It’s Time to Innovate for Change

By Rev. Dr. William D. Gibson

Don’t you think it’s about time to embrace innovation, for a change? Actually, what we sometimes forget is that innovation is about change. Culture is always emerging — the ever-ticking clock ticks — and it would be an understatement to say the church doesn’t do well to keep up. “The times they are a-changin’,” — always — to reference the poetic genius of Bob Dylan. If you can stomach it, simply look at your news feed for glimpses of the upside-down world of “alternative facts,” “fake news,” and the minute by minute, widening political and theological divide.

No misunderstandings intended here; I am not inferring that the church is suppose to become culture… What I am saying is that we — as the church — have been slow to engage culture, move beyond  think-out-of-the-box conversations, and actually do more that would accurately reflect innovative ways to influence culture. In our current climate, we’ve got to shift beyond carving out “safe space” and now create more “courageous space,” to riff off one of my ministry team partners, Kristina Gonzalez.

So, what does it mean to be innovative?

One of the most influential books I read as a young, rookie business entrepreneur was Peter Drucker’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Practice and Principles (Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. 1985). In the opening chapters, Drucker explained that entrepreneurs can’t help but be innovative. Entrepreneurs innovate. Period.

From Drucker’s perspective, innovation wasn’t a technical activity. It was economic or social. In other words, innovation was wonderfully nuanced by the emotional temperament of humanity. It engaged the deep recesses of our creativity (both producers and consumers), which was often suppressed by sensibility and certainty.

Over the years, the church has tried to embody innovation through the business phrase “best practices.” For the business world, “best practices” were about maintaining quality and establishing benchmarks. In the church, however, we’ve had a tendency to see “best practices” as program options that will ensure our success. If they worked in that church, then surely they will work in our church. A tempting argument.

The problem — as I have alluded — is that the church is not as adaptive as Corporate America. We don’t like change. We are drawn into it kicking and screaming. Or, at the very least, we are so guarded that our fear of change keeps us from operating out of the box.

In 2011, I stumbled upon a valuable little book written by Stephen Shapiro. In Best Practices Are Stupid: How to Out-Innovate the Competition, Shapiro argues that the time has come to be more innovative about the way we innovate. His core argument rests upon this premise:

“Following in the footsteps of  others is the fastest way to irrelevancy. Instead, create your own path. Find new and creative ways of staying ahead of the competition. Only through repeated, rapid, and efficient change can an organization survive and thrive in today’s volatile marketplace” (pp. 6).

Neither Shapiro or myself are saying that we should ignore “best practices;” not at all. In fact, it is extremely important to understand what is working in a particular context and why it is working. There are always nuggets that may spark something that works in our setting. But… It’s a mistake to think that a “best practice” is a silver bullet answer for a declining church that lacks creativity and innovation. We’ve got to move beyond a “plug and play” approach to “best practices” and start focusing on what I call contextual problem solving. This is the more robust pathway toward creativity and innovation in ministry.

“It’s a mistake to think that a ‘best practice’ is a silver bullet answer for a declining church that lacks creativity and innovation.”

Many argue that “best practices” for the church allow the church to at least do something. This is true. However, we want to move us from “at least doing something” to actually advancing the mission of the church; to make disciples for the transformation of the world. I desire to make a difference; to change the crazy world in which I find myself. My hope (and assumption) is that you do as well.

So, what would it look like for you and I to be more innovative in our work? What would it look like to engage culture, elevate the gospel above the noise of this world, and challenge ourselves (and others) to change? That will take a very different and practical approach. It’s risky. It’s kind of like… No; I would say it is exactly like “walking by faith.”

I hope you’ll check out our web presence on the Greater Northwest Area website. You’ll learn more about the values undergirding our work and can find resources and ideas to spark movement in you and your mission fields; ideas that help shift your work toward being a contextual problem solver. If we are going to create new places for new people, especially considering our current political and theological climate, then we are going to have to embrace such a time as this. It’s time to innovate for change.

