Prepare the way of the Lord, Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
— Excerpts from Luke 3
When he was still in elementary school, I took our oldest son, Walker, to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day rally at the Langston Hughes Center in Seattle’s Central District and the march downtown that followed. When the standing-room-only crowd broke into song, I was surprised to see our son rise, respectfully to his feet, and sing the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” by heart, and sang it with all his heart.
The music teacher at Madrona Elementary School was married to an Africa Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) pastor. She had taught her students to stand and sing the song with conviction. I was moved to tears as my son participated in that powerful gathering of people honoring the legacy of the civil rights struggle and continuing to call out and demand equity and justice. He participated in the power of the history, the lament, the community, the cause, the witness, the hope.
This month, I was grateful when the local UMC I attended for worship on MLK Day included the song in their service, invoking the long, bloody struggle from enslavement to justice and equity for Black people in America.
As United Methodist Christians, I hope that we all carry in our hearts a yearning for racial equity and justice as a gift and challenge from Jesus. I hope we all know the work isn’t finished,
that all Americans have work to do to make the American Dream equally accessible to every American,
that white European-American immigrants to this land have had unfair access to the riches and opportunity embodied in the “American Dream” since Christopher Columbus first landed in 1492, and since people were first captured and enslaved in Africa and transported to America in 1619.
God’s good vision of human community cannot be achieved without racial justice and equity.And it cannot be achieved unless people who benefit from inequality and those who are deprived by it work to name and dismantle the systems that protect white privilege and preserve exclusion and oppression.
February is Black History Month. I hope you will use “Lift Every Voice and Sing” in some way in worship this month. It is # 519 in The United Methodist Hymnal and is in the public domain, so you don’t need copyright permission to use the words or music. Be sure to share the history of the hymn, when it was written, by whom, for what occasion and how it came to be known as the Black National Anthem.
Consider using the TREASURE HUNT below to deepen your appreciation and love of this song. Use the linked resources to find the answers to the questions in the box and the resources offered.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
“Lift Every Voice and Sing” TREASURE HUNT
Searching for Treasure
When was the song written? In Black history, what is this period of history called?
Who wrote the words and music?
How are United Methodists connected to the writers/composers?
Is the Black National Anthem only for Black people to sing?
Why is it called the Black National Anthem?
What occasion was it written for?
What member of Congress proposed legislation to designate “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as America’s national hymn?
What one line from the song will you carry in your hearts, as a follower of Jesus?
Last evening cabinet members and I gathered on Zoom with Tongan pastors in the Greater Northwest Area (GNW) to pray for the safety and recovery of the people in Tonga following the volcanic eruption and tsunamis. They shared the latest information they have heard through media and the few reports received from family and friends in Tonga. As a community, Tongans are dispersed around the world.
“Tonga is home to 106,000 people, but more than double that number live overseas, mainly in the US, New Zealand, and Australia. Remittances from the overseas population have been declining since the onset of the 2008 global economic crisis. The tourism industry is improving but remains modest at under 90,000 tourists per year.” – via Wikipedia
The Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga is the largest religious group on the islands, representing 36% of the population. Christianity was introduced to Tonga in 1822 by Methodist missionaries, pre-dating the arrival of Methodism in the Northwest in 1834, when Methodist missionary Jason Lee arrived at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River. Tongans are our spiritual elders, embracing the Methodist movement ten years earlier than Northwesterners.
When Tongans immigrated to the GNW, they turned to The United Methodist Church to establish faith communities. Today Tongans gather for worship in six local churches or fellowships that identify as Tongan and are active members of many more congregations.
I am asking you to do two things before the end of January: Pray and Act.
1. PRAY for the people of Tonga and their leaders as they work to respond to the immediate crisis. Pray for encouragement in the long, silent waiting; pray for rain to clean the air and settle the ash that has fallen everywhere.
Rev. Sia Puloka reminded us that “What Tonga needs is your love. We haven’t heard. We cannot be there. But Jesus is there. Your prayer to Jesus is what Tonga needs.” Pray for hospitality and shelter for those who have lost their homes. Pray for no more eruptions and for quick repair of the communication cable that is their lifeline to the world.
Pray also for our GNW siblings in Christ and their faith communities as they wait for word of their relatives and friends in Tonga. They reminded us last night that, while we cannot be present, our prayers can still encircle them.
