. Since 2017, she has served as a lay representative on the Oregon-Idaho Conference’s Congregational Development Team and engaged in social entrepreneurship coaching with planters/innovators in support of the IV Team’s work.

Most recently, Dr. Lewis was named as a board member of the Northwest United Methodist Foundation. After 18 years of service, she retired as a Law Enforcement Officer from the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Department, where she also specialized as a Training Instructor at the State of Oregon Academy in Salem. As a recently elected official, Lewis serves as a board member for the Mt. Hood Community College and has garnered over ten years of experience as an adjunct professor. An experienced entrepreneur, Lewis started several businesses throughout her career. She has also been an enrolled agent admitted to practice before the IRS and credentialed for 35 years in the area of taxation, accounting, and small business consulting. She annually volunteers in global communities abroad, leading teams who serve the unhoused and underserved.

In her new role with the IV Team, Lewis will work alongside Gibson to consult and resource planters/innovators and pastors in the area of entrepreneurship, social enterprise, and financial sustainability, related to creating new places with new people. The Innovation Vitality Team focuses on vitality across the Greater Northwest Area, which includes the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho, and Pacific Northwest Conferences. Encouraging and resourcing the practices of Inclusion, Innovation, and Multiplication, the team supports the strategic initiatives of the Bishop and the Greater Northwest Area Cabinet.

Bishop Stanovsky announces Greater Northwest Area guiding coalition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

In the wake of the exclusionary and punitive actions of General Conference 2019, Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky is announcing the formation of a Greater Northwest Area Guiding Coalition. The coalition will help to shape and lead a new movement of Methodism in the Northwest that fully includes LGBTQIA+persons in membership, participation and leadership, both lay and ordained.

In conversations with people inside and outside our churches, listening deeply to voices on the margins, the group will develop proposals for United Methodists across the Greater Northwest to move into a future of vital, inclusive, innovative, multiplying, engaged Christian ministry in the Wesleyan Tradition.

Bishop Elaine Stanovsky offering a blessing during worship at the 2019 General Conference.

“We are forming this Guiding Coalition in response to many conversations since last February, and to legislation passed at the annual conference sessions earlier this year,” shared Stanovsky. “It is clear that we need to be both strategic and collaborative in this moment, when the generous practice of United Methodism is under attack. The coming months may require us to move quickly and rely on our collective strength.”

The Guiding Coalition is comprised of representatives from the three conferences that make up the Greater NW Episcopal Area – The Alaska Conference, the Oregon-Idaho Conference, and The Pacific Northwest Conference.

According to Stanovsky, the coalition will embody practices and values that build on strengths already present in the Greater NW Area. Previous discussions in the area have identified the need for deeper Christian discipleship and community engagement, including stronger ministries of solidarity, justice, and mercy.

The Guiding Coalition will invite work groups of laity and clergy to examine areas where the conferences can shape or define a way forward. One group will consider how the area can continue to resist the harmful remnants of the Traditional Plan that were passed by the 2019 General Conference while seeking to reform the Church through legislative action in 2020. Another will look at financial resources, including apportionments, seeking to align them with the values and concerns of United Methodists in the Northwest. And yet another will strive to discern what a new expression of Methodism might look like if designed for 21st century people living in the Greater Northwest Area.

One group will envision what a “grassroots” connection might look like, built on authentic relationships. Vital conversations across difference — between established and emerging leaders, churches of different hearts, minds, and experiences — will be explored. The group will also look forward to the 2020 Shared Greater NW Annual Conference Session in June, with anticipation for the potentially monumental decisions that may need to take place.

Members of the Greater NW Guiding Coalition include: Jim Doepken, Jo Anne Hayden, Kelly Marciales and Carlo Rapanut from the Alaska Conference; Wendy Woodworth, Jan Nelson, Mark Bateman, Ric Shewell, Jeremy Smith, Paul Cosgrove, Karen Hernandez, Allen Buck, Carter Lybeck, Laurie Day, and Donna Pritchard from the Oregon-Idaho Conference; and Skylar Bihl, Brant Henshaw, Joe Kim, Marie Kuch-Stanovsky, David Reinholz, Katy Ritchey, Elizabeth Schindler, Dionica Sy, Kathleen Weber, Karen Yokota Love, David Valera and Kristina Gonzalez from the Pacific Northwest Conference.

Many more people will participate in the workgroups as they form in the weeks ahead.

