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Fair and equal ordination for all: “Was it worth it?” Recalling the trauma from going on trial as an LGBTQ+ clergy

As we continue our “Where Love Lives: Fair and Equal Ordination for All” storytelling project as part of the Western Jurisdiction campaign for a fully inclusive church, we hear from Rev. Karen Dammann, who this week 17 years ago was put on trial for “practices incompatible with Christian teaching” three years after disclosing to then-Pacific Northwest Conference Bishop Elias Galvan that she was a lesbian.

Her trial drew national media attention to a Sunday school classroom at Bothell UMC. She was acquitted by a 13-member board of her peers. But as you’ll read in her first-person account, Dammann still wonders if the scrutiny, the fear, the isolation and more were all worth it.

It was 17 years ago this week that my family and a team of supporters arrived at a church north of Seattle for the trial that was to determine whether I was guilty of “practices incompatible with Christian teaching”. 

Rev. Karen Dammann

This trial came at the end of a three-year legal process that began in 2001 when I came out to my Bishop. Our child was two-and-a-half years old at that time and had just started to call me “Mama.” This normally exciting development was the point that required me to face the fact that the closet was no place to raise a child. We would not teach this innocent being – our child – to lie, and we could not expect our child to keep his family a secret.

I thought about surrendering my credentials when we decided to leave the closet, but the person who had become our pastor, Rev. John Auer, asked me if I was still called to the ministry. The answer was “yes.” With John’s support, and the help of his congregation, I was able to come out to my Bishop.

I knew there would be consequences for my choice, the main one being the loss of my vocation. We hoped that coming out of the closet, rather than quietly quitting, might help our denomination move toward full inclusion of LGBTQ+ persons. What we were not prepared for was the media scrutiny, estrangement from colleagues, and threats to our safety.

The Rev. Bob Ward and our legal team built a defense that included a broad slate of church experts who offered to testify for full inclusion in our denominational polity. For three days, we heard testimony that shined a light on our denomination’s unjust exclusive stance. This testimony made possible a “not guilty” verdict.

Bishop William Boyd Grove, presiding bishop, ended the trial by sealing the trial record, which effectively ended the possibility of sharing the expert testimony with the rest of the denomination. 

In the years since I have asked several times to have the transcript released, not just for the Church, but for our child, who was the catalyst for being us being truthful about who his family is.

In 2018 I met Stephen Drachler (formerly of UM Communications, now a consultant) at a Reconciling Ministry Gathering. We spoke about the trial and he offered to approach Bishop Grove about releasing the transcript. 

As a result of Stephen’s action, I received a letter from Bishop Grove in January of 2019 telling me that he and Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky had agreed to release the transcript to me and to the public. (Thank you, Stephen!) Thank you also to Bishop Grove on behalf of the two-and-a-half year old, the 5-year-old and the now 22-year-old person I had hoped would have the transcript to read one day.

Last February (2020) Bishop Elaine told me the transcript had not been found in the PNW Office, even though, according to the provisions of the Book of Discipline, the transcript and all records of a trial shall be held in a special secure file by the Secretary of the Annual Conference. 

That brings us to the present moment. I have been asked if it was worth it. 

In many ways it was not worth it. When the transcript and the information that it contained was sealed, the hope that the cost of my coming out would help our denomination to see a way to include everyone slipped away. The danger and threats that our family experienced was never worth it. Sadly, our denomination continues to officially exclude from full participation LBGTQIA+ people. We are now in limbo waiting for the church to split over the issue. What difference did it make after all?

On the other hand, was it worth it? In some ways it was. The Greater Northwest has become a place of full inclusion for LGBTQIA+ persons. Maybe the trial did make a difference, even just a little bit, in the GNW becoming safer than many other places in the denomination.

A not-guilty verdict, and remaining in good standing, was an unexpected outcome for me. It was worth it personally for that determination. 

Even though the threats we received convinced us to disappear for a while to keep our family safe after the trial, I longed for the day I could come back to work. In 2012 I was appointed by Bishop Grant Hagiya to serve a church in Alaska. I am in my ninth year of ministry here. 

Seventeen years later some things have changed for the better. Many things have not.  I still want to be able to hand a copy of the trial transcript to my son. Maybe someone reading this knows where it is.

This week, I will do what I always do on the anniversary of my trial. I will light a candle in prayer for the full inclusion of my LGBTQIA+ siblings in our church. I have hope that whatever emerges in the year ahead, there will be a denomination that is fully inclusive of everyone.  

Rev. Karen Dammann is an ordained elder in the PNW Conference, currently serving United Methodist churches in the Alaska Conference.

Fair and equal ordination for all: A gay preacher’s calling

Editor’s note: When it comes to the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the life and ministry of our United Methodist Churches, is ordination fair and equal yet or is it still something to which we aspire? Throughout the month of March, we’ll hear stories from LGBTQ+ clergy and laity. Each of these stories is unique to the individual who was invited to share their perspective.

In a journey of faith there are a lot of questions: “Who or what is God? Who was or is Jesus? My mom believes in God and Jesus, but my dad is agnostic. What do I believe? What should I believe? Does God have a plan for my life? Is it wrong to question whether or not God even exists?”

For each of us, even if we don’t recognize it, those questions of faith and belief lead us to a place of calling: “Well, I believe all life is sacred and worth saving. So… should I be a doctor, a lawyer, or a therapist? Or should I follow a passion for health and fitness and be really active in my faith on the side? Food pantries and volunteering and mission trips and what not?”

Some of us receive the epiphany that we are called to ministry. It could be a single event, or phrase, or answered prayer, or a thought we knew was not our own (or all four). Our reactions are all different, too. Some of us get uber excited and can’t wait to delve into conversations about what comes next with our pastors. Some of us just sit there in stunned silence when the revelation hits, quietly asking, “Who? Me?” And some of us plead to be called to something else… until the burning of God’s compassion in our own hearts convicts us.

A person dips bread in the communion challis

The thing is, not one of us, when we receive that call to be ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to preach the word of God’s love to the people, to lead God’s people in loving neighbor, stranger, and even enemy alike, have ever heard God say, “I’m calling you into professional ministry. First, though, I need you to stand still and pray hard while I burn away the gay in you.”

