As we celebrate the birth of Christ and the New Year, there have been new questions about restrictions for worship gatherings following the Supreme Court’s decision on November 25th. In that decision, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against the Government of New York, setting regulations for worship gatherings that were stricter than retailers, offices, and factories. The ruling was based on the Court’s understanding of the First Amendment’s guarantee of Religious Liberty. On December 3rd, the Court also vacated the same restrictive guidelines in California. Even though the County of Los Angeles has lightened indoor worship restrictions, the safety of all is our greatest concern with the death toll reaching a new record on December 23rd.
While these rulings address a matter of constitutional law lifting governmental ability to restrict religious worship, it does not change the California-Pacific Conference’s dedication to participate in our local efforts to eradicate the COVID-19 pandemic. Our caution is supported by scientific and health care experts, recommending guidelines to curb this deadly contagion.
To that end, we continue to freely worship as the Body of Christ. Still, for the United Methodist Churches of the California-Pacific Conference, we will continue to do so only virtually and in outdoor settings. We pray for patience and endurance so that the vaccines which are now being deployed can bring us to the place we can joyfully embrace in our Sanctuaries. When that day comes, we will all gather together and lift our voices in thankful praise for the health of our families of faith.
May the Prince of Peace Be our Lord Forever,
Rev. James R. Powell
North District Superintendent
California- Pacific Annual Conference
Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. – I Peter 4:10-11
Commission on the General Conference establishes timeline for next steps
Commission on the General Conference
December 18, 2020
The Commission on the General Conference held a two-day virtual gathering December 11-12, 2020 to discuss complex matters concerning the postponed 2020 General Conference session that is currently set for August 29 – September 7, 2021.
It was decided that the Technology Study Team, must submit their report to the Commission by January 31, 2021. This team is exploring the implications of options for accommodating full participation at General Conference including, but not limited to, the possibility of utilizing technology and online voting. In advance of their report, it was decided that members of the Commission could observe the team meetings and receive meeting minutes. The Technology Study Team report will be reviewed then discussed at the Commission on the General Conference meeting on February 20th.
The Commission affirmed the process for receiving petitions submitted after the original 230 and 45 day deadlines noting that they will be treated and processed through the existing system of receiving petitions submitted after the deadline. The Committee on Reference is the appropriate body to determine whether petitions submitted after the original 230 and 45 day deadlines should be considered, following the normal procedures and processes already contained within the Plan of Organization and Rules of Order. The process for amending previously submitted petitions was also reviewed. The Commission is asking that, in light of the extenuating circumstances and postponed original start date, staff arrange to gather the Committee on Reference as soon as practical. Read full story
Video: Worldwide Christmas Choirs (Discipleship)
You’ve seen the videos of choirs and studio singers coming together (digitally) to sing uplifting songs and hymns, creating works of art that in times like these are needed and incredibly inspiring.
We’ve created two amazing versions for you to enjoy.
Watch as hundreds of United Methodist come together with unified voices to celebrate the birth of Christ our Savior.
Please feel free to download the videos below to use in your Christmas Celebration services. Don’t forget to share and post them to social media!
Merry Christmas 2020 from UMC Missionaries
A production of the United Methodist Missionary Association. Watch the Video
Seeking to Be God’s Light in the World
A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” – Isaiah 40: 3-5
The Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church has a vision of becoming a “home for all God’s children, gathered around a table of reconciliation and transformation.” Some have called us disobedient. Others claim that we are prophets for recognizing LGBTQ+ persons as beloved children of God, blessing their marriages and ordaining them for ministry long before most of the church. LGBTQ+ inclusion is just one way we in the West have sought to set the table for all God’s children. The Western Jurisdiction embraces immigrants from around the world and has consecrated many “first bishops:” Wilbur Choy, Chinese American; Roy Sano, Japanese American; Elias Galvan, Hispanic American; Leontyne Kelly, Black woman; Minerva Carcaño, Hispanic American woman; and Karen Oliveto, first bishop in a committed, loving same-gender marriage.