WJ Course of Study and Licensing School programs include 10 students from Greater Northwest

Let’s be in joyful prayer for the ten United Methodists from across the Greater Northwest Area who are at Claremont School of Theology this summer receiving theological training and leadership skills through the Western Jurisdiction’s Course of Study (COS) or Licensing School programs. Licensing School completes on July 4th, and the second session of Course of Study concludes on July 6th.

You can learn more about these programs at localpastor.org

Thanks to Christy Dirren who sent us this photo!

Students as pictured about, left to right, starting with the back row:

  • Karen Fisher – Lake Chelan UMC, Lake Chelan, WA – Licensing School
  • Pastor Selusi Tuilemotu – 1st Samoan UMC, Anchorage, AK – COS 5th year and graduating
  • Pastor Steven Berry – Upper Rogue Valley UMC and Gold Hill UMC, OR – COS 2nd year
  • Pastor Ryan Scott – Grants Pass UMC, Grants Pass, OR – COS 3rd year
  • Cyrus Githinji – Valley and Mountain Fellowship – Seattle, WA – Licensing School
  • Pastor Alice Warness – Royal City UMC, Royal City, WA – COS 5th year and graduating
  • Pastor Christy Dirren – West Portland UMC, Portland, OR – COS 5th year and graduating
  • Tammy Jane – Edmonds UMC, Edmonds, WA – Licensing School
  • Leslie McGowan – Simpson UMC, Pullman, WA – COS 1st year

Not pictured:

  • Pastor Cody Stauffer – Clarkston UMC, Clarkston, WA – COS 5th Year and graduating

Greater Northwest Area leaders take steps toward an inclusive future together

Story & Photos by Patrick Scriven

Des Moines, Wash. – Last weekend, over 60 leaders from the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho (OR-ID), and Pacific Northwest (PNW) Conferences gathered to continue conversations on how they could marshal resources toward vital mission and ministry across the Greater Northwest Area. The Vitality Stewards Summit 2.0, as the name suggests, was the second formal gathering aimed toward this task, expanding the circle of those who met in September of 2018.

The event began by orientating new and returning “stewards” on the aspirations of the summit and some of the resources that the area has available to it. An opening devotional by Rev. Shalom Agtarap, centered on the story of the early church in Acts, emphasized the opportunity and challenge of sharing. Agtarap asked, “How can we move from a transactional economy to one of kinship?”

Greater Northwest Area Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky addresses “stewards” providing necessary context to the conversations that would follow.

While denominational conversations often center around scarcity, leaders were encouraged instead to recognize the significant assets under their care. Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky shared that we often don’t consider these assets or remember that radical growth is in our DNA. “If we pool our resources, share a common vision, couldn’t we do more if we focused on a few big things?”

Stanovsky addressed the elephant in the room as she talked about the impact of General Conference upon United Methodism. Instead of being a roadblock, she framed it as an opportunity not to repeat the mistakes of the past. To avoid old behavior, we need to invite “younger, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people to the table to help shape what is coming.”

This call for more diverse leadership echoed throughout the meeting.

Stanovsky also advised that the work of the meeting be considered provisional in anticipation of the challenges, and opportunities for greater inclusion, in front of us. Drawing upon the biblical story of the crossing over into the Jordan, the bishop offered, “It’s time to leave the wilderness. Not everyone is going to cross over to the Jordan.”

Eric Walker helps to orient Vitality Stewards Summit attendees to some of the opportunity and challenges to ministry in the Greater Northwest context.

Next up was Eric Walker, who is serving as a special assistant to Bishop Stanovsky, charged in part with organizing the Summit. A lay person from Vashon UMC with non-profit management experience, Walker helped to keep the event moving, reminding participants of its goals. Those goals were:

  1. Developing a good understanding of vitality work across the area.
  2. Creating the first draft of Area-wide funding criteria.
  3. Arriving at a basic agreement on the kinds of projects that would excite Area-wide funding.
  4. Sparking movement towards a culture of Area-wide collaboration.

Walker offered a big picture look at the challenges and opportunities facing the Area as it seeks to have more churches engaged in vital ministry. Sharing that a significant number of churches are in some stage of decline, he framed the goal of innovation and vitality work across the area as bending bad trajectories toward more positive possibilities.

Throughout the Summit, the Rev. Shalom Agtarap offered moments of spiritual grounding and pause to aid in conversation and community formation.

Inclusion is the Starting Point

Rev. Dr. William Gibson followed Walker by sharing some of the learnings of the Innovation Vitality Team (IV Team). After one year together, the team has landed upon the understanding that Inclusion, Innovation, and Multiplication are crucial practices, and measures, of church vitality. More recently, they have begun to understand inclusion as foundational to the success of the other two practices.