When God calls us, our orientation, sexuality, gender identity, or whatever you want to call it, doesn’t come in to play. God already knows who we are. God already knows because that is how God created us. God loves us as we are for who we are… God’s own.

The questions of my sexuality didn’t come into play until I began to understand what I would have to admit to myself and the world around me: I would have to be honest. I would have to be vulnerable. I would have to be out.

This was the scary part. I knew I was accepted for who I was in my church community. If I could stay there, ever in their embrace I would have. Instead, as I worked through the process, the 2019 special General Conference loomed over my fate. New questions of faith formed. “Will the denomination I grew up in decide to accept me and the LGBTQIA+ community I belong to, or will the denomination reject us? Will I have a place? How will I answer God’s call if the church abandons me?”

Then the ball dropped. The denomination failed to act in the love of God. They voted, narrowly, to remain blinded by archaic and misrepresented passages in scripture. They voted to retain the patronizing language in The United Methodist Book of Discipline claiming we who identify as other than straight have sacred worth while denying that God could ever call us to a life of ordained service. They voted to cut us out entirely from the ordained leadership of the church, telling those of us already ordained to resign.

I had a choice to make. Would I live a lie, trying to hide my fiancé (now husband), ultimately losing him completely along with pieces of myself as time ever moved onward? Or do I stand firm in who I am in the love of God, as God made me, answering the call in a denomination that had just summarily rejected my freedom to be me and teach and preach the love of God.

Thankfully, the Oregon-Idaho Conference made that choice easy. I am lucky. So far, in this conference I have never felt the scrutiny or the second guessing, the inappropriate questioning, or pressure from a superintendent or bishop to hide the fact I am gay. On the contrary, I have felt supported and affirmed in my call to ministry. Additionally, I’ve had very little resistance from the congregation I’ve been appointed to pastor. Aside from one family who left the church before my appointment began, they’ve fully accepted my husband, Romulo, and myself from the get-go.

Sadly, I know this is not everyone’s experience. I also know there are challenges ahead I have yet to face. While I feel supported by this conference, we are far from perfect. We are not all on the same page as a conference, let alone a denomination. Our churches do not stand united on LGBTQIA+ acceptance. Our congregations live in mixed realities. They lean either toward God’s full embrace of all persons, or God’s “righteous” practice of exclusionary inclusion – saying God’s love is for everyone, but only everyone we approve of.

In this time of conflicting perceptions of truth, there needs to a push for transformation and awareness, awake-ness even. There needs to be open dialogue between persons on both sides of the issue. There needs to be conference wide training of LGBTQIA+ issues and how to support us. There needs to be unwavering support for advocacy and initiatives toward programs that support LGBTQIA+ youth. There needs to be bold action and leadership from the conference on the denominational stance. There needs to be congregational education on LGBTQIA+ issues balanced between faith, historical context, and the biological/psychological science around being queer.

While this goes beyond the scope of the ordination of queer pastors it is necessary when talking about ordination. You see, the process, at least from my experience, is inclusive and accepting (in this conference). It’s after the ordination where support needs to continue. Out in the congregations of our conference, the theology becomes diverse and the environment can very quickly become toxic and abusive. We are willing to teach and preach in ways that educate and inspire the transformation we seek. Being surrounded in conference support makes that a whole lot easier.

Rev Thomas Orquiza-Renardo is a provisional elder serving in the Oregon- Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Where Love Lives: Fair and equal ordination for all!?

Should there be a question mark, or an exclamation point at the end this statement about being a fully inclusive United Methodist Church Where Love Lives.

When it comes to the full inclusion of LGBTQ+ people in the life and ministry of our United Methodist Churches, is ordination fair and equal yet or is it still something to which we aspire?

A person dips bread in the communion challis

As the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church continues its “Where Love Lives” campaign this month, the Greater Northwest Area of The UMC will explore our LGBTQ+ siblings’ call to ministry in a denomination where, by and large, they are still not welcome.

The Western Jurisdiction has made many strides when it come to ordaining and appointing LGBTQ+ individuals to serve in our local churches. After the 2019 special called General Conference adopted the Traditional Plan, which created great harm to our LGBTQ+ siblings as well as our churches, leaders from the Western Jurisdiction quickly declared we would be a “Home for All God’s People.”

The Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops followed that statement up in November of 2019 by issuing a Safe Harbor declaration saying we would not abide by the Traditional Plan, nor persecute our LGBTQ+ siblings simply based on orientation and identity.

We have made many bold statements and acted with nobility in the Western Jurisdiction. But as you will read in the unfiltered, unedited stories being shared this month, we are not finished yet.

You’ll hear from our LGBTQ+ clergy how they react to the statement “Fair and Equal Ordination for All,” based on their own call story, experiences in local church settings, our communities and our respective conferences. Each of these stories is unique to the individual who was invited to share their perspective.

We ask that you honor and respect the courage it takes for some people to publicly tell their stories and offer their honest feedback so that we might – one day soon – be able to say, “fair and equal ordination for all is here.” No questions asked.

Bishop Stanovsky announces new dates for online annual conferences

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky asks today that clergy and lay members of the Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences hold the dates of June 20-24, 2021 open for online Annual Conference sessions.

The three conferences will gather for opening and closing worship experiences, but they will meet separately to conduct the respective business of each conference. This is a change from the previously announced dates of June 9-12, 2021.

The new dates were set in response to unfolding plans at the global and jurisdictional levels, amid a global pandemic. Today, the Commission on General Conference announced that General Conference will be moved, again, to Aug. 29 – Sep. 6, 2022.

The Council of Bishops also called today for a special online General Conference session on May 8, for the sole purpose of allowing the use of paper ballots for delegates to act upon 12 amendments to the Book of Discipline that would enable the church to effectively continue its work until the postponed 2020 General Conference is held in 2022.

“The COVID-19 pandemic forced a pause in a process of separating one United Methodist Church into two or more church bodies, based on theology and human sexuality. We cannot wait forever to release the tension that currently distracts our attention and compromises our effectiveness,” Stanovsky said. “With the shifts in denominational decision-making timelines, it’s crucial that Alaska, Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences meet this summer to listen to God and to each other as we carry out the important work of our mission and ministry.”