And, as you pray, please go to the Facebook pages of these faith communities or their pastors and post your prayers and words of encouragement. We must open our hearts to share this tragedy with those most affected.
2. ACT to share resources in Tonga’s time of need. We are preparing to help the recovery effort in Tonga, where many homes are destroyed and ash blankets the land, killing crops, polluting air, water, and fish, the primary source of protein.
Rev. Taufoou mentioned that disasters like in Tonga, and Tongans in other countries are used to sending supplies to help their families recover. But, he said, “this will be a long journey. There may be another eruption; now ashes cover the kingdom. We must send relief for more than our families, for the whole Kingdom.”
I encourage you to designate donations to your local church for “Tongan Relief” now. At the same time, we are working to determine the best channel for these funds, perhaps through partners in New Zealand, which can deliver goods to Tonga much quicker than from the United States. Your gifts can be sent to your Annual Conference with this designation and will be channeled for this purpose.
“Por la entrañable misericordia de nuestro Dios, Con que nos visitó desde lo alto la aurora, Para dar luz a los que habitan en tinieblas y en sombra de muerte; Para encaminar nuestros pies por camino de paz”.
La Gracia de Dios este contigo esta mañana, estamos en la temporada de fiestas, la temporada de fiestas santas. Y realmente no he conversado últimamente mucho con ustedes, mi gente del Área del Gran Noroeste de la Iglesia Metodista Unida. Una y otra vez, he pensado que quiero dar un buen mensaje, compartir buenas noticias con las personas con las que sirvo. Y, sin embargo, las palabras no han llegado.
Entonces, quiero comenzar esta mañana simplemente agradeciendo nuevamente. Espero que me hayas escuchado decir gracias antes. Esta ha sido una temporada incómoda, difícil, agotadora y ustedes se han mantenido vivos y sanos, la mayoría de ustedes. Y lamentamos aquellos que no han superado esta pandemia por razones de COVID u otras circunstancias de la vida y de salud que les han quitado la vida.
Pero aquellos de ustedes que están escuchando este mensaje, que están escuchando este mensaje hoy, están vivos, están sirviendo, se preocupan y están luchando. Gracias! Dios obra a través de nosotros. Aunque nos sintamos preparados para la tarea o no. La gente encuentra bendición en nosotros. Y así, nos levantamos cada mañana, saludamos al sol, y seguimos adelante de la mejor manera que podamos, contagiando amor, esperanza y ternura a las personas que nos encontramos. Así que gracias!. Gracias, que Dios los bendiga y los guarde.
Sin embargo, es una época extraña y desorientadora, ¿no? ¿No te parece así? Ciertamente lo es. Hay tantos asuntos urgentes a los que prestar atención, a los que abrir nuestro corazón, aprender sobre ellos, responder con compasión y comprensión. Cada vez que pienso en traerte una buena palabra, me encuentro atrapada.
¿Les hablaré sobre el clima, las inundaciones, los incendios forestales y la necesidad de alejarnos de los combustibles fósiles y encontrar nuevas fuentes de energía sostenibles?
¿Les hablare del COVID, de las muertes, los peligros, las pruebas, de no poder reunirnos y cantar juntos?
¿Les hablare del 6 de enero y de las divisiones que parecen separarnos como pueblo, como nación y amenazar los cimientos mismos de una sociedad civilizada?
¿Les hablare sobre el racismo y los juicios de Rittenhouse y las personas que mataron a Ahmaud Arbery y Charlottesville y el peligro de perder el derecho al voto?
Cada vez que pienso en qué hablarles, creo que, si hablo una palabra, esas otras palabras no se dicen, y lo llevamos todo, todo al mismo tiempo. Y, sin embargo, no podemos hablar de todo al mismo tiempo. Y así, me he encontrado en una temporada de silencio. No porque no tengo un sentimiento profundo, no porque no esté en sintonía con lo que estás luchando, con lo que el mundo está luchando. Pero me encuentro incapaz de hablar porque es tan amplio y profundo y hay que tanto de que hablar, que es difícil saber por dónde empezar.
Busque en las Escrituras, en la oración, profundamente en las últimas dos semanas para prepararme para este mensaje y lo que encontré fueron dos grandes historias en el Evangelio de Lucas de personas que se sentían atraídas a la quietud.