Dissecting The Anatomy of Peace

Tomorrow, my husband Clint and I fly to Alaska for the Alaska Annual Conference in Seward, the first of three in the Greater Northwest in the next few weeks. I invited members at all three Conferences to read The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict.  The book was recommended by the Commission on A Way Forward and the Council of Bishops, as a tool to help people know each other at a deeper level, so that they might discover a way to live together peacefully, despite deep difference. As a church, we are seeking a unity that is deeper than our differences.

Last summer, during worship at a training event when the leader asked us to “turn to your neighbor” and share, I met United Methodist pastor, coach and trainer, Brian Brown. Brian said he wished that every clergy person was introduced to The Anatomy of Peaceat the beginning of their ministry. I learned that he was a passionate evangelist, and certified teacher of The Anatomy of Peace. I bought the book that day, read it immediately, and later invited Rev. Dr. Brian Brown to teach and lead us into the practices of The Anatomy of Peacefor our annual conference sessions in Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest. Rev. Donna Pritchard will be leading a condensed workshop in Alaska.

Last week a controversy erupted over the book, when Rev. Hannah Adair Bonner blogged a provocative critique of The Anatomy of Peace, unmasking issues about its sources that are hidden in shadows. Why is the author listed as the “Arbinger Institute?” Why aren’t they transparent about the authors? Why is it written as if the people and situations are real, when they are fictional? Are a group of mostly white men competent to give advice about how to resolve conflict among people of diverse ethnicities and cultures, some of whom are oppressed by systems of injustice?

I asked similar questions in the early 2000s when I first read Leadership and Self Deception, also authored by the Arbinger Institute. I liked the book, but I felt queasy, so I did a little online fishing and discovered that the Arbinger Institute was founded by Terry Warner, a scholar and member of the Church of Latter Day Saints. I used the insights of the book personally, but was reluctant to share it with others, not so much because of its source as the lack of transparency. If there’s nothing to hide – no deception – why not reveal? I’m not going to presume to know the answer, and I’m not going to make excuses for the people who made these decisions.

In her blog, Hannah seems to imply that there are original sins of deception and racism that disqualify the book for our use. So, do we reject The Anatomy of Peace? Or, with awareness of its limitations and flaws, is it still a useful tool? Can we use it to invite newer, deeper understandings between people? Does it offer a way for conflicted United Methodists to venture beneath the surface of our set positions, seek a deeper understanding of one another, and explore how we might live together as we continue to journey together toward the fullness of God’s mission?

I find the book’s approach useful. Written in a narrative style, The Anatomy of Peace is an easy read and helps me see how, acting from a “heart at war,” I sometimes shut down relationships, or put others in a limiting “box” of my own creation. Instead, it helps me see that I can learn to act with a “heart at peace” to go deeper with a spouse, an undocumented immigrant, a transgender co-worker, or a United Methodist who likes a different style of music, to listen and understand.  This kind of curious, humble, respectful conversation is at the core of Christ’s teaching that we should love neighbor as self. And I trust Brian Brown and a host of others who have practiced what The Anatomy of Peace offers and found it to be helpful for individuals who are stuck in conflicted relationships. It’s one way of striving to better love God, and neighbor as self.

Frankly, I can’t wait to see United Methodists leaning into a small circle of colleagues, listening, clarifying, and seeking new understanding. We don’t have to love the way the tool was produced, or apply it where it might do harm. But, where two or three are gathered . . . peace can break out.

A letter from Bishop Stanovsky as the Council of Bishops offers its recommendation to The UMC

How very good and pleasant it is
  when kindred live together in unity!

For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
  life forevermore.

-Psalm 133:1, 3b

Today, the Council of Bishops strongly recommend that United Methodists stay together as ONE CHURCH.

Together, the council agreed to recommend that the 2019 General Conference make room for individuals, local churches and annual conferences to exercise conscience as they choose whether or not to ordain gay and lesbian clergy, or to perform weddings for couples of the same gender, by removing prohibitive language from the Book of Discipline, and letting Annual Conferences set standards for ordination, and same gender weddings.

