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

United Methodists in the Pacific Northwest Conference,

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

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

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

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

  1. February 22 – Alaskan United Methodists request to no longer be organized as a missionary conference.
  2. May 5-20 – General Conference approves this request.
  3. July 15-18 – Western Jurisdictional Conference redefines the boundaries of the Annual Conferences in the West to include the churches of Alaska in the Pacific Northwest Conference.

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

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

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

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Greater NW Cabinet continues to #ResistHarm with MLK reflection

By Rev. Erin Martin

The Greater Northwest Area Cabinet continued its commitment to #ResistHarm on Tuesday, February 11 during their regularly scheduled Cabinet meeting in Salem, OR.

In honor of Black History Month (and Valentine’s Day) members of the Cabinet dressed in red and read excerpts from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s sermon entitled, “A Knock at Midnight” published in King’s book, “Strength to Love.”

Greater NW Area Cabinet members take time to remember the powerful words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while recommitting to pursue justice. Photos by Rev. David Valera.

The powerful sermon is based on the parable from Luke 11. It compares the story of a visitor who knocks on the door of a friend at midnight seeking bread — and is denied — to spiritually hungry people knocking on the door of the church and being denied. King equates midnight in the parable to the circumstances of darkness in our world to suggest that it is midnight for us as well.

Cabinet members took a moment to name the situations of midnight that surround local communities and society: climate crisis, increased gun violence, separation of immigrant families at the border and more. This was done to call on Cabinet members to recognize that darkness marks the world. Now, more than ever, the world looks to the church to offer the bread of hope in tangible ways.
 
After reading portions of the sermon, Cabinet members reminded themselves that King was clear that “darkness cannot drive out darkness only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky passes the light to Seven Rivers DS Joanne Coleman Campbell.

A light was passed between each of the Cabinet members. We then passed the light to each other as a symbolic gesture of their increased commitment to be light in the world. They did this while singing the South African freedom song by Archbishop Tutu that proclaims, “Goodness is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate, light is stronger than darkness and life is stronger than death.”

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. 


Rev. Erin Martin serves as Superintendent for the Columbia District in the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Leadership changes in Oregon-Idaho Conference, Greater NW Area Cabinet

Changes are in store for the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area with a few changes in leadership positions in the Oregon-Idaho Conference, announced by Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky on Monday.

Wendy Woodworth

The first will be adding Rev. Wendy Woodworth of Morningside UMC to the GNW cabinet when she begins serving as the Cascadia District Superintendent July 1.

“I can’t wait to hit the road and visit the diverse churches and ministry settings across the Cascadia District: from the coast to the mountains to the painted hills, from urban settings to the small towns, and from large churches to smaller ones,” she said. “Each of you is called to unique ministries in your context and yet all of us are called to the vital ministry of bringing God’s love, grace and justice into our communities by following Jesus and being empowered by the Spirit.”

Woodworth earned her master’s of divinity degree from Pacific School of Religion. She has served as an associate pastor at Portland First UMC, Pendleton, Portland Trinity UMC, Portland Fremont UMC, Salem Morningside UMC and now the Opeen Door Churches of Salem-Keizer, with primary responsibility at Morningside. She also served on the Conference’s Council on Finance and Administration for 12 years and currently serves as the chairperson of the Board of Ordained Ministry.

“You know Wendy’s deep faith, broad experience and steady demeanor.  I know that you will celebrate with her this new responsibility and honor her for her seven years with Morningside and Open Door Churches. Please keep Wendy and her wife Lori, in your prayers during this time of transition,” Bishop Stanovsky said.

Tim Overton-Harris

Rev. Tim Overton-Harris, who has been serving as the Cascadia District Superintendent since July 2017, will begin serving the Columbia District (which encompasses the metro Portland area) on July 1, 2020.