United Methodist leaders in the Western Jurisdiction embrace John Wesley’s plea that we “be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion.” We are dedicating a year to noticing, naming and celebrating the variety of ministries “Where Love Lives” – not because we have a corner on the love market, but because love looks different in every place.
Let’s start by seeing where love lives in the extraordinary details of the Christmas story:
Love lives as a homeless couple, weary after a long day of travel, finds rest in an animal shed.
Love lives as this exhausted couple welcomes the untimely birth of their baby and lays him in a manger.
Love lives when a star shines in the night sky or a song spills from heaven – signs that a new and holy thing is happening.
Love lives where shepherd and sojourners show up in the night, after seeing, wondering and following these signs of hope.
The Christmas story shows us that where love lives, things happen that you never thought possible. Just as God was born in Jesus, God can dwell in us, too, as we grow to love as wondrously as God loves, as extravagantly as Jesus loves our neighbors, strangers, and those we think of as enemies. This is very good news when people live in the shadow of death and under the yoke of oppression. Watch for Where Love Lives.
Love lives where a grandma lays her sweater on the shoulders of a sleeping stranger on a chilly bus.
Love lives where a caregiver holds a smartphone or tablet to connect a dying patient with a loved one.
Love lives when a local church welcomes strangers, widows and orphans seeking safety.
Love lives when people who are sorting out their sexuality and identity have a place at the table of faith.
Love lives where Christians live their baptismal promise to ‘resist evil, injustice, & oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.’
Love lives when a passerby tapes a violent, racist atrocity on her phone for the world to witness. Love lives in the anguished cry for justice and love.
Love lives when a church offers space for people evacuated from wildfires to store their belongings, or board their pets.
Love lives when any of us find our hardened hearts open and ready to heal a broken relationship.
May Christ be born this dark Christmas. I pray that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Elaine JW Stanovsky
Bishop, Greater Northwest Episcopal Area
South District Volunteers Heed the Call for Help (Disaster Response)
In response to the Valley Fire, which broke out in the rural Alpine area of San Diego County on September 5th and was not contained until the 24th, the California-Pacific Conference Disaster Response Task Force put out a call for volunteers from the South District to help with the clean-up efforts. Almost 18,000 acres were burned with 30 residences destroyed and another 11 damaged. In addition, 31 other structures were destroyed.
Each volunteer was required to take “Done in A Day” online training before being able to participate in volunteer service. The first class was conducted by the Cal-Pac UMCOR-certified Early Response trainers on September 24th.
Over ten workdays, from September 26th to October 24th, 39 UMCOR volunteers from multiple churches in the South District worked a total of 66 days, donating 491 hours of service at 5 homesites. All that was left of a survivor’s home was a large pile of twisted metal, charred debris and ash. The sites were completely cleared of all remnants of fire damage, with all the material going into large bins supplied by the County.
Bishop Hagiya’s Briefing (11/30/2020)
4 Rejoice[c] in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.[d] 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
-Philippians 4: 4-7
As I write this during Thanksgiving week, I am reminded of the tremendous contractions going on in our present lives. On the one hand there is so much trouble and sorrow that we are facing in our world. On the other hand, we are in a season of profound thanksgiving that we cannot ignore. So, we find ourselves perplexed, uncertain and confused.
There are so many “Noes” we are currently facing:
-No, the COVID-19 pandemic is not going away, and in fact it is getting worse with no real end in sight.
-No, the specter of racism is not abating in our world, and we are distracted from the work of anti-racism that should be our focus.
-No, our global climate destruction is continuing to spiral out of control, as hurricanes batter our South and East Coast, and fire danger haunts us and electrical power is cut off on Thanksgiving Day for thousands!
-No, unity of our country seems to get worse and worse, as we are polarized by political parties, and threats against the very democracy that we cherish is at stake.