This recommendation emerged out of honest anguish and disagreement, as well as patient listening and fervent prayer, as we met in closed session. We make this recommendation despite deep and painful differences in our understanding of God’s will for LGBTQ people and a recognition that the “contextual” teachings and practices of the church in one area not only makes ministry more difficult in other areas, but can cause real harm to people.

While forces around the world are sowing distrust and driving wedges to divide people against one another, we hope The United Methodist Church can be a witness to the whole world that people can live together in peace and love each other, despite profound disagreements, even as we continue to discern God’s will and way for the whole human family.

Living in hope,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater NW Area

Click here to read the Council of Bishops Press Release.

Holy Week 2018 – We will recognize…

To United Methodists in the Greater Northwest and all who read these words, wherever you are:

Between last week’s HOSANNA! and Easter’s ALLELUIA! we watch as Jesus walks to his death at the hands of secular and religious authorities, but emerges on the other side, victorious by the power of love at work in the world.

If we haven’t already cast the story with bunnies, daffodils and butterflies, we will recognize this story wherever hope breaks forth from despair. In the crowds of young people in the streets of America, marching, pleading, promising to claim their chance to live without the fear of being stalked and killed at school or at home, or in the neighborhood.

We will recognize the story among immigrants, who have left everything behind, travelled at great peril across deserts, war zones, oceans, boundaries, to arrive in foreign, often hostile lands in hopes of living in freedom, security and opportunity.

We will recognize the story among the poor and homeless who live every day like birds or tiny fur friends in hidden corners, and under bushes, in alleys, behind abandoned walls, in defiance of the powers of death that hem them in before and behind.

We will recognize the Jesus story in our own lives every time we break free from habits of thought and practice that do not serve us well – routines, sorrows, low expectations, petty grievances that we give safe harbor, allowing them to dull our senses and lower our gaze.

We will recognize Jesus, alive and well every time we hear the unlikely – miraculous story, really – of someone walking out of the valley of the shadow of death into the dazzling light of a new day.

You see, the Jesus story isn’t about Jesus, really. His death and resurrection weren’t about him at all. They were about us. They were about God’s magnificent creation, coming out from behind a cloud. Jesus lived and loved and died and rose to open our hearts, our minds and the doors of our small lives to the way God’s love in and through us can make all things new. This is the body of Christ, broken for you. This is the cup of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many.

May new hope dawn in your life, in our nation, and on this precious, precarious planet. May a way open that you thought was closed. And may you discover unimagined blessing.

So shall we shout, Alleluia!

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater NW Area

An Open Letter to Rev. Tom Lambrecht, member of the Commission on a Way Forward

An Open Letter

To: Rev. Tom Lambrecht, member of the Commission on a Way Forward
From: Elaine Stanovsky, bishop of the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church

My heart is not at war. I am not using clergy and staff appointments to undermine the unity of the Church or the work of the Commission on a Way Forward. My heart was at peace when I appointed Rev. Kathleen Weber to my cabinet. It was at peace when I approved hiring Rev. Brett Webb-Mitchell by the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference. These are two deeply faithful, highly qualified, effective leaders, well suited for the ministry contexts they are called to serve. They were not chosen for their sexual orientation. I did not disqualify them because they are honest about their relationships.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

I’ll admit that I felt defensive when I read your article, “Northwest United Methodist Defiance.”[i] “Poke in the eye,” “overt defiance,” “callous disregard,” “double-barreled assault,” “escalation,” “in your face repudiation.” Why do you think you know my heart? We never had a conversation.

So, I returned to the The Anatomy of Peace,[ii] recommended by the Commission on a Way Forward and the Council of Bishops as a way to disarming ourselves for the difficult conversations the Church needs to have. I re-read the section called, “From War to Peace,” and practiced the steps for “getting out of the box” of self-justification and blaming:

