The purpose of the annual conference is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by equipping its local churches for ministry and by providing a connection for ministry beyond the local church; all to the glory of God.[i]
Making disciples of Jesus Christ can be a tough mission in the midst of generational change, religious pluralism, and political polarization. The Pacific Northwest Annual Conference is trying to be good stewards of the resources we have and put all our energy into ministries that change lives and the world to reflect God’s vision of abundant life. Last June the Conference acted to reduce the number of districts from 6 to 5, even as we are learning new ways to strengthen ministry both through existing congregations and by starting new ministries.
The reduction in districts will occur on the west side of the Cascade Mountains. The new districts will become reality on January 1, 2018 but you won’t notice much change until July 1, 2018. At that time we will add the word “Missional” to the name of each district, as a reminder that churches exist not only to support their members, but also to engage their context. Every church, fellowship and ministry is on a mission frontier, where people hunger and thirst for spiritual community.
Your district superintendent, and district programming will continue as they are now through the end of June, 2018, to coincide with the pastoral appointment year. Current district superintendents will continue in place through June, 2018, and they will continue to relate to churches and clergy in their present districts through the 2017-2018 appointment season. Beginning July 1, 2018, there will be one fewer district superintendent and churches and clergy will align to the new districts.
The assignment of churches to districts creates a new urban SeaTac Missional District, with the intention of developing specific initiatives for missional engagement in these growing urban areas, with their extreme economic disparities. Across the conference your staff is committed to both helping existing churches to engage their communities in new and life-giving ways, and to cultivating bold, new ministries that create new places for new people to become disciples of Jesus.
During 2018 churches will be aligned in districts as follows:
Click here to view a dynamic Google map of the new missional districts. An embedded version of this can be found at the bottom of this page.
Between January and June district superintendents will work with current leadership of groups like UMW, district lay leaders, district boards of church location and building, and disaster coordinators to adapt to the new district alignment. District superintendents are prepared to help you find answers to your questions.
God is saying, “Behold, I am doing a new thing…. Do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43: 19). We’re trying to do a new thing with God. I hope you will bring your patience and creativity to this time of transition.
The increasingly diverse communities we live in can provide great opportunities for personal learning and spiritual growth. Whether our goal is to foster better understanding of our neighbors, or to pursue creative partnerships for the common good, we can only improve the likelihood of positive results through intentional preparation.
This year’s Bishop’s Symposium will focus on the need to develop our capacity for intercultural communication as we experience the possibilities of interfaith relationships. Through a variety of opportunities, we will glean from the wisdom of others to learn what can be gained, and dream a little about what we might ourselves do.
United Methodist clergy and lay persons across the Greater Northwest Area are invited to participate in this year’s Bishop’s Symposium in one of the ways outlined below. Individuals are invited to cross conference boundaries to attend the option that best fits their schedule.
Option 1: No Joke Live – November 4, 2017 – Seattle First UMC
No Joke Live is a dynamic opportunity to learn more about developing interfaith relationships. Aneelah Afzali of the Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS), noted Christian author and public theologian Brian McLaren, and a rabbi yet to be determined will join the Christian pastor, Jewish Rabbi and Muslim Imam whose story is presented in the documentary entitled No Joke: When People Like Each Other the Rules Change. You can learn more about them and view the trailer (which you can also watch below) for their film on the No Joke Project website.
Tickets for the event are $32. Space will be limited, so be sure to buy your tickets quickly.
Tickets will only be on sale exclusively for United Methodist clergy and lay persons for one week starting October 5th. This will be a public event, co-sponsored by the Pacific Northwest Conference and Jim Henderson Productions. Click here to purchase tickets online!
Option 2: NLI+ – March 7-9, 2018 – Boise First UMC
Brian McLaren, nationally renowned pastor, activist and author, will be the keynote speaker at the 2018 Northwest Leadership Institute (NLI) hosted by the Cathedral of the Rockies (aka Boise First UMC) on March 8-9, 2018.
While details are still being worked out, we are negotiating an additional day with Brian McLaren and/or the No Joke Project for United Methodists on March 7.
Mark your calendar and watch for registration information.
Option 3: No Joke, Your Town – Flexible Dates – DIY
No Joke isa documentary film about the unique friendship shared between Imam Kamil Mufti, Rabbi Daniel Bogard and Pastor Jim Powell, all of Peoria, Illinois. In it, they explain three basic practices that have been essential in navigating their differences. Available soon to borrow from the Regional Media Center, or directly for purchase from the No Joke Project website, your church, a cluster of churches, or a district group can host a viewing of the film, and create a learning event around it.
You might even consider making it a public event, inviting local leaders from other faith traditions to participate with you. A small group study guide for the film is being created.
Give the emperor the things that are the emperor’s,
and God the things that are God’s.