Kristina Gonzalez offers a quick overview of Intercultural Competency, an essential tool for change in the Church and the world.

Participants next engaged in a presentation from Kristina Gonzalez, Rev. Dr. Leroy Barber, and Gibson on Intercultural Competency and its effect on the IV Team’s work. Gonzalez gave an overview of Intercultural Competency reflecting on her own choice to be a United Methodist. “The United Methodist Church appealed to me because of its emphasis on practical divinity, and the use of practical tools like Intercultural Competency to effect change.”

Barber shared how some of his work, specifically internships and revivals, had embodied these principles of inclusion in making deliberate connections between the Church, persons of color, and younger people. Some of the participants in the first cohort of interns are now being tracked to provide leadership in local churches.

Gibson concluded the IV Team’s report by sharing how they have developed new guardrails to better steward monies allocated to church plants and other revitalization projects. Experience has helped them to understand that there is no necessary correlation between age and innovative ability and that some churches “aren’t interested with changing to pivot in the moment.”

The Rev. Lisa Talbott shares a report back from her table group as leaders works to identify evaluative measures for funding.

The afternoon continued with reports from several District Superintendents and, separately, the lay leaders of each Conference. Erin Martin, chief missional strategist for the Columbia District, has been asking her district to consider what it would mean “to envision ourselves as a community of United Methodist Congregations.” A success story she shared involved the arrival of the Rev. Alan Buck, a gifted Native American church planter from Oklahoma, who is helping to revitalize Wilshire UMC, recently renamed Great Spirit UMC.

Rev. Rich Lang spoke about three practices found to be present in early Christianity, but often absent in the churches he serves in the SeaTac Missional District:

  • The Practice of Non-violence
  • The Practice of Self-emptying
  • The Practice of Giving Away

He shared how funds from recent church closures were being reinvested in other churches to provide multi-ethnic leadership teams toward the goal of fostering multi-ethnic communities. Lang named Valley and Mountain, soon to give birth to a third iteration, as an example of excellent ministry incarnating inclusion and innovation, leading to multiplication.

Seven Rivers Missional District Superintendent Rev. Mary Huycke offered a non-urban perspective as she serves a region stretched across the central part of Washington from the Canadian border down to Oregon. The district has intentionally invested in laity with the understanding that “clergy come and go, the laity are the ones who stick around.”

District Superintendents (from left) Erin Martin, Rich Lang, and Mary Huycke engage in a dialogue with Eric Walker after sharing perspectives from their work.

A number of the churches in her district are very small. Helping some of those churches to end their ministries gracefully, while finding creative ways to extend the life of others with alternative leadership structures, is a portion of the work. A lack of diversity, and inclusive practice, is a challenge many are wrestling against.

Offering her perspective on the OR-ID Conference, lay leader Jan Nelson shared that many laypersons there are unaware of the work of the IV Team but not incapable of embracing innovation. She pointed to the example of the Open Door Churches in the Salem area while advocating for more leadership training to make use of laity who feel under-utilized. “We need a better structure, or system, to engage laity.”

The three Area Lay Leaders, (from left) Jo Anne Hayden, Jan Nelson, and Nancy Tam Davis, each speak to the value of including and equipping and lay persons.

PNW Conference lay leader Nancy Tam Davis also noted the absence of leadership development among lay people in her conference. She added that Certified Lay Ministers were often serving in challenging appointments but lacked the same network of support afforded to clergy. “Morale is low,” said Davis. “How do we bring lay leaders together for support?”

Jo Anne Hayden, lay leader in the Alaska Conference, named some of the same concerns. On a conference-level, there are efforts to train local church leaders underway through Zoom with hopes to expand the number of groups soon.

How we are working together already

Conference Treasurers Brant Henshaw (AK, PNW) and Rev. Dan Wilson-Fey offer some financial insights.

The second day began with a presentation by the Area treasurers detailing some of the resources available for vitality work and some of their other projections. Currently, expenses for shared work are split between conferences – PNW (54%), OR-ID (40), and AK (6%) based on conference size and budgets.

Disaster response leaders in the OR-ID and PNW Conferences shared how they have been collaborating because it makes sense. Jim Truitt began serving in March as Disaster Response Coordinator for the Greater Northwest Area, leading a pilot program building upon years of collaboration between leaders in OR-ID, PNW and Alaska.