Prior to his position as District Superintendent, Overton-Harris served as pastor of Vermont Hills UMC. He started his ministry in the Oregon-Idaho Conference in Oregon City as an associate pastor. He moved on to serve churches in Estacada/Marquam, Salem Morningside, La Grande and Christ UMC in Portland. He is a graduate of Boston University School of Theology.

“The honor and challenge of serving Columbia District is great. The many and varied ministries, innovation projects, new starts, and the diverse communities of the district offer a unique opportunity for me,” he said. “I will build off of the faithful work of Erin and know that my skills, gifts and graces will be well used in my work with Columbia District.”

Erin Martin

Rev. Erin Martin, who has served as the Columbia District Superintendent for the last five years, is to be appointed to Fremont United Methodist Church in Portland effective July 1, in place of Rev. Linda Quanstrom, who is returning to retirement.

Martin served at Wesley UMC in Eugene for nine years before becoming Columbia District Superintendent.

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.

Need an IV, Stat!

By Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson

Growing up, I loved the television show, EMERGENCY! The mid-70s medical drama centered on the heroic work of the Los Angeles County Fire Department Station 51, Squad 51 — specifically two paramedics named Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto. It appeared that every time Johnny and Roy called in from a scene to Rampart General Hospital, they were always instructed to, “Start an IV of D5W, TKO, stat!” Without fail.

IV, of course, is the abbreviation for “intravenous.” And, “stat,” which comes from Latin origin, is often used as a directive to medical personnel. It means “immediately” or “instantly,” as in right now! Even today, when colleagues use the abbreviation “IV” referencing the Innovation Vitality Team, it makes me think of EMERGENCY! Could it be because the church often needs an IV infusion of life, stat?

On that note, perhaps it’s the perfect time to share an IV (Innovation Vitality) stat (or two) that represents the work our team has been charged to lead, particularly around the practices of Inclusion, Innovation, and Multiplication. I am asked all the time about how much we are investing in existing congregations. And, I am always eager to answer that question.

There are several indicators for how we are all collaborating for a new vital church — one that empowers younger, queer, and people of color to innovate and co-create and help shift us from the status quo. For starters, consider these stats: 

  • 23 of the 37 projects supported across the Greater Northwest Area (GNW) are New projects, which represents 62% (a New project is a stand-alone new church or new campus/multisite project, led by an identified planter/innovator).
  • 14 of the 37 are Vitality projects, which makes up 38% (a Vitality project is an existing church where an identified planter/innovator is appointed to foster vitality and new movement).
  • What is the most exciting stat? Of the 37 supported projects, 20 are led by leaders of color! That’s 54%!

We believe it is an exciting time to be a part of the Greater Northwest Area. The IV Team has conducted several district trainings and workshops across the GNW, with more scheduled this winter and spring. These, again, focus on the practices of Inclusion, Innovation, and Multiplication. The practices are cultivated through the resourcing of intercultural competency, faith-based community organizing, asset-based community development, and intentional multiplication.

Click the image to learn more about the natural practices of vitality.

To equip pastors/innovators to navigate culture shift within our local churches and to re-embrace our Wesleyan rhythm of multiplication, we have continued our Multiplying Ministries cohorts, first piloted in 2016. These have helped position multiplication of new places across our conferences from places like Bend, Oregon, to Olympia and Marysville, Washington, and all the way to Squamish, British Columbia. In the process, new conversations have ignited about ministry opportunities. In fact, we see new movement in a number of exciting areas that strive to practice Inclusion, Innovation, and Multiplication. Here are some additional vital stats:

  • The importance of intercultural competency has been repositioned as foundational to vitality.
  • 13 churches joined in the Rural Church Engagement Initiative (RCEI) in 2019 from the Sage and Crater Lake Districts of Oregon-Idaho and the Seven Rivers and Inland Districts of the Pacific Northwest.
  • 20 churches are poised and ready for the 2020 RCEI cohort, which includes the Alaska Conference this year.
  • 13 new projects started over the last two years, six of which are vitality projects in existing churches.
  • 26 interns engaged and placed in ministry settings across the Area.
  • 7 people of color appointed to projects in 2019.
  • 13 candidates being assessed for 2020 in our new leadership identification process, of which eight are people of color.
  • 127 leaders trained to date in the last four cohorts of Multiplying Ministries, of which 91 are pastors serving existing local churches.
  • 23 planters/innovators in 6 new cohorts launched Area-wide for 2020, which focus on social enterprise and financial sustainability of both new and vitality projects.
  • Connected with thousands of leaders of color, building trust, new relationships, and opportunities, making way for a promising leadership pipeline.

The truth is there are a lot of indicators of life across the Greater Northwest Area, and that’s contagious. The thought of a vital movement on the horizon is generative, which can position the GNW to help shape something pretty special. As news of an impending split in the UMC populates the news feed, we need to stay focused.

So, while some folks across our connection might be declaring an EMERGENCY, take heart! It is important to remember that the Spirit is moving in fresh, new ways and that you are running a good race. That’s not to say that sometimes when we call in from the scene we might need an IV; stat! For now, let’s remember the new life that was recently born into our chaotic world. We know it as the “good news that will bring great joy to all people” (Luke 2:10).

Right now, it’s vital. Let’s continue to embody it.


Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson serves as Director of Innovation for a New Church for the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area including the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conferences.

Greater NW UMC Rural Church Engagement Initiative going strong

An exciting new Rural Church Engagement Initiative launched in the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church in 2019 among churches ministering in rural communities across Idaho, Oregon and Washington, will be growing in 2020.

“Our goal is to build competency and support with the local church for transformational change and new relationships with our neighbors,” said Lynn Egli, Crater Lake lay leader and coordinator of the Rural Church Engagement Initiative. “We’re reaching out to more neighbors, new neighbors and different neighbors. Our approach is very practical: learn by doing; learn in a cohort of learners that are ministering in a similar rural setting.”

There are currently 13 churches in smaller communities involved in this project, which has included 40 to 50 lay people, pastors, and leaders from the Greater Northwest Innovation Vitality Team providing resources and training opportunities for the pastors and lay leaders serving these churches.

Lynn Egli

The cohort regularly uses Zoom video conferencing technology to meet and study the Book of Acts in the Bible, discussing local community organizing efforts, sharing setbacks and what they’ve learned.

The cohort meets quarterly for remote training sessions on topics like social media, leadership development, creating change and community development. Each church gets an on-site visit from a nationally recognized faith-based community organizing consultant.

The churches currently involved in the Rural Church Engagement Initiative come from the Sage, Crater Lake, Inland and Seven Rivers districts.

Egli said next year the hope is to add another 18-20 church cohort, expanding into more districts, including Alaska.

Currently the Rural Church Engagement Initiative is being implemented in Ashton, Idaho; Coos Bay, Oregon; Chelan, Wash.; New Meadows, Idaho; Veneta, Oregon; Clarkston, Wash.; Gooding, Idaho; Klamath Falls, Oregon; Magic Valley Ministries in Idaho; Pullman, Wash., Sandpoint, Idaho; Toledo, Oregon; and Goldendale, Wash.

The current churches will join the new cohort of churches for a gathering at the Northwest Leadership Institute 2020 in March at Boise First United Methodist Church.

“Please pray for us as we continue to grow and serve,” Egli said. “We are so grateful for support of the Pacific Northwest and Oregon-Idaho conferences to launch this work in our rural churches that are serving so faithfully and, quite frankly, remotely.  We may be miles apart, but we know we are not alone. We are the church and we will move forward with hope, vision, confidence and courage.”

A Pastoral Letter for Epiphany 2020

United Methodists of the Greater Northwest,

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,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

A Christmas Message from Bishop Stanovsky – 2019

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.

TRANSCRIPT

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)

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.