While Bishop Stanovsky has set the dates for online annual conferences, the timing of each conference’s session during the week is still being discussed. Members can expect to see sessions extend beyond the essentials-only structure held last fall, but there will still be limitations on how robust each session can be, given the constraints of online conferences.

Registration information, a more thorough schedule of sessions (including plans for clergy and laity sessions ahead of June 20), deadlines and procedures for submitting legislation and reports in each conference will be announced in early March.


Dos anuncios importantes para el Gran Área del Noroeste

Amados en Cristo, 

Les escribo hoy con dos anuncios que impactarán el área Episcopal del Gran Noroeste de la Iglesia Metodista Unida este año. 

En Epifanía, solicité la jubilación voluntaria como obispo de la Iglesia Metodista Unida, a partir del 31 de diciembre de 2021. Hoy, les comparto esta noticia.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

Parece demasiado pronto para anunciar mi retiro mucho antes de que llegue, pero los muchos pasos que siguen en referencia a la asignación de un nuevo obispo lo exigen. Esto es más importante este año, con la lucha denominacional, la pandemia en curso y las consecuencias financieras que cada uno de estas cosas crean, manteniendo una incertidumbre adicional para nuestra conexión metodista unida.

Si bien lamento que mi jubilación pueda aumentar la carga de otros, estoy convencida de que este es el momento adecuado y la acción adecuada para mí personalmente. Continuaré trabajando diligentemente con los líderes de la conferencia durante todo el año para prepararnos para lo que sea que venga a continuación. Y confío en que Dios continuará moviéndose en los corazones de los fieles, para levantar líderes para la siguiente etapa de este peregrinaje.

La otra noticia que comparto es menos personal pero nos impactará de todos modos.

Dada la presencia continua de COVID-19 en nuestras comunidades, esperamos celebrar la Conferencia Anual 2021, una vez más, de forma remota en línea.

Si bien es posible un cambio de fecha, continúen manteniendo las fechas anunciadas, del 9 al 12 de junio de 2021, mientras exploramos posibilidades alternativas, incluyendo múltiples sesiones virtuales. Esperamos saber muy pronto a medida que se tomen decisiones sobre planes para conferencias generales y jurisdiccionales.
Dejaremos que los miembros de cada Conferencia Anual conozcan más información a medida que esté disponible.

A pesar de los muchos desafíos y transiciones que trae la vida, en la fe sabemos que el amor sigue vivo. Por favor, sepan que sigo orando por todas las personas y los ministerios del Gran Noroeste mientras todos somos testigos de esta verdad juntos, aunque todavía separados unos de otros.

Con gratitud y esperanza

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky 

Translated and Adapted by Rev. Cruz Edwin Santos, Director of Hispanic/Latinx Ministry

Two important announcements for the Greater Northwest Area

Beloved in Christ, 

I write to you today with two announcements that will impact the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church this year.

On Epiphany, I requested voluntary retirement as a bishop in The United Methodist Church, effective December 31, 2021. Today, I share this news with you.

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

It seems too early to announce my retirement long before it arrives, but the many steps that proceed the assignment of a new bishop demand it. This is truer this year, with denominational strife, the ongoing pandemic, and the financial consequences of each creating additional uncertainty for our United Methodist connection.

While I regret that my retirement may add to the burden of others, I am convinced that this is the right time and the right action for me personally. I will continue to work diligently with conference leaders through the year to prepare for whatever and whoever comes next. And I trust that God continues to move in the hearts of the faithful to raise up leaders for the next stage of the journey.

The other news I share is less personal but will impact us all the same.

Given the continuing presence of COVID-19 in our communities, we now expect to hold Annual Conference 2021, once again, remotely online.

While a date change is possible, please continue to hold the announced dates, June 9-12, 2021, as we explore alternative possibilities — including multiple virtual sessions. We expect to know more soon as decisions are made about plans for delayed general and jurisdictional conferences.

We’ll let members of each Annual Conference know more information as it becomes available.

Despite the many challenges and transitions life brings, in faith, we know that love lives on. Please know that I continue to hold the people and ministries of the Greater Northwest Area in my prayers as we witness this truth together, though still apart from one another.

With gratitude and hope,

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky

La Iglesia como una comunidad amada

La Iglesia como una comunidad amada

Carta pastoral de la obispa Elaine JW Stanovsky • Enero de 2021

A la mayoría de los Metodistas Unidos blancos en el área metropolitana del noroeste, con una invitación a otros para que escuchen y se unan a esta conversación.

Pero ahora, gracias a Cristo Jesús, ustedes que antes estaban tan lejos han sido acercados por la sangre de Cristo…. Rompió la barrera del odio que nos dividía…. Así que ahora ya no sois extraños ni extranjeros. Cristo te está construyendo en un lugar donde Dios vive a través del Espíritu.

Efesios 2, Selecciones

Amados en Cristo, los he llevado en mi corazón y en mis oraciones en cada momento durante estas temporadas de pandemia, división racial, disturbios cívicos y ataques violentos al Capitolio de los Estados Unidos. Mientras lamentamos la imagen de una bandera de la Confederación ondeando descaradamente en el Capitolio, y nos preparamos para más violencia extremista allí y en las capitales estatales de todo el país, la carga es pesada para las personas de conciencia, que viven en la fe, la esperanza y el amor a través de eventos que nos exigen tanto.

Oro por el presidente saliente, el Sr. Trump, y por el presidente entrante, el Sr. Biden, por los funcionarios gubernamentales electos y designados en cada lugar y sus funciones. Que prevalezca el bien de cada uno y que su pecado sea quitado.

Unas palabras para las personas y pastores de color en la Iglesia Metodista Unida

Más bien, al hablar la verdad en amor, creceremos en todos los aspectos en Aquel que es la cabeza, es decir, Cristo, de quien todo el cuerpo, estando bien ajustado y unido por la cohesión que las coyunturas proveen, conforme al funcionamiento adecuado de cada miembro, produce el crecimiento del cuerpo para su propia edificación en amor.