Truitt, along with Kathy Bryson (PNW) and Dan Moesler (OR-ID) shared with the group how clear common goals, shared practices, and trainings have made collaboration work for them. Programs like “Connecting Neighbors” embody some of the vitality practices of developing intentional partnerships beyond the Church.

Jim Truitt, Disaster Response Coordinator for the Greater Northwest Area, shares his part of an update on collaboration between leaders in the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho, and Pacific Northwest Conferences.

Next up was a presentation by Revs. Karen Hernandez and Gregg Sealey, and layperson Lynn Egli. As superintendents of mostly rural districts, Hernandez and Sealey shared their excitement for the Rural Church Engagement Initiative’s promise to translate Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) training for a rural context.

Egli, described as the “Energizer Bunny behind all of this,” helped to explain how he has applied his background as a CPA for Hewlett Packard to the design and implementation of the pilot program. “We have to be demanding, to expect performance,” he shared. “It’s going to be tough for local leaders to put together a team.” He expects to learn from the pilot, and adapt subsequent iterations based on that learning.

Lynn Egli, helps to present the Rural Church Engagement Initiative with the Revs. Karen Hernandez and Gregg Sealey.

Three cohorts (including 14 pastors and local church teams) of the Rural Church Engagement Initiative are already meeting together monthly, sharing learnings and support for each other. 

Representatives of Committees on Native American Ministries (CONAM) offered the final presentation on shared ministry and collaboration across the Area. Duane Medicine Crow (OR-ID) shared a desire to do more. Sharing when “we get money, we give it away,” he talked about a recent project supporting a Nez Perce intern at Wallowa Lake Camp.

Rev. Charley Brower offering some historical context on Christian missionary outreach to Native American populations in Alaska.

Rev. Charley Brower (AK) offered some historical context on Christian missionary outreach to Native American populations in Alaska and how some denominational decisions years ago continue to impact the mission field today.

Finally, Kristina Gonzalez shared how the PNW was inviting a Native American developer from OR-ID to evaluate three ministries in the conference which have been struggling.

Proposals and Next Steps

Much of the remaining time was spent in small group exercises to determine how leaders might collaborate together on projects besides the IV Team and how those projects might be funded.

Revs. Mary Huycke and Kathleen Weber helped to surface some evaluative measures after small groups had defined individual lists of priorities. The next step was the hearing of “pitches” from several individuals who had submitted Concept Notes.

Rev. Dr. Leroy Barber of the Greater Northwest IV Team delivers a pitch for Multicultural Hubs.

In addition to funding pitches from Lynn Egli (Rural Church Engagement Initiative) and Jim Truitt (Disaster Response), five other short presentations were received and evaluated using the evaluation criteria previously identified. These were:

  • Multicultural Hubs, an innovative urban initiative presented by Rev. Dr. Leroy Barber of the IV Team;
  • A Land and Housing Coalition designed to build knowledge for wise, social good with property assets presented by Rev. Erin Martin;
  • Latinx Ministry in the Cascadia District presented by Rev. Tim Overton-Harris;
  • The Awesome Project, a lip dub designed to help the Area rebrand itself after General Conference 2019 presented by Rev. John Tucker;
  • A Dreamworks and FailFest proposal designed to encourage bold innovation by Rev. Overton-Harris.

Before a concluding conversation, Eric Walker presented five possible ways to fund Area-wide projects: Tithe, Syndicate, CrowdSource, Pathways, and Pledge. Some of the approaches were familiar to existing practices while others have shown potential outside of the Church.

Falisha Hola, Conference Council on Youth Ministries president for the PNW Conference, shares some comments during a final conversation.

In a final conversation with Bishop Stanovsky, several participants expressed feelings of being stuck. They named the need to be bolder than we have been in embracing a future together. Other comments were made to remind the group that too few of those named at the outset—younger people, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people—were present in the room.

In her closing remarks, Stanovsky embraced the idea that we should allow something to surface from the time spent in conversation together. She suggested that we work toward funding the most popular Concept Notes—the Multicultural Hubs and Rural Church Engagement Initiative—work out the details of contributing 10% of their funding to a shared area-wide Vitality fund, and begin thinking about how our leadership makeup is more apparently young, people of color and/or LGBTQ+

A date was set for another gathering in September with the explicit goal that at least 50 percent of those in attendance will be young, people of color, and/or LGBTQ+. She asked leaders to covenant together to invite these new voices into meaningful decision-making.


Patrick Scriven serves as Director of Communications and Young People’s Ministries for the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.

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