Bishop's Letters

2020 Pacific Northwest Annual Conference Report

September 17, meeting remotely online

The 147th session of the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference was held remotely online on Thursday, September 17, 2020. Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky of the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area was the officiating bishop.

Originally, the three annual conferences that comprise the Greater Northwest Area planned to gather for a shared session in June of 2020 in Puyallup, Washington. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this anticipated gathering was delayed until 2021 with virtual sessions scheduled for each conference in September in its place.

Bishop's Letters

Episcopal Address Part I and COVID-19 Notice no. 8

by Elaine Stanovsky

Bishop Stanovsky’s address to the September 2020 online Annual Conferences will be issued in written form in three parts before the sessions scheduled for September 15, 16 and 17 [link].  Today you receive Part 1, which is also COVID-19 Notice #8. It will be followed in coming weeks by Part 2 – Dismantling Racism, and Part 3 – Reimagining United Methodism:  Alaska, the Greater Northwest, the Western Jurisdiction and The United Methodist Church.  The bishop will offer an online overview during the conference sessions.  Please send comments or questions to her at with the subject line: "Episcopal address." 

Notice # 7 from our Bishop regarding COVID-19, June 16, 2020

Dear Pastoral Leaders of the Greater Northwest Area of ​​the IMU,

It has been a blessing to see churches in the Greater Northwest respond to COVID-19 with great caution, compassion and creativity. Suspending worship in person for three months has not been easy, but you have lived up to the circumstances and exercised great caution for the health and well-being of your neighbors. Many of you have developed the ability to offer worship online. Others send out printed newsletters and sermons every week. You've found ways to offer compassion by distributing gift cards, making face masks, offering food boxes, birthday celebrations, and graduation ceremonies in cars. His creativity has spawned prayer circles, study groups, and virtual children's gatherings. You have directed with abundant grace through a very difficult and limited time.

Still, it is not possible to gather for online worship in all the places where our churches are located. And it is not possible to organize summer camps safely. It is heartbreaking to be unable to hold the hand of a dying loved one or to gather and honor those who have died in a memorial service.

As your bishop, I have struggled all last week to find out the best way to lead, address the needs of so many churches and communities that you serve, facing such varied circumstances. The “curve” of new COVID-19 cases has increased since the restrictions were relaxed in relation to social interaction in most states in the month of May and after the Memorial Day weekend. The impacts of major public protests for racial justice since George Floyd's death on May 25 are unknown. Health professionals are very concerned that we may be seeing the start of another spike that could threaten to collapse healthcare systems.

Despite serious reservations, effective immediately, I am easing restrictions on in-person worship and the closing of buildings that allow the transition from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of "Re-imagining our life together." This means that IF ...

  1. a church reopening plans have been approved by your district superintendent (or, in the case of another ministerial setting, by your director of connectional ministries), and
  2. the plan is consistent with the state and local public health guide,

THEN… the church can implement its plan to enter Phase 2.

In addition, in response to requests for clarification, the following amendments and interpretations are in effect during Phases 1 and 2:

  1. For protection against COVID-19, it is recommended that vulnerable adults and people with prior health conditions not meet with others on church premises or for church activities. However, while respecting the right of adults to choose the level of risk they will accept, no adult can be excluded from church activities because of their age or health conditions that may make them vulnerable to illness. Churches must have an established process so that people are aware that entering the building and participating in church functions can expose them to COVID-19. Once aware, they should not be excluded solely for your protection.
  2. People may be excluded from entering church facilities or participating in church activities if there is reason to suspect that they may be infected with the virus and would be putting others at risk by their presence, or if they refuse to comply. hygiene and distancing protocols specified in the reopening plan of the church. Social distancing and the use of a facial covering are not sufficient protection to allow the participation of a person who has tested positive, been exposed or shows symptoms of the virus.
  3. These guidelines are not intended to prevent essential services from being offered in the Church building on the condition that spacing and hygiene protocols are observed.

On a case-by-case basis, district superintendents may approve the local church's plans for Phase 2 that include the following:

  1. Worship from the cars, without access to the church building.
  2. Outdoor worship, without access to the church building.
  3. Individual music recordings for online worship, including singing and wind instruments, in the church sanctuary following precautions.

As congregations reimagine life together as they consider how and when to reopen, each congregation every united Methodist leader must consider alarming trends and the potential serious harm of opening too soon or without adequate preparation. As you reflect with other leaders in your church, take a broad and far-reaching view of the impact of your decisions and actions.

Research in the social sciences and health sciences is cause for caution. Twenty-one states, including the states of Alaska, Oregon, and Washington in the Greater Northwest Area, are experiencing an increase in cases since opening and as a result of socialization over Memorial Day weekend . The impact that major public protests for racial justice will have on the spread of the virus is still unknown.

Testing practices and case tracking are inconsistent in our area and insufficient in some areas. Health care capacity is unevenly distributed across the area and is in danger of being overwhelmed if COVID-19 re-emerges.

People who provide essential services, people of color and poor people are disproportionately vulnerable to contracting the disease, having inadequate medical care and the financial strains that this causes. Decisions to accept the risks of reopening in the hope of reaping the benefits of greater individual freedom, social interaction, and economic recovery have the effect of privileging the most privileged and making the most vulnerable the most disadvantaged.

The expressions of urgency to reopen come from several reasons. Some are concerned about the church budget. Some are concerned about the economy. Some on the loss of members by a neighboring church that has been opened for worship. Everyone recognizes the emotional, mental, and spiritual need for human interaction, and sees it as the mission of the Church to gather people for support, prayer, encouragement, and comfort. Some hear the call to prophetic witness, action in the Church, and feel that this moment in history compels us to gather, organize, and take to the streets to advocate for justice and racial mercy. Christians face very extraordinary moral dilemmas in this complex time.