Efesios 4:15-16

Tenemos un largo camino por delante. Es un testimonio del poder del Espíritu Santo que usted conozca y ofrezca sus dones a todo el cuerpo de la iglesia. No es su responsabilidad soportar la falta de respeto en la iglesia, o enseñarme a mí y a mis hermanos blancos cómo nuestras palabras y acciones dañan y excluyen. Y sin embargo, por su amor a Dios y con la eterna esperanza de un nuevo día, continúan generosamente en su relación con Dios mientras la Iglesia se esfuerza por crecer en la fe, el servicio y el testimonio. Que Dios edifique la iglesia mostrándonos cómo ustedes pueden trabajar juntos correctamente en amor.

Oro por nuestra nación y su gente. Que los valores del respeto, la libertad, la equidad y la justicia marquen el camino a través de nuestra angustia y peligros actuales. Oro por las personas cuyo enojo se ha derramado en violencia, enojo por cosas tanto justas como malas.

Quiero llevar un mensaje esperanzador a la Iglesia. Pero la esperanza de esta temporada solo es visible a través de una extensa neblina. Que caminemos a la luz de la fe, al servicio del amor hasta que la esperanza resurja sin obstáculos.

Mientras celebramos la vida y el liderazgo del reverendo Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., les traigo un mensaje que sé que será difícil. Tiene sus raíces en mi amor por nuestro Creador, Redentor y Sustentador, y en mi amor por todo el pueblo de Dios.

AHORA ES EL MOMENTO. ESTE ES EL LUGAR. SOMOS EL PUEBLO para anular el privilegio y la supremacía de los blancos en nuestros corazones, nuestras mentes y en nuestras comunidades y para construir una amada comunidad de justicia y equidad racial

AHORA ES EL MOMENTO de desmantelar los sistemas opresivos de racismo institucional, que

  • viola la dignidad y santidad de la creación de Dios
  • divide nuestras comunidades
  • deformar el cuerpo de cristo
  • aísla las iglesias locales de sus vecinos y
  • silencia el testimonio profético de los cristianos sobre la justicia y equidad de Dios.

El racismo blanco llegó al Nuevo Mundo con Cristóbal Colón en 1492, mucho antes de que los Peregrinos o la Declaración de Independencia elevaran el valor de la libertad. Echó raíces y no se ha erradicado. Está vivo y coleando en Estados Unidos. Ahora, los videos de teléfonos celulares de la violencia policial contra negros desarmados exponen el racismo persistente para que todos lo vean. La raza está en la agenda pública de una manera nueva y urgente. Las protestas, demandas, testimonios personales, documentales y seminarios virtuales han abierto una ventana a lo generalizado que es el racismo en la vida de nuestra nación.

En comparación con las personas de color, los blancos disfrutan de la “buena vida” de manera desproporcionada en casi todos los aspectos: educación, atención médica, salud ambiental, justicia penal, encarcelamiento, derechos de voto, propiedad comercial, empleo, ingresos, vivienda y esperanza de vida, para nombrar algunos. Este es el privilegio que disfrutan los blancos en Estados Unidos. Los patrones de privilegio y pobreza en Estados Unidos están incrustados en instituciones, normas, prácticas y sistemas que no dependen de los prejuicios, el odio o el maltrato individual. Tienen vida propia.

LA IGLESIA ES EL LUGAR … para despertar y enfrentar valientemente el pecado del racismo y crear una comunidad amada.

Dios les da a las personas de fe una visión de seres humanos diversos que viven juntos en una relación correcta entre sí. Pero a lo largo de la historia, la Iglesia cristiana a menudo ha creado y mantenido sistemas de desigualdad racial en Estados Unidos y en todo el mundo. Hoy, la iglesia está llamada a reconocer y desmantelar su propio racismo y unirse a un movimiento de reconocimiento racial y reconciliación en todos los lugares.

Cuando las comunidades donde la iglesia esta situada experimentan cambios especialmente identificados como económicos, étnicos o ambos a la vez, la iglesia local hará un análisis deliberado del cambio en la comunidad, y alterara su programa para enfrentarse a las necesidades y patronos culturales de los nuevos residentes.  La Iglesia local hará todo esfuerzo posible por permanecer en el vecindario y desarrollar un ministerio efectivo para los recién llegados, ya sea que pertenezcan a una comunidad cultural, económica o étnica diferente de la de los miembros originales o actuales. 

¶ 212, Libro de la Disciplina

Para el año 2045, los blancos serán una minoría de la población estadounidense. En los estados de Alaska, Idaho, Oregon y Washington, casi todos los pueblos y ciudades se están volviendo rápidamente más diversos desde el punto de vista racial y étnico, pero nuestras Iglesias Metodistas Unidas en la región son predominantemente blancas, de clase media, envejecidas y en declive. En su mayor parte, nuestras iglesias no se están adaptando a la población cambiante al dar la bienvenida o involucrar al creciente número de sus vecinos que provienen de diferentes herencias nacionales, raciales o étnicas.

La Iglesia Metodista Unida proclama el valor de cada persona como hijo único de Dios y se compromete con la sanidad e integridad de todas las personas. La Iglesia Metodista Unida reconoce que el pecado del racismos ha sido destructivo en su unidad a través de la historia. El racismo sigue presentando una penosa división. La Iglesia Metodista unida habrá de confrontar y buscar la eliminación del racismo, tanto en organizaciones como en individuos, en cada fase de la vida y en la sociedad en general. La Iglesia Metodista Unida habrá de colaborar con otras para enfrentar aquello que amenaza la causa de la Justicia social en todas sus formas.

¶ 5, Libro de la Disciplina

El equipo ejecutivo del Área Metropolitana del Noroeste de la Iglesia Metodista Unida reconoce la inclusión como una práctica esencial de una iglesia vital. Estamos incorporando esta práctica en nuestros propios equipos de liderazgo y agendas. En cada reunión, participamos en la formación de competencias interculturales y aplicamos lo que aprendemos a nuestro equipo y su trabajo. Tenemos la intención de invitar a personas de color al liderazgo pastoral de nuestras iglesias para reconocer e interactuar con la variedad de personas en sus que tenemos en nuestros vecindarios.

El racismo persiste en nuestras iglesias.