It is easy to lose hope and turn to pessimism, and yet we have this choice to turn to a series of “Yeses” that are just as viable as the “Noes:”
-Yes, major vaccines are in final trials, and an antidote to COVID-19 appears to be right around the corner for millions.
-Yes, the anti-racism agenda is not going to go away, and resources and literature to wage against racism continues to plow fertile ground daily.
-Yes, we continue to be resilient in the face of natural disasters, and we pick up the pieces and continue to rebuild.
-Yes, a new Presidential administration is about to take office, and their stated agenda is to unify the nation, directly tackle COVID-19, economic rebuilding, and anti-racism work.
What we must remember is that our Christian faith is built on the very brink of hopelessness and despair. When Jesus was crucified and buried, his movement seemed lost and done. Yet, God turned this despair upside down in the divine act of resurrection. In the midst of death and despair, Easter is born and Jesus’ life is given so that all may have life. In the very fabric of our faith, there is always hope over despair, light over darkness, and life over death!
So, as Christians we can proudly proclaim: “Rejoice in the Lord always, again, I say Rejoice!” This is far from an empty platitude – It stems from deep within our souls, and we must proclaim it to all the world.
As bad as the year 2020 has been, I am so thankful for all that God has given me. I am thankful and rejoice in all of you: To our clergy who have remained faithful and tirelessly adapted when our worships are shut down…To our laity who have worked side by side with our clergy in making church happen in a new way, and continuing to support the church with their service, tithes and offerings…To our churches who have hung on and remained faithful when all the external indicators have looked as though we might have to shut our doors for good.
As Paul reminds us: The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
I find myself praying everyday this very prayer: In Thanksgiving to all of you who have remained faithful and given your all to the church, and requesting from God the many “Yeses” that I have mentioned above. Truly, the Lord is near to each and every one of us, and we have nothing to fear or despair over.
Just a reminder: we have written to each of our church’s SPRC Committees asking for extra time off for your clergy and staff. They have worked incredibly hard putting together worships and Bible studies from scratch with a completely new format and many of them are exhausted. Please give them extra time off during this coming holiday season. We are providing one full worship service that can be plugged into your online platforms. It will be segmented so you can pick and choose what you wish to incorporate, or play the whole worship in its entirety.
For inspiration this week, I was very moved over the New York Times article that invited readers to send in six words that made them thankful in 2020. Here is a few of them:
My choir still meets on Zoom.
Mom, 87, rocking pretty, pandemic ponytail.
Teenage son still likes to snuggle.
No better excuse to avoid in-laws.
I am thankful for Pastor Bob.
I am bored, but not dead.
Ambulance took him. He came home.
I held my dying husband’s hand.
Our kids, after my wife died.
Rediscovering myself by reading the Bible.
Healthcare workers. Healthcare workers. Healthcare workers.
Pandemic baby after years of trying.
Tried. Failed. Failed worse. Kept going.
Once again, my Black vote matters.
Aunt’s Jell-O salad not gonna happen.
Thankful for sweet potato pie, y’all.
Fell in love at age 75.
There’s really more kindness than hate.
Truly, let’s all be the Hope!
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop
Mental Health and Care: Coping with Stress During this Season and Beyond (UMPH)
Millions of Americans live with a mental health condition, and the holidays increase depression, anxiety, and other mental stressors.
This year, because of COVID-19 and the inequalities it has exacerbated, adults are reporting considerably higher mental stress. According to the CDC, “younger adults, racial/ethnic minorities, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers reported having experienced disproportionately worse mental health outcomes, increased substance use, and elevated suicidal ideation.”
The degree and types of suffering is immense, and we may not understand its full ramifications for years. But what can we do today to help ease our anguish and the stress of those around us? Particularly as people of faith, how do we hold to hope and not despair?