  1. Look for the signs of self-justification and blaming. This was easy for me. You took two of my actions out of context, weaponized them with aggressive rhetoric, and lobbed them into the last meeting of the Commission. You misrepresented my motives. You never asked me what I believe, why I believe what I believe or why I lead the way I lead. And you didn’t even have the courtesy to send me your article. I first saw it when a friend forwarded it to me as an email distributed on March 16, 2018, three days before it was available publicly as a blog on the Good News Magazine You aren’t practicing the practices that the Commission recommends.
  2. Find an outof-the box place. There was a time when a colleague lashed out at me in a meeting, accusing me of racism. I broke into tears and retreated from the meeting and the accusation. A friend sought me out, listened to my pain and invited me to be the whole and well person he knew that I could be. My heart returned to peace and I was able to approach the person I had offended, and begin a long slow journey to healing.
  3. Ponder the situation anew. What are this person’s challenges, trials, burdens and pains? How am I adding to them? Wow! I only know you as a guy who attacks from a safe distance rather than picking up the phone. Can I cultivate curiosity about what pain you bear? How are your opinions and actions shaped by your love of Jesus?
  4. Act upon what I have discovered; do what I think I should do. I think I should not strike back. I should respond with curiosity. Yet, I think I should not remain silent. I invite you to play fair. I invite you to disarm. Despite deep misgivings, I will give you the benefit of my doubt – that you might want our United Methodist Church to be strong into the future and faithful to God’s leading as much as I do. I hope and pray this is true. If it is true, and we are willing, God can teach each of us to love the other as we love ourselves. I invite you to talk with me before you write about me.  I invite you to send me a copy of anything you write about me before you send it to your email distribution list or post it on the internet. I will commit to abiding by the same standard in the future.

You are meeting with the Commission on a Way Forward as I write. I pray for you, Tom, and for the work of the Commission. I pray for the future of our church, that we will find a way to continue to share the good news of Jesus Christ, even as we continue to seek to understand the fullness of God’s intention for humankind. I hope that, as a member of the Commission, you are leading us in the way the Commission said it would at the beginning. Do you remember?

The Commission will design a way for being church that maximizes the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible, that allows for as much contextual differentiation as possible, and that balances an approach to different theological understandings of human sexuality with a desire for as much unity as possible. – Commission on a Way Forward: About Us

We need a Church that aspires to this vision: one church, a variety of expressions; one body, many parts. In the Northwest we’re cultivating this spirit, in support of the Commission’s work, as we send 50 trained leaders across the area to facilitate Table Talks about the Way Forward between now and June, and dedicate 4 ½ hours during our Annual Conference sessions to The Anatomy of Peace and small group conversations. God is at work when two or three gather. I’m expecting miracles.

The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

Sincerely,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky


[i] “Northwest United Methodist Defiance,” by Thomas Lambrecht, circulated by email from ifo@goodnewsmag.org on Friday, March 16, 2018, and posted as personal blog on Monday, March 19, http://tomlambrecht.goodnewsmag.org/northwest-united-methodist-defiance/.

[ii] The Anatomy of Peace, resolving the heart of conflict, The Arbinger Institute, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2006.

Greater Northwest Area invited to Table Talks to discuss a Way Forward for the UMC

Bishop Stanovsky
Bishop Elaine Stanovsky leads communion for the Table Talks facilitator training training held in Portland in early March.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky is inviting United Methodists in the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences to participate in Table Talk conversations on human sexuality, the upcoming report of the Commission on a Way Forward and special called session of the General Conference in February 2019. The conversations will be held in various settings across the Greater Northwest Area.

Early in March, 47 leaders from the three conferences were trained to convene these conversations in a worship-full context. In her invitation to these leaders, Bishop Stanovsky shared that the United Methodist Council of Bishops is encouraging similar “conversation in each annual conference to further our life together around matters of human sexuality and church unity.” This facilitator training allowed them to experience and offer feedback on a model for conversation that they will take out to other groups across the area.

Noted worship designer and leader Dr. Marcia McFee resourced attendees at the training held at Christ United Methodist Church, west of Portland, Oregon. Worship is an essential element of how we work together as the Church and McFee was brought in to offer creative guidance and insight. Nancy Tam Davis, Pacific Northwest Conference lay leader, and the Rev. Donna Pritchard, Senior Pastor at Portland’s First United Methodist Church and Commission on a Way Forward member, also provided facilitation and insight.