El racismo puede existir sin odio racial. En muchos lugares, nuestras iglesias son participantes pasivas en sistemas racistas que hemos heredado y de los que ni siquiera somos conscientes. Si nosotros, la mayoría blanca, simplemente continuamos haciendo lo que siempre hemos hecho – a medida que la comunidad cambia y se vuelve más diversa -, silenciosamente y sin siquiera reconocerlo, perpetuaremos el privilegio y la supremacía de los blancos.

Es por eso que en mi discurso episcopal a la Conferencia Anual en septiembre, le pedí a cada iglesia local que examinara las imágenes en sus edificios, las prioridades en sus presupuestos y las personas que toman decisiones para la iglesia, para ver si una rica variedad de culturas y voces están presentes. Las decisiones son diferentes si se incluyen diferentes perspectivas en la toma de decisiones. En respuesta a esto, los superintendentes de distrito iniciaron conversaciones sobre el racismo en cada iglesia local como parte de su cargo o conferencia de la iglesia.

Lamentablemente, hemos comenzado a notar un patrón de racismo manifiesto dentro de varias congregaciones. Este patrón está presente en las tres conferencias y los cuatro estados. Algunas expresiones incluyen:

  • criticando a los pastores por predicar sobre la justicia racial
  • negando la autoridad del pastor sobre la adoración
  • negando el respeto, la deferencia y la confianza que generalmente se brindan a los pastores
  • criticando la gramática o la pronunciación del pastor, especialmente en el caso de un pastor para quien el inglés es un segundo o tercer idioma
  • esperando que un pastor de color adopte las normas culturales de la congregación sin curiosidad, preguntas o discusiones
  • negándose a incluir una variedad de expresiones culturales dentro de la vida de adoración de la congregación

A veces, las congregaciones incluso se han negado a aceptar a un pastor que he designado, debido a razones de raza abiertamente o, a veces sutilmente.

Al escuchar estas historias y discutirlas dentro de mi gabinete, lamento informar que estas actitudes están presentes, aunque a menudo no son predominantes, en casi todas nuestras iglesias. Cualquier pastor de color que sea designado para una congregación mayoritariamente blanca puede esperar encontrar una resistencia racista abierta o implícita, tanto personal como profesionalmente.

Responsabilidades y deberes de Presbíteros y Pastores Licenciados – Liderar la congregación en la inclusión racial y étnica.

¶ 340.2.c)(4)

El racismo no tiene lugar en la Iglesia.

La Iglesia es el cuerpo de Cristo. No podemos permitir que el racismo infecte el cuerpo al tolerar estos comportamientos porque son no hospitalarios y peligrosos para el amado de nuestro Salvador. Ninguno de nosotros puede descansar mientras nuestras iglesias participen activa o pasivamente en el pecado del racismo.

En el bautismo cristiano, nos comprometemos a resistir el mal, la injusticia y la opresión en cualquier forma que se presenten. Ya sean llenos de odio o amables y bien intencionados, estos comentarios y actitudes son dañinos y refuerzan el ámbito estrecho, fijo de separación de nuestras congregaciones. Cualquier bien que hagan nuestras iglesias, se ve necesariamente comprometido por la sombra proyectada por las actitudes y hábitos que surgen de los supuestos normativos de la cultura blanca.

Itinerancia abierta significa que los nombramientos [del clero] se hacen sin importar raza, origen étnico, género, color, discapacidad, estado civil o edad.

¶ 425.1

A lo largo de nuestras vidas, Jesús nos presenta nuevas experiencias, nuevas personas, nuevas ideas. Cuando nuestros caminos de vida se cruzan con personas de diferentes partes del mundo, con diferentes experiencias de vida, diferentes experiencias culturales, diferentes aspiraciones que no coinciden con las nuestras y pueden hacernos sentir incómodos, nuestro malestar es a menudo Dios trabajando, estirando y fortaleciendo nuestro amor. Jesús nos invita a dejar de lado el juicio y proceder a la curiosidad, preguntando: ¿cómo está trabajando Jesús a través de una nueva relación para profundizar nuestra fe y fortalecer la iglesia o comunidad?

La iglesia no debe valorar lo familiar, lo tradicional o lo cómodo sobre lo que es correcto, nutritivo, emergente y esperanzador. Dios dice “¡Mira! Estoy haciendo algo nuevo; ahora brota; ¿no lo reconoces? (Isaías 42: 19a. Abrazar a la gente nueva y las cosas que Dios nos envía es una práctica espiritual que da vida a la iglesia y, a través de la iglesia, da vida al mundo.

Tu obispa te cuida con amor.

Mi deber, como su obispa, es supervisar los asuntos espirituales y temporales de la iglesia. Nombro lo que veo y animo a los líderes y congregaciones bajo mi cuidado a crecer en la fe y dar testimonio del reino de Dios. Yo veo que nuestro espíritu no es lo suficientemente fuerte para seguir a Jesús en esta amada comunidad y para reconocer que el nos invita a decir la verdad a un mundo que está inundado de mentiras.

La Iglesia Metodista Unida puede y debe convertirse en un movimiento que está despertando, aprendiendo, creciendo y avanzando hacia la conciencia racial, la competencia intercultural y la comunidad inclusiva.

En fidelidad a nuestros votos bautismales, mi gabinete y yo estamos comprometidos a trabajar con pastores y laicos para reformar nuestras iglesias para reconocer nuestro pecado y emprender un viaje hacia la equidad, la justicia y la inclusión racial. Así como los miembros del gabinete tienen una disciplina mensual de capacitación en competencias interculturales, el gabinete desarrollará un proceso para trabajar con las congregaciones para evaluar y reconocer actitudes y comportamientos que dan preferencia a la cultura blanca dentro de la iglesia, y tomar medidas para ser más conscientes y competentes en las relaciones interculturales y raciales.

Los nombramientos interraciales y transculturales se realizan como una respuesta creativa al aumento de la diversidad racial y étnica en la iglesia y en su liderazgo. Los nombramientos interraciales y transculturales son nombramientos de clérigos para congregaciones en las que la mayoría de sus miembros son diferentes de los antecedentes culturales raciales / étnicos del propio clérigo.