The four-part Church Leader webinar series hosted by Rev. Justin Coleman begins Tuesday, December 1, and runs through Thursday, December 10, 2020 (12 PM PST and 10 AM HST; December 2 – 11, 8 AM ChST):
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1 – 2:00 PM CT
The Effects of Prolonged Stress: Taking Care of Yourself
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 3 – 2:00 PM CT
Relationships in a Pandemic: Building Resiliency During Unique Challenges
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 8 – 2:00 PM CT
Compassion Fatigue: Helping the Helpers
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10 – 2:00 PM CT
Pandemic as Moral Injury: How Do We React to Global Suffering?
WHERE LOVE LIVES, FROM OUR YOUNGER PEOPLE
In gratefulness, today, we receive the voice of four of our younger persons within the California-Pacific Conference about how scripture is primary to them in creating a place where love lives. The following are excerpts and links to the full posts.
“Though the synoptic gospels often share parallel stories, what makes John’s version interesting is that it centers on a young person, a young boy, and still has relevance today.” – The one who had five loaves and two fish by Erich Grimm-Schmitt
“As I have gone through this last semester of my college career under the predicaments of COVID-19, I found peace of mind and affirmation in reading scriptures and remembering all the ones spoken to me when I was young.” – O le mata’u ia Ieova, o le amataga o le poto lea by Taimane Yasuda
“I am part of a generation that prizes independence, being self-made, and “getting to the top” alone. While those can all be nice attributes to have, as a church, “self” contradicts the love of Christ that binds all of scripture together.” – To be a window of that biblical love by Valerie Hungalu
“Whenever something goes right and whenever something goes wrong, we can turn to scripture to help us out. Scripture is a way for all of God’s children to seek help with whatever is happening. The best place to do this is the church. Any church.” – I’m a double P.K. – I’ve seen a lot of scripture by Tre’ Cyrus-Franklin
WHY WE WELCOME IMMIGRANTS HERE
“Where love lives, it is a place where welcoming the strangers…” Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño
In the Western Jurisdiction, we see the Bible as an authority when it comes to forming our views toward immigrants and immigration. While the Scriptures do not prescribe a specific immigration policy, they are filled with Old Testament stories of immigrants with specific instructions from God about how to treat foreigners. Also, there are principles for how followers of Jesus the Christ interact with immigrants in the New Testament.
Let’s start with the Biblical figures who migrate for different reasons: Abraham and his family leave Canaan (their homeland) at God’s instruction; later he and his family crossed borders again on multiple occasions in search of food during times of famine. Isaac and Jacob move because of famine as well. Naomi and her family were motivated by hunger to migrate from the land of Judah, then eventually reports of adequate food led Naomi to return, now accompanied by her daughter-in-law Ruth who was an immigrant in the eyes of the people of Judah.
Others were forced to migrate, for example, Joseph who was sold by his brothers into slavery in Egypt. David fled because the violence of King Saul to seek asylum among the Philistines. Daniel and his friends were exiled from their homeland and ended up serving a foreign government. Even Mary, Joseph and Jesus himself, as a small child, was forced to flee. They were escaping to Egypt as refugees when Herod’s jealousy threatened the lives of all baby boys in Bethlehem.
In addition to various stories of refugees and migrants, the Old Testament also tells us about the character of God toward immigrants and others who are vulnerable. Three specific vulnerable groups of people are highlighted in the same passages on multiple occasions as objects of God’s particular concern: the foreigner, the fatherless and the widows. These Scriptures collectively affirm: “Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.” (Deuteronomy 27:19). The Psalmist laments the wicked who “They slay the widow and the foreigner; they murder the fatherless.” (Psalm 94:6). And in Psalm 146:9 says “The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.”
Now, when it comes to God’s commands with respect the treatment of immigrants, a justification is offered in Leviticus 19:33-34: “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” The Israelites were told to love immigrants as themselves, because they knew firsthand what it is like to dwell in a land that was not their own.