Trainees gathered with a spirt of curiosity, hopefulness, and anticipation. Bishop Stanovsky, Pritchard, and others offered insight to participants on the state of the larger church’s conversation before they experienced the time of meal, worship and conversation that they are being asked to replicate and lead.

What to Expect at Table Talks

The Table Talk design allows for a safe place for conversations about topics that may be difficult or divisive. According to McFee, “Surrounding the conversations in worship is a way to ground ourselves in the story of our faith and our own hearts.”

Before entering discussion, participants will be invited to commit to a simple covenant. In short, the covenant asks them to: (1) Stay Curious, (2) Be Kind, and to (3) Listen with the same amount of passion with which they want to be heard.

Rev. Carlo Rapanut, Alaska Conference Superintendent and a member of the design team asked the questions, “How did Jesus deal with conflict?” Then citing Luke 22:14 he pointed out that, “Jesus would start a difficult conversation by gathering for a meal.” So most of the Table Talk sessions will include some sort of meal time to allow for connection and conversation.

Table Talk
Jan Nelson, OR-ID Conference Lay Leader, shares with other facilitators at the training.

Facilitators learned that there isn’t a specific outcome expected from the conversations, but rather that there be a forum and process for respectful dialog. According to Stanovsky, “Table Talks aren’t an attempt to make everyone think or believe alike. But they are an opportunity to ask if our differences need to drive us apart? Or is there a way that we can honor one another, stay together, and continue at one table, in one conversation as we continue to seek to understand God’s will?”

Oregon-Idaho Conference Lay Leader Jan Nelson is one of the facilitators. She reflects that, “There are many issues that we avoid discussing even with our friends and families. It’s important for us in the church to model a way to talk about things that divide us. In this way, both laity and clergy can be witnesses to God’s love.”

While it is intended that all Table Talks provide a place to grow in understanding, each conversation will take on a certain character of its own. It is intended that they take place in districts, church clusters, ethnic caucuses, and within other groups and existing networks. Some Table Talks may include 40-50 persons while others may be relatively small in number. The questions and beliefs of participants will inevitably shape the conversation to some degree as well.

The Commission on a Way Forward

Commission on a Way Forward logoThe Commission on a Way Forward was proposed at the 2016 General Conference by the Council of Bishops “to do a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph of the Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.” The proposal was approved, and a 32-member commission was named in October of 2016. You can learn more about their composition, vision, and how they are structuring their work here. The Bishops have also called a Special Session of the General Conference to be held be held February 23-26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri limited to acting on the report from the Council “based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward.”

In December, the Commission on a Way Forward filed a report with the Council of Bishops outlining three “sketches” or possible models for how the denomination might move beyond the current impasse regarding the inclusion of LGBTQ persons. The Commission met again in January to continue its work on these sketches after receiving input from the Council. Following the most recent Council of Bishop’s meeting, it was reported that there are two plans under consideration.

How to participate

Dates for Table Talks will be published as they are made available on the Greater Northwest Area Website. They will also be on their respective Annual Conference calendar. If you don’t see one near you, check back later as more may be added.

Greater NW Outlook: Lenten Listening, Table Talks, and A Way Forward

Council of Bishops President Bruce R. Ough calls for colleagues to be open to changing their minds under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Ough preached during the Feb. 25 opening worship service of a council meeting that goes through Feb. 28, in Dallas.

Friends in the Greater Northwest,

Yesterday Bishop Bruce Ough led us back to a principle that has guided Methodism throughout our history: God always leads Christians into ministry on the margins with the poor and outcast.

As the Council of Bishops meets to receive and consider the report of the Commission on the Way Forward, receive Bishop Ough’s sermon as a message of courage and hope for the whole Church. Please hold us in prayer, as we seek to lead the church on a path of faithfulness and obedience to God.

Click here to read Bishop Ough’s Address

Friday, nearly 50 leaders from the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences will gather to be equipped to lead “Table Talks” across the area where United Methodists can seek unity in the church that is deeper than our different understandings and attitudes about human sexuality. The differences are undeniable. They have strained the Church for more than 40 years. In these conversations we hope to understand what informs our differences from one another, so that we can respect one another, learn from one another, and continue to be members of one, undivided Church as we continue to listen to God’s leading through these differences.