El primero es de Lucas 1 y es el cántico de Zacarías. Recuerda que Zacarías está casado con Isabel y ella queda embarazada del bebé que se convertirá en Juan el Bautista. Y Zacarías recibe este anuncio y está desconcertado y no confía del todo en él. Zacarías e Isabel son mayores y no están seguros de poder tener hijos. Y entonces, cuestiona al ángel que le trae esta noticia. Y el ángel lo calla, le quita la voz por dudar de la palabra de Dios.
Y Zacarías espera en silencio, hasta que Isabel da a luz y nace el bebé. Lo van a llamar Zacarías en honor a su padre, y María dice: “No, su nombre es Juan”. Y la gente se vuelva hacia Zacarías y les dicen: “¿Qué dices acerca de esto? ¿Qué piensas? ¿No debería el bebé llevar tu nombre?” Y Zacarías recupera su voz, su voz regresa. Y él responde, no dice que quiero nombrarlo, Juan. No dice que lo llamo Juan. Dice: “Su nombre es Juan” como si viniera del más allá. Este es un momento poderoso en las escrituras.
Y luego también me atrae María. Y todo lo que ella meditaba en su corazón mientras el mundo giraba a su alrededor, ella había dado a luz a este nuevo bebé entre, pastores, ángeles, el cielo se abrió, los profetas estaban hablando, y ella habla una palabra. Pero luego reflexiona sobre todo en su corazón.
Los escritores de la Biblia saben por lo que estamos pasando: el miedo, la desorientación, el peligro, el desplazamiento, la exclusión, la traición, las plagas. Lo saben todo, está todo en la historia. No es una historia feliz de Nochebuena con bebés, animales en un corral. También es una historia de profundo desplazamiento, indiferencia, huida. Y, sin embargo, es una historia que nos invita a esperar, a encontrar nuestro propio silencio, a anticiparnos, no a esperar pasivamente, sino a anticiparnos, a estar atentos, a prepararnos y a vivir con esperanza.
Porque el núcleo de las Escrituras es el mensaje de que lo que sucede a nuestro alrededor, lo que vemos con nuestros ojos, lo que escuchamos con nuestros oídos, lo que experimentamos en las complejas e impredecibles vidas sociales que llevamos no lo es todo, es lo que esta debajo de eso, el lugar donde hay un espíritu. Hay un lugar donde viven nuestras almas, hay un lugar donde Dios que observa y atiende toda la complejidad de nuestras vidas, nos atiende, planea un buen futuro y nos invita a asociarnos en la creación de ese futuro.
Aquí estamos. Estamos invitados a esta temporada de Adviento que está a punto de llegar. Adviento significa venir. Se trata de la venida de Dios al mundo, sí, en el niño Jesús. Pero Dios viene todos los años cuando celebramos el Adviento, todos los días, cuando nos despertamos al amanecer, para guiarnos por nuevos caminos, para enseñarnos cosas nuevas, para invitarnos a participar en nuestras propias vidas en el mundo con los ojos abiertos, y nueva conciencia.
Quiero leerles el Salmo 46 esta mañana. Puedes escuchar esto como un optimismo limitado, una ilusión superficial, o puedes escucharlo como una invitación a buscar dónde está viva y naciendo en el mundo la bondad y la esperanza que Dios promete.
Dios es nuestro amparo y fortaleza, Nuestro pronto auxilio en las tribulaciones. Por tanto, no temeremos, aunque la tierra sea removida, Y se traspasen los montes al corazón del mar; Aunque bramen y borboteen sus aguas, Y tiemblen los montes a causa de su ímpetu. Selah
Hay un río cuyas corrientes alegran la ciudad de Dios, El santuario de las moradas del Altísimo. Dios está en medio de ella; no será conmovida. Dios la ayudará al clarear la mañana. Braman las naciones, se tambalean los reinos; Lanza él su voz, y se derrite la tierra. Jehová de los ejércitos está con nosotros; Nuestro refugio es el Dios de Jacob. Selah
Venid, ved las obras de Jehová, Que ha puesto asolamiento en la tierra. Que hace cesar las guerras hasta los confines de la tierra. Que quiebra el arco, rompe las lanzas Y quema los carros en el fuego. Estad quietos, y conoced que yo soy Dios; Seré exaltado entre las naciones; enaltecido seré en la tierra. Jehová de los ejércitos está con nosotros; Nuestro refugio es el Dios de Jacob.
Y así, en la temporada de adviento, esperamos, anticipamos, nos preparamos. Esperamos que lo que nos dicen las Escrituras sea la verdad que a veces no podemos ver.