Later, books of prophets such as Jeremiah says “Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place” (22:3) and Zechariah 7:10 “Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other”. Also Malachi 3:5 announces God’s judgement against those “who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice.” These remind members of the Western Jurisdiction of their obligation to protect the vulnerable and welcome the foreigner.
Finally, in Mathew 25: 34-36 Jesus´ parable explains the principles of the kingdom of God that the members of the Wester Jurisdiction aspire to live “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’”
Note: Bible quotes come from the New International Version
Rev. Dr. Joel Hortiales
Director of Hispanic/Latino Ministries and Border Concerns
LOVE LIVES HERE FOR AND BY PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
In Genesis 1:27a, we read, “God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them….” There is no separate category for “disability” in the Creation Story. Humanity is not divided into “us” and “them” by our differences on any basis. No one is more valuable or better or more human than anyone else. This is the scriptural foundation we begin with when we say that “Love Lives Here.”
As we move through scripture, we read that Moses is “slow of tongue” and that David welcomes Mephibosheth, who lost the use of his legs in a childhood accident, at his table permanently. Jacob becomes Israel when his hip is put out of joint by a being whom he wrestles all night long, a new name to go along with his apparently permanent disability.
There are other Old Testament stories about people with disabilities, or who might have had disabilities based on their characteristics. God calls people with many different limitations to work for justice and compassion throughout the Old Testament.
In the Gospels, we find many accounts of people with disabilities. In the first ten chapters of the Gospel according to Mark, we read eleven stories of Jesus healing people with disabilities. Jesus does not take away people’s disabilities because those disabilities render them not worthy of love. It is just the opposite. He heals them because he loves them. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him won’t perish but will have eternal life.” (John 3:16, CEB) Out of love, he does what it takes to restore them fully to community, the community that has placed them on the margins because of their disabilities.
While we cannot take away disabilities like Jesus can, we can bring people on the margins of our society into our community. We can invite them to the banquet of God’s abundant love, as Jesus talks about in the parable of the Great Banquet. In that parable, the master of the house is disappointed when all the invited guests cannot come, and he sends his servants out to fill the table with people who are poor and disabled, bringing them in from the city streets , the highways and back alleys (Luke 14:16-24, CEB).
This restoration to society is not physical healing or a cure. It is spiritual healing. It is meeting the deep need we all have of belonging. This is a need that too many people with disabilities never find a way to fill.
Jesus knew that need. He recognized that need in others, particularly in people with disabilities. Jesus never passed by people with disabilities. He noticed. He stopped and spoke with them. He met their needs. He treated them as a whole person, created by and loved by God.
Scripture tells us that Jesus was the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14), making scripture alive and observable. Jesus was also the embodiment of grace and love. When Jesus walked the earth in human flesh, wherever he went, Love Lived There. Since we are followers of Jesus, wherever we walk, Love will Live Here if we continue to look for his footsteps!
Deaconess Sharon McCart
Chair, Cal-Pac DisAbility Ministries Task Force, and
Vice Chair, DisAbility Ministries Committee of The United Methodist Church
For further information, watch our AC2014 DisAbility Ministries Presentation
Be a part of The United Methodist Church 2020 Worldwide Virtual Christmas Choir video!
You’ve seen the videos of choirs and studio singers coming together (digitally) to sing uplifting songs and hymns, creating works of art that in times like these are needed and incredibly inspiring.
Congregations will be able to use the video in their Christmas worship services and post to social media.
Now is your chance to be a part of a virtual choir for Christmas! Come together with unified voices to celebrate the birth of Christ our Savior!
To participate is easy, just follow the steps below!
Download the PDF of either the Christmas Medley which combines “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Amen,” “The First Noel,” and “Joy to the World,” OR download the PDF of “Silent Night.”