– Matthew 22:21b
Greater Northwest United Methodists,
In the wake of yesterday’s announcement regarding DACA, I’m asking myself, what is the emperor’s and what is God’s? Matthew reminds us that the really important things belong to God and that what we owe to civil authorities is limited by what belongs to God.
Yesterday the White House announced an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy threatening to cause the deportation of 800,000 youth and young adults who were brought to the United States without documents when they were children. Today I remember that:
“The alien who resides with you shall be as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” – Leviticus 19:34
It’s not right even to threaten to deport peaceful, tax-paying immigrants who have lived here for decades, and know no other home. Doing so violates the teachings of the Bible.
Love of God demands that we speak out for our neighbors to government officials who have authority over their lives. Love of God might demand that we act boldly to protect threatened people and families as fiercely as we would protect our own.
The moral imperative to love the alien in our land is clear, though each person and each church will find its own way to love God and neighbor in their place and circumstance. I hope you will find ways to have serious conversations with people who are affected by this end to DACA, and to discern what God is leading us to do in the months ahead.
Pray for people who fear that their lives may be uprooted, and their families torn apart. Pray for our government authorities. Pray that Christ will guide and lead the church to a season of clear witness and courageous action.
With faith in Christ, and confidence that love will win,
Visit greaternw.org/welcome for more DACA information and a list of ideas and resources to help us love one another, love our neighbors and love the stranger. On the page titled “Links for Further Information” you’ll find links to organizations active in supporting refugees and immigrants in each state (Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington) alongside national and interfaith groups. Please send other local (to you) resources that you are aware of to the Rev. Lyda Pierce at firstname.lastname@example.org for possible inclusion.
Greater Northwest United Methodists and people of compassion everywhere,
LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOURHEART, SOUL, STRENGTH AND MIND,
AND YOURNEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF
DO THIS AND YOU SHALL LIVE. ~ Luke 10: 27
Hurricane Harvey is devastating Texas and Louisiana, stretching all systems of relief and recovery beyond their limits. We’ve watched as tiny babies, venerable elders, and people of every condition of life have had their lives swept away by the floods. Local United Methodists surrounding the affected area are already providing shelter, food and comfort to people in distress. They need us to support their work with “love made liquid” through prayer and offerings. And we’ll be sending Early Response Teams (ERT) from the Greater Northwest Area as early as October.
I am calling every church, fellowship group, Sunday School class, choir, coffee klatch, walking, or yoga group in the Greater Northwest Area (Oregon-Idaho, Pacific Northwest, and Alaska Conferences) to love God and neighbor in the following ways:
Pray for the people affected by the flood and those who work tirelessly to respond, and
Receive a special offering for HURRICANE HARVEY FLOOD beginning this Sunday, and each Sunday in September. And when you donate, invite someone outside your group to donate, too. Donations will support United Methodist Committee On Relief (UMCOR) US Disaster Response fund* and travel costs for Early Response Teams from the Greater Northwest Area that will go to Texas and Louisiana.
Miracles happen when people share what they have. Thank you.
United Methodists and all others who strive for peace at home and around the world,
I hope you will join me, the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, and many others in praying for peace on the Korean Peninsula this Sunday, August 13th. You’ll find Rev. Dr. Henry-Crowe’s invitation copied below.
Wars and rumors of wars trouble these days with threats of nuclear attack. Seventy two years after the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, I’d like to invite you to meditate anew on these words found at the Nagasaki Peace Park, a memorial to that fearsome day.
Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky sent a letter on Monday to Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski thanking her for her recent vote against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Referencing the United Methodist belief that health care be understood as a basic human right as found in our Social Principles, the bishop encouraged the senator to continue to work with other members of Congress “to find a solution to the very complex problem of providing health care … for all the citizens in our United States.”
In a July 6 letter to the Claremont School of Theology community, and subsequent press releases from Claremont School of Theology (CST) and Willamette University, it was announced the schools have entered preliminary conversations on the possibility of housing Claremont School of Theology, one of 13 United Methodist Seminaries, within the campus of United Methodist-related, Willamette University in Salem, Oregon.
In June, Claremont President Jeffery Kuan announced the school was facing serious financial difficulties. The school website indicated that without an infusion of $50-90 million, remaining on the current campus in Claremont, California will be cost prohibitive. Kuan cited campus maintenance costs and the rising cost of higher education as key reasons to seek a new direction and embed within another institution.
“Willamette and CST are both excellent schools with much in common – a focus on quality, and a mission to educate students and prepare them for lives that contribute to and transform their communities,” said Steve Thorsett, President of Willamette University. “Embedding CST at Willamette is an exciting opportunity to bring CST’s progressive approach to theological education to the Northwest, strengthen both institutions and support Willamette’s role as a liberal arts university with strong graduate programs.”