Physical health and economic health are mutually dependent interests. Health is not simply a progressive value. Economic stability is not simply a conservative value. If the pandemic continues to spread, the economy will not recover. If we jump-start the economy by encouraging businesses to open up and people to return to work before it is safe, this will increase the number of cases of death, and the economy will suffer again.

No church should simply align itself with one side or the other of the current political divide in the United States. Christians should be willing to be able to sacrifice now for a long-term outcome that will benefit the entire human family. Not just my family, my congregation, my city, my county, my state, the people who look, think, or vote like me. Loving neighbor as oneself means, acting now in a way that we try to address the goal of a complete spirituality and proclaim the healing of the house of God.

Some of you wonder about outdoor worship with facial covering and social distancing. What moral dilemmas might outdoor worship present? How do you assess the blessing of coming together as a faith community against the possible harm of exposure to the disease? What motivates the urgent desire to meet again? Is it to meet the needs of people in the church? Does it also serve the general public? What message is sent if people see the church gathered outdoors? Would such a meeting encourage people to continue to limit their social interactions, or could it give the impression that the danger is over?

“Re-imagining life together” encourages each congregation to set aside some customs and traditions that have served for a season, and to discover and experience new and different ways of congregational life. The urgent urge to meet again, to shake hands, to hug, to sing together, to break bread together at the communion table or at the food table, arises from a desire to return to the habits that make us feel comfortable, but perhaps at the cost of the safety of others. Could we think of COVID-19 as a season of "fasting" in familiar church ways and habits? Could this be the time when we check our church “closets” to see what is still fitting or working, what looks good and what is out of date, in poor condition or just doesn't fit anymore?

I know that leading a congregation is challenging during such a time of such threats to health and disruption of normal routines. I know that making the necessary adaptations to carry out the basic functions of the ministry is stressful and requires learning completely new ways of relating.

My first COVID-19 season selfie videos were recorded on my phone, held on a shelf by string and an elastic band. With patience and good humor (you have to laugh or you will surely cry) I have learned relaxed, and I let what I am capable of producing be good enough.

I remember John Wesley's alleged last words: "

"Best of all, God is with us" in laughter, frustration, tears, and precious moments of holiness.

I pray that they may have the power to understand, together with all the saints, how wide and long, high and deep is the love of Christ; in short, that they know that love that surpasses our knowledge, so that they are filled with the fullness of God.

- Ephesians 3: 18-19

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Episcopal Area of ​​the Great Northwest

A Message from Bishop Stanovsky on Juneteenth 2020

A Message from Bishop Stanovsky on Juneteenth 2020       

June 19, 2020

24 February, 1791

Balam. England

Dear Sir:

Unless the divine power has raised you up to be as “Athanasius against the world,” I see not how you can go through your glorious enterprise in opposing that execrable villainy, which is the scandal of religion, of England, and of human nature. Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them stronger than God? O be not weary of well-doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away before it.

Reading this morning a tract wrote by a poor African, I was particularly struck by the circumstance, that a man who has a black skin being wronged or outraged by a white man, can have no redress; it being a LAW in all of our Colonies that the OATH of a black man against a white goes for nothing. What villainy is this!

That He who has guided you from youth up may continue to strengthen you in this and all things is the prayer of, dear sir,

Your affectionate servant,

John Wesley[i]

Juneteenth, 2020

To the People Called Methodist,


Since George Floyd died beneath the crushing knee of a police officer, the cry for justice has been heard around the world, with new urgency. The cry and demand for racial justice can be found in the very origins of the Methodist movement, in John Wesley’s letter encouraging William Wilberforce to persevere in the seemingly hopeless battle against the “execrable villainy” of racial injustice embedded in the law and practice, trusting that, “if God be for you, who can be against you?”

Nearly 230 years later, this villainy has not been rooted out, but embedded in systems that we mask with words. A new generation of activists for the just treatment of Black people joins generations who have fought for decades and centuries to put right what is so very wrong and corrosive of the principle that all are created equal. The struggle is long and hard, and many people who benefit from the injustice work to perpetuate the unequal, cruel and even lethal treatment of Black Americans.

Today is celebrated as Juneteenth, remembered as the day emancipation of slaves was announced to the last state in the United States on June 19, 1865, following the Civil War. I pray that God continues in the midst of the struggle, with people in police departments, courtrooms, on the streets, in worship, attending funerals, behind prison bars. I pray that God is using the people called “Methodist” in our day to continue the struggle.

May all who see the injustice, say what we see, share what we see and never “never be worn out by the opposition of men and devils” who stand against justice. God is with all who stand and speak and work for racial justice.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

Hebrews 12:12

But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Amos 5: 24

Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky


Bishop's Letters

Letters from the Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky -

Pacific Northwest Conference

The Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church is called to be a community, diverse and united in God’s saving love, sent out in vital life-giving ministry for and with Jesus Christ. We are one of three Conferences served by the Greater Northwest Episcopal Area and its Bishop Elaine J. W. Stanovsky. Learn more.

Greater NW UMC

The Greater Northwest Area

The Greater Northwest Episcopal Area, with episcopal residence in Normandy Park, Washington, provides leadership for the Alaska United Methodist Conference, Pacific Northwest Annual Conference, and the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference. 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. Elaine J. W. Stanovsky serves the Greater Northwest Area as its Resident Bishop. Stanovsky, who previously was assigned to the Mountain Sky Area, was first elected to the episcopacy in 2008. Click here for her full bio.

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  November 2020  
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