The Table Talks will occur throughout the spring. I hope to see you there, to hear your voice, and to prayerfully, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, see the ways to live together in peace.

This is powerful, difficult spiritual work — worthy of the sober self-reflection of Lent. Any time we pause, turn to one another and God, and pray, we live in the promise of new life, revealed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I pray that as we gather, humbly and prayerfully, there will be enough light to show us the way.

With hope in the resurrection,

 

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater NW Area

Love, like Death… an Ash Wednesday/Valentine’s Day message

Ash Wednesday 2018

Today is marked by HEARTS and ASHES. Valentine’s Day celebrates the union of two people by love. Ash Wednesday leads us into the 40-day journey with Jesus through death to resurrection with a reminder that we are one with the stuff of the earth – dirt, ash.

Charles Wesley wrote that:

Love, like death, hath all destroyed,
Rendered all distinctions void;
Names and sects and parties fall;
Thou, O Christ, art all in all.[I]

Both love and death erase boundaries that separate us from one another. Receiving ashes smudged on a forehead, or a hand, is a humbling of self and a reminder that we live because God breathes life into dust. We are at once nothing, and one-with-everything.

This is the mystic mystery of living as creatures in relationship with the Creator. We are undeniably distinct individuals at the same time that we participate in a deep and inescapable unity with all of creation.

So, I celebrate both.

First, I receive ashes, which keep me from thinking more highly of myself than I ought to think (Romans 12:3) and to find my common humanity with all I meet. Second, I receive roses and a poem from my life partner, Clint, who draws me out of myself in so many ways and enters my solitude when I have retreated.

May you know your precious, existential uniqueness this day. And may you humbly receive the gift of shared life with others. Both are God’s gracious gifts.

The United Methodist Church continues its search for unity despite differences that threaten to divide us. Please read the following letter from Bishop Bruce Ough (CLICK HERE), President of the Council of Bishops of our Church, and pray for our church as we continue to seek unity that is deeper than our differences. Hear these hopeful words of John Wesley:

Many are we now, and one,
we who Jesus have put on;
there is neither bond nor free,
male nor female, Lord, in thee.

May we all “put on” Jesus again, and anew, this holy season.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater Northwest Area


[i] “Christ, from Whom All Blessings Flow,” by Charles Wesley, The United Methodist Hymnal, 1989, #550.

Image Credit: Foreheads on Ash Wednesday by Kelsey Johnson via CreationSwap.

Where are We Headed? Looking for Life – Cultivating Vitality

I am about to do a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.                 Isaiah 43: 19 NRSV

God’s doing a new thing. The Church is trying to keep up!

Take a minute and just enjoy.

The Oregon-Idaho, Pacific Northwest and Alaska Conferences have worked collaboratively to cultivate vital ministries since Rev. Stephan Ross (Oregon-Idaho) and Rev. Dr. William Gibson (Pacific Northwest) started working together and across conference boundaries a couple of years ago. We’re breaking down silos to work collaboratively across conference lines, and across traditional staff job descriptions. Today an Innovation Team is taking shape to work in collaboration with district superintendents and local leaders to create new places for new people who are not finding authentic faith community in our churches as they are right now.

Meet the Greater Northwest Innovation Cultivation team, as it is taking form:

The newest member of the team is Dr. Leroy Barber, newly hired Congregational Developer for Vitality for the Oregon-Idaho Conference.

Dr. Barber joins Pacific Northwest staff, Rev. Dr. William Gibson, who will lead the team (Gibson shares some of his thinking in a recent video series), Kristina Gonzalez, a gifted trainer in cultural competency, coaching and leadership development, and Rev. Shalom Agtarap. I invited Agtarap to be one of our preachers for the 2017 Annual Conference; you can hear her message online. We plan to add a specialist who will help churches at the lower boundary of sustainability to explore options for the future. Stay tuned.