The proposed partnership offers opportunities for dual degree and co-curricular programs as well as expanded course opportunities for undergraduates. Both institutions cite shared values of diversity, Methodist heritage and academic excellence as key values. For CST, the move would provide financial stability in a time when it is experiencing increasing graduation rates.
Greater Northwest Area Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky has been kept informed of the process by Presidents Kuan and Thorsett. “Claremont School of Theology is a vital, generative center of thought, faith and innovation”, she said in response to the announcement. “It pushes the boundaries of inclusive community in every way. If the proposed move proves to be feasible, the Greater Northwest Area would welcome CST into the ‘neighborhood’ and eagerly explore the many ways the United Methodist conferences and the school can benefit from and enrich one another.”
No specific timeline has been set for completion of the due diligence process and possible relocation. Kuan shares that “Any full-time student who begins a program in Fall 2017 should be able to finish coursework in Claremont, California.” CST will retain its name in any embedded relationship, and may continue some type of presence in Southern California in addition to its existing online programs.
Claremont School of Theology has been in the city of Claremont since 1957. Prior to that it was located at the then Methodist-related University of Southern California in Los Angeles. It was originally founded in 1885 as the Maclay College of Theology in San Fernando, California. Claremont School of Theology is fully recognized and approved as one of thirteen University Senate-Approved theological schools of The United Methodist Church, with close relationships with other Protestant denominations, especially the Disciples of Christ, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
What would become Willamette University was founded in 1842 by Methodist missionaries as the Oregon Institute, a school for children of missionaries and settlers. In 1849, the first meeting of the Oregon-California Conference, held at the Institute, officially recognized it as a Methodist school. In 1853, it was chartered by the Oregon Territorial Legislature. The University housed the Kimball School of Theology from 1906 to 1930. Willamette was also a partner in the Northwest House of Theological Studies (NHTS) formed in 1998 by the Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Conferences and housed at First United Methodist Church in Salem. Claremont School of Theology and Methodist Theological School in Ohio provided faculty and accreditation for NHTS which closed in 2010.
If the partnership moves forward, CST will join two existing graduate offerings at Willamette: the Atkinson School of Management and the Willamette Law School.
We know the capacity of the human spirit to wander off and lose itself. It happens all the time, resulting in self-destructive behavior, and other-destructive behavior. This week we saw what happens when societal norms seem to give permission for people who have wandered away from basic civil behavior, to speak and act on their hatred. Young women on a train are harassed, and three men who stand to protect them are stabbed, two to death.
Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky is pleased to announce the hiring of the Rachel Fitzgerald as administrative assistant for the episcopal office of The Greater Northwest Area, effective May 8, 2017. Working out of Des Moines, Washington, Fitzgerald will provide administrative leadership for the episcopal office as it coordinates the mission, ministries, and leadership resources of The United Methodist Church across the area.
“Rachel’s kind and steady approach to work and human relationships will serve us well,” said Bishop Stanovsky. “She enjoys people, has a high ethic of confidentiality, and believes in the mission of the Church as it finds expression in the Greater Northwest.
Fitzgerald currently supports the ministries of Mason United Methodist Church in Tacoma, Washington as Office/Project Manager and Media Specialist. She also works part-time providing office support at the Annie Wright Day School. She brings a wealth of experience in administrative duties and technical capability with her to the position. Thirty years of involvement with the theatrical arts in a variety of roles have helped Rachel to value adaptability and lifelong learning.
The Greater Northwest Area provides leadership for the Alaska United Methodist Conference, and the Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conferences. The Greater Northwest is the largest geographic episcopal area in the United States serving United Methodists in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and small parts of Montana and Canada as well.
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky, spokesperson for the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops
April 28, 2017
The Judicial Council ruled today on challenges to the election of an out gay bishop in The United Methodist Church. The ruling is long and complicated, reinforcing the reality that the church is not of one mind about inclusion of LGBTQI people and sexual practices outside heterosexual marriage. We thank the Judicial Council for allowing the Commission on A Way Forward to do its work. We have said from the beginning that we trust the commission to find new ways for United Methodists of varying perspective to live and serve God together.
Karen Oliveto, is still a bishop of The United Methodist Church, assigned to the Mountain Sky Area, with all the rights, privileges, responsibilities and protections that every clergy person enjoys. The decision refuted the claim that bishops have the right and responsibility to declare a candidate for election as a bishop ineligible without due process.
On the other hand, the Judicial Council expanded the definition of “self-avowed practicing homosexual,” making it clear that the church is still not open to full LGBTQI inclusion.
While the Judicial Council ordered a review of Bishop Oliveto’s qualifications for ministry, the Western Jurisdiction is already in the process of responding to complaints that were filed after her election. This process will continue according to the provisions of our Book of Discipline.
We will have more to say about this ruling as the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops gathers this week during the Council of Bishops meeting. We will be in prayer, conversation, and consultation with leaders of the Western Jurisdiction and the Council of Bishops.