¶ 425.4

El objetivo del gabinete es ayudar a cada iglesia a convertirse en un puesto de avanzada del amor inclusivo de Dios en cada lugar y para toda la gente. Detrás de este objetivo, creemos firmemente no permitir que los comentarios y comportamientos racialmente ofensivos o exclusivos dentro de nuestras congregaciones no sean cuestionados ni transformados.

El reverendo Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. y John Wesley informan nuestro trabajo contra el racismo.

En 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., escribió una carta en respuesta a ocho líderes religiosos blancos que lo criticaron por liderar manifestaciones de protesta por la segregación racial en Birmingham, Alabama. En la carta, King reflexiona sobre su decepción con los líderes religiosos durante la lucha por los derechos civiles, diciendo:

  • He visto iglesias blancas quedarse al margen y simplemente hablar piadosas irrelevancias y santurronas trivialidades….
  • Me he encontrado preguntando: ¿Qué tipo de gente adora aquí? ¿Quién es su Dios? ¿Dónde están sus voces?….
  • En profunda decepción, he llorado por la laxitud de la iglesia… Sí, veo a la iglesia como el cuerpo de Cristo. Pero, ¡oh! Cómo hemos manchado y marcado ese cuerpo a través del abandono social y el miedo a ser inconformistas.

Casi 60 años después, el rostro del racismo ha cambiado, pero la iglesia no es menos laxa hoy que en 1963. Debemos viajar juntos de ser “casi cristianos”, como describe John Wesley en su famoso sermón, a convertirnos en ” totalmente cristiano ”, viviendo de maneras que no solo evitan el pecado, sino que cultivan y promueven la virtud y la justicia.

En las próximas semanas, invitaré al clero a una conversación sobre cómo podemos caminar juntos en el camino hacia la comunidad amada, liberados de la herencia del racismo sistémico y profundo.

Mientras vives en la vorágine de la semana que viene y de las que vendrán, agradezco a Dios por tu fidelidad, a través de tiempos de peligro y duda, y oro para que Dios sostenga la gracia en tu vida, tu familia y tus ministerios. Las malas noticias nunca tienen la última palabra. Sigue escuchando. ¡Hay buenas noticias en camino!


Elaine JW Stanovsky
Obispa Gran Área del Noroeste


Translated and Adapted by: Rev. Cruz Edwin Santos
Director of Hispanic/Latinx Ministries

Un miembro profeso laico de una Iglesia local podrá ser acusado de las siguientes faltas y si es así, pedir un juicio: (a)inmoralidad; (b)crimen; (c)desobediencia al Orden y Disciplina de la Iglesia Metodista Unida; (d)diseminación de doctrinas contrarias a las normas de doctrina establecidas de la Iglesia Metodista Unida; (e)abuso sexual; (f)conducta sexual impropia; (g)maltrato de niños; (h)hostigamiento, incluso pero no limitado a racial y, o sexual;(i)discriminación racial o de genero…

¶ 2702.3

Church as Beloved Community

Church as Beloved Community

A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky • January 2021

To the majority white United Methodists in the Greater Northwest Area, with an invitation to others to listen in and join the conversation.

But now, thanks to Christ Jesus, you who once were so far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ…. He broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us…. So now you are no longer strangers and aliens. Christ is building you into a place where God lives through the Spirit.

Ephesians 2, Selections

Beloved in Christ, I have carried you in my heart and prayers every waking moment through these seasons of pandemic, racial reckoning, civic unrest and violent attack on the U.S. Capitol. As we lament the image of a flag of the Confederacy waved brazenly in the Capitol, and brace for more extremist violence there and in state capitols across the country, the burden is heavy on people of conscience, who live in faith, hope and love through such demanding events.

I pray for the outgoing president, Mr. Trump, and for the incoming president, Mr. Biden, for elected and appointed government servants in every place and role. May the good in each prevail, and their sin be quenched. 

A word to People and Pastors of Color in The United Methodist Church

But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way…into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

Ephesians 4:15-16

We have a long journey ahead. It is a testimony to the power of the Holy Spirit that you know and offer your gifts to the whole body of the church. It is not your responsibility to endure disrespect in the church, or to teach me and my white siblings how our words and actions harm and exclude. And yet, out of your love of God and in undying hope of a new day, you generously continue in relationship as the Church strives to grow in faith, service and witness. May God build the church up by showing us how our parts can work properly together in love.

I pray for our nation and its people. May values of respect, freedom, equity and fairness lead the way through our present distress and danger. I pray for people whose anger has spilled out in violence, anger over things both righteous and evil.

I want to bring a hopeful message to the Church. But the hope of this season is only visible through thick clouds. May we walk by the light of faith, in service to love until hope rises again, unobstructed.

As we celebrate the life and leadership of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I bring you a message that I know will be hard. It is rooted and grounded in my love for our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, and my love of all God’s people.

NOW IS THE TIME. THIS IS THE PLACE. WE ARE THE PEOPLE to overturn white privilege and supremacy in our hearts, our minds and in our communities and to build a beloved community of racial justice and equity.
NOW IS THE TIME to dismantle oppressive systems of institutional racism, which
  • violate the dignity and sanctity of God’s creation
  • divide communities
  • deform the body of Christ
  • isolate local churches from their neighbors and
  • silence the prophetic witness of Christians to God’s justice and equity.

White racism arrived in the New World with Christopher Columbus in 1492, long before the Pilgrims or the Declaration of Independence elevated the value of freedom. It took root and has not been rooted out. It is alive and well in America. Now, cell phone videos of police violence against unarmed Black people expose persistent racism for all to see. Race is on the public agenda in a new and urgent way. Protests, demands, personal testimonies, documentaries and webinars have opened a window into how pervasive racism is in the life of our nation.

Compared to people of color, white people enjoy the “good life” disproportionately by nearly every measure: education, health care, environmental health, criminal justice and incarceration, voting rights, business ownership, employment, income, housing, and life expectancy, to name some. This is the privilege white people enjoy in America. The patterns of privilege and poverty in America are embedded in institutions, norms, practices and systems that do not depend upon individual bias, hatred or mistreatment. They have a life of their own.