Estate quieto. Quédate quieto con Zacarías. Quédate quieto con María. Quédate quieto con Job. Quédate quieto con Jesús en el huerto.
No se deje consumir por lo que ve en la televisión o en las redes sociales. Busque ayuda en medio de los problemas. Fíjense en dónde se alegra nuestro mundo, nuestra ciudad, nuestros vecindarios.
Únete conmigo en esta oración de respiración. Ven, Jesús, nace en nosotros hoy. Ven, Jesús, nace en nosotros hoy. Ven, Jesús, nace en nosotros hoy. Y fíjate si puedes levantarte alrededor de las siete de la mañana o un poco más temprano y mirar hacia afuera, encontrar un lugar que mire hacia el este y ver si puedes ver salir el sol.
“Por la entrañable misericordia de nuestro Dios, Con que nos visitó desde lo alto la aurora, Para dar luz a los que habitan en tinieblas y en sombra de muerte; Para encaminar nuestros pies por camino de paz”.
Que sea así para usted, para su congregación, para su vecindario y para el asombroso mundo de Dios.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Translated and Adapted by: Rev. Cruz Edwin Santos Director of Hispanic/Latinx Ministry December 6, 2021
“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Grace to you this morning, we are well into the holiday season, the holy holiday season. And I have not been speaking to you, my people across the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church much lately. Time and again, I have thought I want to give a good word, to share good news with the people that I serve with. And yet, the words have not come.
So, I want to start this morning just by saying thank you again. I hope you’ve heard me say thank you before. This has been an awkward and difficult and trying season and you have kept alive, most of you. And we mourn those who have not made it through this pandemic for reasons of COVID or other life circumstances and health circumstances that have taken their lives.
But those of you who are listening to this message, who are hearing this message today, you are alive and you’re serving and you’re caring, you’re struggling at times. Thank you. God works through us. Whether we feel up to the task or not. People find blessing in us. And so, we get up each morning, we greet the sun, and we go on, as best we can, spreading love and hope and tenderness to the people that we encounter. So, thank you. Thank you, God bless you and keep you.
It is a strange and disorienting time, though, isn’t it? Don’t you find it so? I certainly do. There are so many urgent matters to give our attention to, to open our hearts to, to learn about, to respond to with compassion and understanding. Every time I think about bringing you a good word, I find myself caught.
Shall I speak about the climate and the flooding and the wildfires and the need to move away from fossil fuels and find new sustainable sources of energy?
Shall I speak to you about COVID and the deaths and the dangers and the trials of not being able to gather and sing together?
Shall I speak to you of January 6 and the divisions that seem to be separating us as people in our nation and threatening the very foundation of civil society?
Shall I speak to you about racism and the trials of Rittenhouse and the people who killed Ahmaud Arbery and Charlottesville and the danger of losing voting rights?
Each time I think about what to speak to you about, I think, if I speak one word, it leaves unspoken those other words, and we carry it all, all at the same time. And yet we can’t speak of it all at the same time. And so, I have found myself in a season of silence. Not because I don’t feel deeply, not because I’m not attuned with what you’re struggling with, with what the world is struggling with. But I find myself unable to speak because it is so broad and so deep and there’s so much, it’s hard to know where to begin.
I turned to scripture, into prayer, deeply in the last couple of weeks to prepare for this message and what I found there were two great stories in the Gospel of Luke of people being drawn into stillness.
The first is from Luke 1 and it’s the song of Zechariah. You remember Zechariah is married to Elizabeth and Elizabeth becomes pregnant with the baby that will become John the Baptist. And Zechariah receives this announcement and is puzzled by it and doesn’t quite trust it. He and Elizabeth are older and not sure they can have children. And so, he questions the angel that brings him this news. And the angel strikes him silent, takes his voice away for doubting the word from God.
And he sits in silence, then until you recall that Elizabeth gives birth, the baby is born. They’re going to name it Zechariah after his father, and Mary says, “No, his name is John.” And that people turn to Zechariah and say, “What do you say about this? What do you think, shouldn’t the baby be named after you?” And Zechariah gets his voice back, his voice returns. And he says, he doesn’t say I want to name him, John. He doesn’t say I name him John. He says, “His name is John” as if it comes from beyond. It’s a powerful moment in the scripture.