Together these innovation cultivators, working with the Congregational Development Team (CDT) in Oregon-Idaho, the Board of Congregational Development (BOCD) in Pacific Northwest, the New Church and Faith Community Development Committee in Alaska and the district superintendents are dedicated to leading a new season of vital ministry across the Greater Northwest through:

  • Innovation: starting new ministries, new churches, new faith communities
  • Multiplication: existing ministries in new places, and
  • Inclusion: reaching across racial and cultural differences to engage a wider variety of people in faith communities.
From left: Dr. Leroy Barber, Kristina Gonzalez, Rev. Shalom Agtarap, and Rev. Dr. William Gibson

Together, this team has first-hand experience in starting new churches, multi-cultural ministry, adaptive change, reconciling ministries, re-energizing and leading existing churches into their neighborhoods, and community organizing. They bring urban, rural and suburban experience. Together there is breadth, strength and wisdom that is the miracle of community. Please pray with me for this team as it forms, and the members listen to one another, and share their passion for vital ministries, and learn to work creatively across Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. As this team’s work evolves, look for upcoming stories that will detail how you and your congregation can access these resources.

INNOVATION?

Do we really have to? Yes. God – who last time I checked was as old as the hills – is all about making things new. So, it’s time to move, to shake off, to leave behind. And as much as we may like things as they are (or were!), God’s way is ahead of us, and if we want to be part of what God’s up to, we’ve got to get moving. What are you willing to give up so new people can be part of a life-giving, world-changing community?

I’m humming Curtis Mayfield’s 1965 anthem for the change God is working –

People get ready, there’s a train a-comin’
You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board
All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin’
You don’t need no ticket, you just thank the Lord

Take a listen

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky | Greater NW Area

A message to the PNW: “Where are we headed?”

Installment # 2:  Already, but Not Yet

Dear United Methodist friends in the Pacific Northwest,

Top of 2018 to you! I pray that God will lead us on a good path this year, that

shines light
cultivates life
and showers joy

into the world through our lives, our ministries and our churches.

Last June, the Annual Conference voted to reduce by one the number of districts in the Pacific Northwest. We are in the process of living into this re-assignment of churches to districts. I want to let you know how the process is unfolding, and what to expect in the months ahead.

Officially, but invisibly, churches were ALREADY assigned to the new MISSIONAL districts as of January 1, 2018 to avoid confusing mid-year budgetary and administrative changes. I say “invisibly,” because local churches won’t notice much, if any change – NOT YET!

We are emphasizing that districts are MISSIONAL because every church is called to reach beyond itself to engage its community in life-giving, world-transforming ways. Districts help established congregations to think beyond themselves and to innovate in ways that create new places for new people with the potential to transform lives, communities, and even the world.

The district superintendent you had in 2017 will continue to supervise your pastor and consult with your congregation until Annual Conference in June. If you have a pastoral change, the district superintendent you’ve had in the past will introduce your new pastor and work with you through the transition.

During the first half of 2018 district superintendents will work with elected leaders to create and implement an organization and identify officers for the new missional districts. By July 1, 2018 all organizational units and officers should be aligned to the new missional district boundaries. Also on July 1 pastors and churches will begin to identify with their new missional district assignment and to its district superintendent.

During Annual Conference we will have opportunity to mark the shift and meet as colleagues and friends within our new district affiliations.

In the fall someone asked me, what does “Crest” in Crest to Coast refer to?
The Pacific Crest Trail runs from the US border with Mexico in the south, north along the backbone of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges and across the US border into Canada. The “crest” is the crest of the mountains. On one side of the crest rivers run to the east. On the other side of the crest rivers run to the west. The Crest to Coast district runs from the Cascade Crest to the Pacific Coast.

My question is, who’s gonna organize the Crest to Coast relay to inaugurate the new district?

 


If you have questions or concerns during this transition, the district superintendents are prepared to respond.

Change comes with challenges. There will undoubtedly be some unexpected bumps and grinds. I pray that each of you will help us make this transition as smooth as possible. With your good will (and humor) and God’s grace, we’ll make it.

Living in Faith,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky 

Read Installment #1 – New West-Side Districts

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