THE CHURCH IS THE PLACE… to wake up and courageously face the sin of racism and to create beloved community. 

God gives people of faith a vision of diverse human beings living together in right relationship with one another. But through history, the Christian Church has often created and maintained systems of racial inequity in America and around the world. Today, the church is called to recognize and dismantle its own racism and join a movement of racial reckoning and reconciliation in every place.

When the communities where the church is located experience transition especially identified as economic and/or ethnic, the local church shall engage in deliberate analysis of the community change and alter its program to meet the needs and cultural patterns of the new residents.  The local church shall make every effort to remain in the community and develop effective ministries to those who are newcomers, whether of a cultural, economic, or ethnic group different from the original or present members.

¶ 212, Book of Discipline

By the year 2045, white people will be a minority of the U.S. population. In the states of Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, nearly every town and city is rapidly becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, but our United Methodist Churches in the region are predominantly white, middle class, aging and declining. For the most part, our churches are not adapting to the changing population by welcoming or engaging the growing number of their neighbors who come from different national, racial or ethnic heritages.

The UMC recognizes that the sin of racism has been destructive to its unity throughout its history.  Racism continues to cause painful division and marginalization.  the UMC shall confront and seek to eliminate racism, whether in organizations or in individuals, in every facet of its life and in society at large.  The UMC shall work collaboratively with others to address concerns that threaten the cause of racial justice at all times and in all places. 

¶ 5, Book of Discipline

The executive staff team of the Greater Northwest Area of The United Methodist Church recognizes inclusion as an essential practice of a vital church. We are building this practice into our own leadership teams and agendas. At every meeting, we participate in intercultural competency training and applying what we learn to our team and its work. We are intentional about inviting people of color into pastoral leadership of our churches to recognize and engage with the variety of people in their neighborhoods.

Racism persists in our churches.

Racism can exist without racial hatred. In many places, our churches are passive participants in racist systems that we have inherited and may not even be aware of. If we, the white majority, simply continue to do what we have always done – as the community changes and becomes more diverse – we will, silently, and without even recognizing it, perpetuate white privilege and supremacy.

This is why in my episcopal address to Annual Conference in September, I charged every local church to examine the images in your buildings, the priorities in your budgets and the people making decisions for the church, to see whether a rich variety of cultures and voices are present. Decisions are different if different perspectives are included in decision-making. In response to this charge, district superintendents initiated conversations about racism in every local church as part of its charge or church conference.

Sadly, we have begun to notice a pattern of overt racism within several congregations. This pattern is present in all three conferences and all four states. Some expressions of it include:

  • criticizing pastors for preaching about racial justice
  • denying the authority of the pastor over worship
  • withholding respect, deference and trust that are usually extended to pastors
  • criticizing the pastor’s grammar or pronunciation, especially in the case of a pastor for whom English is a second or third language
  • expecting a pastor of color to adopt the cultural norms of the congregation without curiosity, question or discussion
  • refusing to include a variety of cultural expressions within the worship life of the congregation

Sometimes congregations have even refused to accept a pastor I have appointed, due either to overt or more often subtle reasons of race.

As I hear these stories and discuss them within my cabinet, I am sorry to report that these attitudes are present, though often not predominant, in almost all of our churches. Any pastor of color who is appointed to any mostly white congregation can expect to encounter overt or implicit racist resistance, both personally and professionally.

Responsibilities and Duties of Elders and Licensed Pastors – To lead the congregation in racial and ethnic inclusiveness. 

¶ 340.2.c)(4)

Racism has no place in the Church.

The Church is the body of Christ. We cannot allow racism to infect the body by tolerating these behaviors because they are inhospitable and dangerous for the beloved of our Savior. None of us can rest as long as our churches participate actively or passively in the sin of racism.

At Christian baptism, we pledge to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. Whether hot and hateful or gentle and well-intentioned, these comments and attitudes are harmful and they reinforce the narrow, fixed and insular scope of our congregations. Whatever good our churches do, it is necessarily compromised by the shadow cast by attitudes and habits that spring from normative white cultural assumptions.

Open itineracy means appointments [of clergy] are made without regard to race, ethnic origin, gender, color, disability, marital status, or age. 

¶ 425.1

Throughout our lives, Jesus introduces us to new experiences, new people, fresh ideas. When our life paths cross with people from different parts of the world, with different life experiences, different cultural experiences, different aspirations that do not match our own, and may make us uncomfortable, our discomfort is often God at work, stretching and strengthening our love. Jesus invites us to set aside judgment and proceed to curiosity, asking: how is Jesus working through a new relationship to deepen our faith and strengthen the church or community?

The church must not value the familiar, traditional or comfortable over what is right, nourishing, emerging, and hopeful. God says “Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? (Isaiah 42:19a. Embracing the new people and things God sends our way is a spiritual practice that breathes life into the church and through the church, into the world.

 Your bishop watches over you in love.

My charge, as your bishop, is to oversee the spiritual and temporal affairs of the church. I name what I see and encourage the leaders and congregations under my care to grow in faith and witness for the kingdom/kin-dom of God. I see our spirits are not strong enough to follow Jesus into the beloved community he invites us to, nor do we have the courage to speak truth to a world that is awash in lies.

The United Methodist Church can and must become a movement that is awakening, learning, growing and moving toward racial awareness, intercultural competency and inclusive community.

In faithfulness to our baptismal vows, my cabinet and I are committed to working with pastors and laity to re-form our churches to recognize and acknowledge our sin and enter into a journey toward racial equity, justice and inclusion. Just as the members of the cabinet have a monthly discipline of intercultural competency training, the cabinet will develop a process for working with congregations to assess and recognize attitudes and behaviors that give preference to white culture within the church, and to take steps to become more aware and competent in inter-cultural and cross-racial relationships.

Cross-racial and cross-cultural appointments are made as a creative response to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the church in its leadership.  Cross-racial and cross-cultural appointments are appointments of clergy persons to congregations in which the majority of their constituencies are different from the clergyperson’s own racial/ethnic cultural background.  