And then I’m drawn also to Mary. And all that she pondered in her heart as the world was swirling around her and she had given birth to this new baby and shepherds and angels, and the sky opened up and prophets are speaking, and she speaks a word. But then she ponders it all in her heart.
The writers of the Bible, know what we’re going through – the fear, the disorientation, the danger, the displacement, exclusion, betrayal, the plagues. They know it all, it’s all in the story. It’s not a happy Christmas Eve story with babies in and animals in a barnyard and halos. It’s also a story of deep displacement, disregard, flight. And yet, it’s a story that invites us to wait, to find our own silence, to anticipate, not to wait passively, but to anticipate and watch for and prepare for, and live in hope.
Because the core of the scripture is the message that what’s going on around us what we see with our eyes, what we hear with our ears, what we experience in the complex and unpredictable social lives we lead isn’t everything, that beneath it, there is a spirit. There is a place where our souls live, there is a place where God who watches and tends the whole complexity of our lives, tends to us, plans for a good future, and invites us to partner in creating that future.
So here we are. We’re invited into this season of Advent which is all about coming. Advent means coming. It’s about God coming into the world, yes, in the baby Jesus. But God coming every year as we celebrate Advent, every day, as we awaken to the dawn, to lead us in new ways, to teach us new things, to invite us to participate in our own lives in the world with open eyes, and new awareness.
I want to read to you Psalm 46 this morning. You can hear this as foolish optimism, superficial wishful thinking, or you can hear it as an invitation to look for where the goodness and the hopefulness that God promises is alive and being born in the world.
Our defense is sure, our shelter and help in trouble, God never stands far off. So we stand unshaken when solid earth cracks and volcanoes slide into the sea. When breakers rage and mountains tremble, the Lord of cosmic power, Jacob’s God, will shield us.
A river delights the City of God, home of the Holy One most high. With God there, the city stands. God defends it under attack. Nation’s rage, empires fall. God speaks, the earth melts. The Lord of cosmic power, Jacob’s God, will shield us.
Come, see the wonders God does across the earth. Everywhere stopping wars, smashing, crushing, burning all the weapons of wars. An end to your fighting. “Acknowledge me as God,” God says. High over nations, high over Earth, the Lord of cosmic power, Jacob’s God, will shield us.
And so, in the season of Advent, we wait. We anticipate. We prepare. We hope for what the scripture tells us is the truth we sometimes cannot see.
Be still. Be still with Zechariah. Be still with Mary. Be still with Job. Be still with Jesus in the garden.
Don’t be consumed by what you see on television or on social media. Watch for help in trouble. Notice where our world, our city, our neighborhoods are being made glad.
Pray with me this breathing prayer. Come, Jesus, be born in us today. Come, Jesus, be born in us today. Come, Jesus, be born in us today. And see if you can get up about seven in the morning or a little bit earlier and to look outdoors, find a place that looks east and see if you can see the sun rising.
“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
May it be so for you, for your congregation, for your neighborhood and for God’s amazing wide world.
Greater Northwest Area Cabinet encourages vaccination as an act of love
Wednesday, October 13, 2021
When the Greater Northwest Area Cabinet met in September, we discussed much of the work that is ahead of us this year. Pastoral consultations, charge conferences, connectional ministry opportunities and, of course, appointments. Lament permeated these discussions as we shared stories of the prolonged pandemic and its impact on so much of what we all do.
The vaccination status of our ministry leaders across the area was one topic that we discussed. Our Greater Northwest Area Cabinet is fully vaccinated, as are most of the staff working in the conference and district offices across the region. From conversations with so many of our local leaders, we suspect the majority of our pastors, and many if not most of local church and ministry staff are also fully vaccinated.
This is all a good thing because we know that vaccination is not only practical and wise, but also an act of love. We trust the science that tells us that vaccines significantly reduce the chance that we will get infected, hospitalized, and die because of this virus. And we love our neighbors enough to do all we can to avoid spreading this disease to them.
Throughout the pandemic, John Wesley’s Three General Rules have guided our response, including to the vaccine: Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God. Getting vaccinated is yet another way we can faithfully respond from our Methodist tradition.
Jesus tells us how to manage difficult times when siblings of Christ do not see eye to eye on an issue: Treat people in the same way you want them to treat you (Luke 6:31 CEB). This isn’t a call to “me firstness.” It is how we live out our faith. In the context of vaccinations and this pandemic, it calls us to get the shot – I don’t want someone else getting sick because of me just as I don’t want to get sick because of someone else – it is how we treat others as we want to be treated.