¶ 425.4

The goal of the cabinet is to assist every church to become an outpost of God’s inclusive love in each place and for all the people. Underlying this goal, we firmly resolve not to allow racially offensive or exclusive comments and behavior within our congregations , to go unchallenged and untransformed.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Wesley inform our anti-racism work.

In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote a letter in response to eight white religious leaders who criticized him for leading demonstrations and sit-ins protesting racial segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. In the letter, King reflects on his disappointment in religious leaders during the civil rights struggle, saying,

I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevances and sanctimonious trivialities….

I have found myself asking: What kind of people worship here? Who is their God?  Where are their voices?….

In deep disappointment, I have wept over the laxity of the church….Yes, I see the church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and fear of being nonconformists.

Nearly 60 years later, the face of racism has shifted, but the church is no less lax today than it was in the 1963. We must journey together from being “almost Christian,” as John Wesley describes in his famous sermon, to becoming “altogether Christian,” living in ways that not only avoid sin, but that cultivate and promote virtue and justice. 

In the weeks ahead, I’ll invite clergy to a conversation about how we can journey together on the road toward beloved community – freed from the heritage of deep, systemic racism. 

As you live in the maelstrom of the week ahead and those to come, I thank God for your faithfulness, through times of peril and doubt and I pray God’s sustaining grace in your life, your family, and your ministries. Bad news never has the final word.  Keep listening. There’s good news on the way!


Elaine JW Stanovsky
Bishop, Greater Northwest Episcopal Area

Chargeable Offenses Against a Church Member – A professing member of a local church may be charged with the following offenses, . . .  harassment, including, but not limited to racial and/or sexual harassment; racial or gender discrimination . . .

¶ 2702.3

“Buscando ser la luz de Dios en el mundo”

Isaías 40

Una voz proclama:
«Preparen en el desierto
un camino para el Señor;
enderecen en la estepa
un sendero para nuestro Dios.
4 Que se levanten todos los valles,
y se allanen todos los montes y colinas;
que el terreno escabroso se nivele
y se alisen las quebradas.
5 Entonces se revelará la gloria del Señor,
y la verá toda la humanidad.
El Señor mismo lo ha dicho».

La Jurisdicción Occidental de la Iglesia Metodista Unida tiene la visión de convertirse en un “hogar para todos los hijos/as de Dios, para que todos podamos estar reunidos alrededor de una mesa de reconciliación y transformación”. Algunos nos han llamado desobedientes. Otros afirman que somos profetas por reconocer a las personas LGBTQ + como hijos amados de Dios, bendecir sus matrimonios y ordenarlos para el ministerio mucho antes que la mayoría de la iglesia lo hiciera. La inclusión LGBTQ + es solo una de las formas en que en la Jurisdicción Occidente hemos buscado preparar la mesa para todos los hijos/as de Dios. La Jurisdicción Occidental da la bienvenida a inmigrantes de todo el mundo y ha consagrado a muchos “obispos tales como”: Wilbur Choy, Chino-americano; Roy Sano, Japonés-americano; Elías Galván, Hispanoamericano; Leontyne Kelly, mujer de la raza negra; Minerva Carcaño, Hispanoamericana; y Karen Oliveto, primer obispo en un matrimonio y comprometida con una persona del mismo sexo.

Los líderes Metodistas Unidos en la Jurisdicción Occidental aceptamos la petición de John Wesley de que “seamos de un corazón, aunque no necesariamente de una sola opinión”. Estamos dedicando este año para reconocer, nombrar y celebrar la variedad de ministerios “Donde vive el amor”, no porque tengamos un rincón especial en el mercado del amor, sino porque el amor se ve diferente en cada lugar.

Comencemos por ver dónde vive el amor en los extraordinarios detalles de la historia de Navidad.

Photo by Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky.

El amor vive en una pareja sin hogar, cansada después de un largo día de viaje, que encuentra descanso en un refugio lleno de animales.

El amor vive mientras esta pareja exhausta da la bienvenida al nacimiento de su bebé y lo acuesta en un pesebre.

El amor vive cuando una estrella brilla en el cielo nocturno o cuando desciende una canción del cielo, señalando de que está sucediendo algo nuevo y santo.

El amor vive donde pastores, peregrinos aparecen en la noche, después de ver, de maravillarse y de seguir estos signos de esperanza.

La historia de Navidad nos muestra que donde vive el amor, suceden cosas que nunca creíste posibles. Así como Dios nació en Jesús, Dios también puede morar en nosotros, a medida que crecemos para amar tan maravillosamente como Dios ama, tan extravagantemente como Jesús ama a nuestro prójimo, a los extraños y a aquellos que consideramos como enemigos. Esta es una muy buena noticia cuando la gente vive a la sombra de la muerte y bajo el yugo de la opresión. Estemos atento en donde vive el amor.

El amor vive donde una abuela pone su abrigo sobre los hombros de un extraño que esta dormido en un autobús helado.

El amor vive donde un cuidador de la salud sostiene un teléfono inteligente o una tableta para conectar a un paciente moribundo con un ser querido.

El amor vive cuando una iglesia local da la bienvenida a extraños, viudas y huérfanos que buscan seguridad.

El amor vive cuando las personas que están ordenando su sexualidad e identidad tienen un lugar en la mesa de la fe.

El amor vive donde los cristianos viven su promesa bautismal de “resistir el mal, la injusticia y la opresión en cualquier forma que se presenten”.

El amor vive cuando un transeúnte graba una atrocidad violenta y racista en su teléfono para que el mundo la vea. El amor vive en el angustiado grito de justicia y amor.

El amor vive cuando una iglesia ofrece espacio para que las personas evacuadas de los incendios forestales puedan guardar sus pertenencias o alojar a sus mascotas.

El amor vive cuando cualquiera de nosotros encuentra nuestro corazón endurecido abierto y listo para sanar una relación rota.

Que Cristo nazca en esta oscura Navidad. Oro para que Cristo more en sus corazones a través de la fe, mientras están arraigados y cimentados en el amor, para que puedan ser llenos de toda la plenitud de Dios.

Obispo Elaine JW Stanovsky
Área Episcopal del Gran Noroeste

Translated and Adapted to Spanish by:
Rev. Cruz Edwin Santos
Director of Hispanic/Latinx Ministry