We sincerely hope that many who read this message will have already been vaccinated. Please consider a booster shot if and when it is recommended for you.
For those who remain unvaccinated, we would implore you to do so unless there is a medical reason you cannot. For those who have questions, we would strongly encourage you to reach out to your doctor or other health care professional, and to trusted friends or colleagues who have been vaccinated to have an honest conversation about your concerns. We care about you, your health, your family, their health and for all those with whom you are in ministry.
Finally, for those who are long vaccinated and find themselves frustrated at times with those who are not, let love guide your words and actions, whatever those may be. May we be moved to be ever generous in spirit, and even in action as we partner with others to provide access to vaccines, however they may be constrained.
In continuing prayers for you and our shared ministry!
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky Resident Bishop Greater Northwest Episcopal Area
Rev. Carlo Rapanut Alaska Conference Superintendent Assistant to the Bishop, Greater Northwest Area
Rev. Tim Overton-Harris Dean of Cabinet, Columbia District Superintendent Oregon Idaho Conference
Rev. Kathleen Weber Dean of Cabinet, Crest to Coast District Superintendent Pacific Northwest Conference
In late August, you received a letter from Bishop Elaine Stanovsky regarding the ongoing Boy Scouts of America bankruptcy, with some guidance originating in our denomination’s legal advisors. This group of chancellors, advised by bankruptcy experts and in consultation with church leaders, is engaged in this very complex matter to ensure that any of our churches who act as chartering organizations, are protected to the fullest extent possible as we wrestle with the shadow of abuse in our midst over many decades.
Previously, the guidance was to pause the chartering/re-chartering of scouting troops with a reset on December 31, 2021. We have now received updated guidance to extend this pause until March 31,2022. With this additional time, the BSA and legal representatives of the UMC will continue work on a new chartering arrangement that protects both organizations appropriately. This means that whatever status (charter or facility use agreement) that your church now has with your troop, old or newly negotiated, can remain in force until the end of March 2022.
There will be a joint statement released this week that will outline this extension for the bankruptcy case to run its course and to give time for development of a new agreed-upon form of agreement for United Methodist organizations wishing to charter a Scout unit in the future.
The two organizations agree that whatever agreements are currently in place can be extended until March 31, 2022, after which a new charter agreement should be available to take the relationship into the future.
Today we ask that you extend your current relationship with BSA troops, at whatever CURRENT status it is, until March 31, 2022, and pray for the survivors’ healing. God has gifted us with compassion and wisdom to reach just settlements and faithfully steward the resources of the UMC.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of us if you have any questions.
Dear Greater Northwest United Methodists of the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences:
We send this letter with heavy hearts, knowing that many young people have been harmed while participating in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), over many decades. While countless young persons have benefited from the different programs and levels of Boy Scouting, some have experienced demeaning and abusive behavior while participating in scouting activities and events and have taken their claims to the courts.
Many local United Methodist churches partner as charter organizations for Boy Scout units across the country. The United Methodist Church (TUMC) is committed to being a safe and nurturing place for all people, to healing harm that has been done and, to partnering with organizations that share this commitment. The United Methodist Church is reviewing its relationship with BSA to ensure that the Church is acting responsibly to protect the safety of children and ensure that it is not responsible for harm done during Boy Scout activities.
BSA Current Reality
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is overwhelmed with potential liability exposure from sexual assault allegations nationwide. The BSA has filed for bankruptcy protection. Under both of the proposed plans that the BSA has suggested as ways to continue after the bankruptcy, they are leaving their chartered organizations out on a limb by themselves. The chartered organizations are the local churches, schools, and civic groups that sponsor or host a Scout Troop, Pack, Crew, or other unit. The details of these plans are still being played out, but the BSA is placing all of our United Methodist churches who have ever been involved in Scouting in a very difficult position.
Despite their consistent past assurances that they held enough insurance to cover their chartered organizations in case of injured scouts, we now know that the BSA did not have enough or sufficient insurance. The local churches are at risk of having to pay significant sums to victims to compensate them for the damages they suffered at the hands of some Scout leaders. In addition, the local churches will have to pay for the cost of their own attorneys to defend those claims. All of this is because the BSA did not fulfill their promise to have enough insurance to protect the local churches.
Future Relationship with the BSA
Our team, made up of the Bishop, her GNW Area assistant, and the treasurers and chancellors of the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conferences, recommends that local churches change their relationships with Scouting units.
If your local church currently charters a Scout unit, we recommend that you NOT renew that chartering agreement when it is up for renewal or re-chartering this fall. Instead, we recommend one of three options, the choice of which is up to you:
Tell the local Scout council that you will NOT renew that chartering agreement but will only extend the current agreement until December 31, 2021.
Tell the local Scout council that you will NOT renew that chartering agreement but will enter into a Facilities Use Agreement with their unit until December 31, 2021.
Tell the local Scout council that you will terminate the existing charter agreement and replace it with a Facilities Use Agreement with their unit until December 31, 2021.
In options 2 and 3, the Facilities Use Agreement will act similar to a lease allowing the Scout unit to continue using your space, but they will be responsible for everything else, including the selection of leaders. A proposed agreement template can be found here. Also, please let your Conference Treasurer know if you are currently hosting a scout troop in any of the above described manners.
After December 31, 2021, we should be in a better position to see how the future will unfold. Once a reorganization plan is approved by the bankruptcy court, we will know better how to proceed.
If your local church does not charter a Scout unit at this time, we recommend that you NOT consider chartering a unit until the bankruptcy case is finalized and we have an understanding of how The United Methodist relationship with Scouts will continue in the future.
We understand that these suggestions are dramatic, but we think them to be the prudent course of action at this time. We want to protect our local churches from being accused of contributing to the abuse of children and to the resulting risk of costly litigation.
Boy Scout councils have begun contacting local churches directly that host Boy Scout units. One such letter is attached here. If you receive any communication from a local Scout council or the BSA advising or encouraging you to contact a Boy Scout attorney, please report this at once to Rev. Carlo A. Rapanut, Assistant to the Bishop. His email is email@example.com.
We know the value of scouting. It has played a very large role in the mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church for a very long time. But the BSA is not proving faithful to The United Methodist Church as they leave us without the protections that they promised. We simply cannot currently commit to the relationship with the BSA as we have in the past. Until we know how the BSA will be organized and operate in the future, we must make some changes. Hopefully, we will be able to continue our long connection with scouting in some way, but we need to make some changes today to help prevent us from being dragged down with the BSA in the future.
May God’s mighty, surprising, Holy Spirit work a miracle of healing in the lives of people harmed by abuse. May God bless and keep us honest, diligent and wise through this process.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky Greater NW Area The United Methodist Church
Rev. Carlo A. Rapanut Assistant to the Bishop GNW Area of The UMC
As United Methodists begin to understand the historical role the church has played in generations of colonization and harm to Native American peoples, a petition has emerged, calling on churches to tell the truth and repent for their historical role in the loss of countless lives and devastation of rich indigenous cultures.
Greater Northwest Area Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky has signed the petition, as has Rev. Dr. Allen Buck, director of the GNW Circle of Indigenous Ministries and other leaders in the GNW Episcopal Area.
“Join with us in calling for deeply transparent exploration and truth-telling about our role and complicity in taking land, culture, resources and children from the First Peoples here and around the globe,” said Buck, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation who also pastors Great Spirit UMC in Portland. “The Church has helped build and maintain systems which prioritize and benefit ‘whiteness’ – contributing to trauma that impacts generations of Indigenous people.”
History has revealed that these boarding schools were used to abuse hundreds of thousands of Native American children who were removed – often violently – from their homes and families and placed in these schools in the years between 1869 and the 1960s. There were 367 government-funded Native American Indian Board Schools, according to the National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition and many of those schools were run by churches.
Children at these schools were regularly beaten, had their hair forcefully cut and their sacred traditions, languages and identities stolen or destroyed. They were abused physically, emotionally and sexually and were abused or mutilated for speaking their native languages.
This petition calls for churches to commit to discovering the locations and records of Methodist run boarding schools and search the physical properties for mass graves “by whatever means necessary” and to listen to and collect the stories from family members whose ancestors were impacted by a Methodist boarding school.
The petition also calls on The United Methodist Church to set aside October 6 as a day of remembrance as part of The Boarding School Healing Project. On Oct. 6, 1879, Gen. Richard Pratt took children from the First Nations and opened the boarding school in Carlisle, Penn. Because of this date and recent gravesite discoveries, the petitioners ask The UMC to observe Oct. 6, 2021 as a “Day of Truth and Repentance for Our Children.”
Stanovsky urges United Methodists and others in the GNW Area to sign the petition as an act of repentance and a commitment to continuing the long work of addressing the historical harms the church has caused for generations of Native Americans.
“This is just the first step in many acts of repentance we must commit to listen to the voices of Native American neighbors, to acknowledge the sins embedded in the teachings and actions of Christian churches and to repent of these sins as a Church, and followers of Christ, to begin addressing the generational atrocities the church has committed,” she said. “There is much, much more work to be done. It is about becoming trustworthy in our relationships with people whose trust has been deeply betrayed time and time again. It goes far beyond putting names to a statement. It requires deep soul searching to understand what went wrong among followers of Jesus.”
Recommendations for mask usage with Delta variant, indoor congregational singing
Today, the GNW COVID-19 Response Team is releasing two recommendations based on our ongoing conversations and broader developments in the fight against this disease. Both are directed primarily to churches and ministries in Option 2, though Option 1 ministries should note the words of caution regarding the Delta variant. The first is a recommendation to return to masking indoors in all public settings like worship due to the rampant spread of Delta. The second is our promised guidance on congregational singing.
When we released the last major COVID-19 update – “Stepping forward safely in love and trust” – in May to the Greater Northwest Area, significant latitude was offered to local churches and ministries choosing Option 2. Accepting the responsibility to return to in-person ministry in contextually innovative ways, these ministries have been free to work beyond the cautious GNW recommendations offered in Option 1 with three major expectations and one remaining restriction.
The first major expectation was that local churches and ministries would work carefully within both the guidelines offered by the CDC and parameters set by local and state governments, following whichever was more cautious wherever they might differ. The second major expectation Option 2 churches committed to was watching these standards for changes and regularly monitoring local risk using CovidActNow and information from local and state resources. And the final major expectation was that churches would carefully assess this information, making changes to their practices, especially when risk levels might increase.
In short, “Stepping forward…” allows Option 2 churches the freedom to adapt safely to new possibilities as states reopened this summer, and the responsibility to do so carefully, and possibly to step back as new developments like the Delta variant[i] threaten our progress against this disease.
The one major restriction left in place when “Stepping forward…” was released was a prohibition against indoor congregational singing. At the time, our GNW COVID-19 Response Team engaged in several conversations on the topic, reviewing as we did emerging science often funded by groups committed to these performance arts (read: people who love and dedicate their lives to performing and teaching music). Subsequently, we hosted a webinar to help leaders better understand the unique risks posed by singing.
The following resources are being offered today primarily to churches and ministries in Option 2, though Option 1 ministries should note the words of caution regarding the Delta variant.
While we are not updating Option 1 at this time, we are continuing to monitor and discuss the impact of this variant and other changes in public policy. We will make changes as the situation warrants.
In ministry with you,
The GNW COVID-19 Response Team
[i]According to OPB & NPR, the Delta variant “appears to be about 225% more transmissible than the original SARS-CoV-2 strains” with – on average – “about 1,000 times more copies of the virus in their respiratory tracts than those infected.” Prior to their update this week, a growing number of epidemiologists were questioning the CDC masking guidance for vaccinated persons in light of Delta, especially for those who are elderly, or those with compromised immune systems or health conditions putting them at risk.
“If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”John 8: 31-32
June 19, known as Juneteenth, celebrates the freedom of enslaved Black Americans, by recalling the day in 1865 when the news of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was finally proclaimed in Texas, three years after it was issued.
On Saturday, June 19th at 10 a.m., the Coos Bay Museum in Coos Bay, Oregon, will dedicate a memorial to the only confirmed lynching of a Black man in the state of Oregon. Alonzo Tucker was lynched in Coos Bay in 1902 as a crowd of 300 people watched. Sponsors of Saturday’s memorial event hope at least 300 people will attend the online dedication of a memorial to Alonzo Tucker.
The memorial to Alonzo Tucker’s lynching is part of a movement of the National Memorial of Peace and Justice to remember and mark the sites where more than 4,400 Black people died by lynching between 1877 and 1950. Taylor Stewart began the Oregon Remembrance Project after visiting the National Memorial as part of a Civil Rights tour of southern states.
Much of our nation’s violent racial history has been forgotten or suppressed by white Americans or assumed to have occurred only in slave states. This event, on Juneteenth, 2021, is an opportunity for citizens of the Northwest to remember and realize that this region has its own violent past that is ours to reckon with and heal.