Record a video of yourself singing one of the two options. You can sing it in your style, melody, or harmony, but you need to sing it using the accompaniment track provided. (If you’re singing “Silent Night,” we’d love it if you were holding a candle in your video.)
REMEMBER: When using the accompaniment, be sure to wear headphones so it does not come through into the recording. You may want to do a practice run before hitting “record.”
Cal-Pac Abolition (Human Trafficking) Task Force Virtual Prayer Event
Join us for a night of prayer and hope as we highlight and lift up a number of anti-trafficking organizations we have partnered with this year. Organizations attending will be:
- Journey Out
- Set Free Monterrey Bay
- Destiny Rescue
- Filipino Migrant Center
- Zoe International
- Saving Innocence
All members and friends of UMC churches in Cal-Pac Conference are welcome.
For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
SCRIPTURE, DIFFICULT CONVERSATIONS, AND DIVERSITY
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” [Galatians 3:28, CEB]
One of the favorite classes I teach during confirmation is the Wesley Quadrilateral. I use a wind chime as a metaphor and everyone in the class makes one to take home. The three chimes hanging down stand for tradition, reason, and experience, while the clapper stands for scripture. None of the chimes can ring without first being struck by the clapper, demonstrating how scripture is the foundation of all we do, informs every decision we make, and how we walk through life as Christians and members of The United Methodist Church.
For John Wesley, scripture was the first authority and he felt, contains the only measure by which all other truth is examined and tested. Here in the California-Pacific Conference, and the Western Jurisdiction of which we are a part, we live out these beliefs of our founder.
As the theological guidelines in the Book of Discipline state, “While we acknowledge the primacy of Scripture in theological reflection, our attempts to grasp its meaning always involve tradition, experience, and reason. Like Scripture, these may become creative vehicles of the Holy Spirit as they function within the Church. They quicken our faith, open our eyes to the wonder of God’s love, and clarify our understanding.”
It is through these beliefs that we are able to affirm all people as beloved children of God, “fearfully and wonderfully made,” [Psalm. 139:14, NRSV] which means that we live out these values by welcoming all through our doors, and to our tables. We believe that there is none for whom the message of the Gospel does not apply.
Just as Jesus taught and modeled, we strive to “…welcome each other, in the same way that Christ also welcomed you, for God’s glory” [Romans 15:7, CSB.] We do not always get it right, we are a work in progress, yet we are dedicated and committed to ensuring that each of our churches is a place Where Love Lives.
My work as our Cal-Pac LGBTQIA+ Advocacy Coordinator has taken on many different forms over the last eighteen months, from group sessions on “working with LGBTQ youth,” to assisting churches as they explore the reconciling process. Last year, we held over sixty listening posts across the conference where attendees from local churches had an opportunity to have their voices heard and to express where they saw the major problems within the UMC, and to offer ways of starting to work at resolutions to those issues. None of this work can be completed without standing it firmly on scripture and using it to guide and shape us as we work.
This year I am working on providing training on “Difficult conversations,” and “Diversity,” as we navigate the places where we differ and strive to learn how to live together in full relationship. Our guiding scripture for this year and these projects is “Put aside all bitterness, losing your temper, anger, shouting, and slander, along with every other evil. Be kind, compassionate, and forgiving to each other, in the same way God forgave you in Christ.” [Ephesians 4:31-32, CEB]
When we follow Wesley’s lead, using scripture as the foundation of all we do, together we can produce amazing results and create places where we truly live out the greatest commandment:
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands. [Matt 22:37-40, CSB]”
Rev. Denyse Barnes
LGBTQIA+ Advocacy Coordinator
UMC Bishops offer innovative ideas for future of the global denomination
UM Council of Bishops
NOVEMBER 5, 2020
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the midst of a pandemic, racial unrest, and denominational and political anxiety, the bishops of The United Methodist Church met in a virtual format for four days to focus on the leadership necessary to chart a new future for the global denomination.
Among the innovative ideas that were discussed were ways to lead the church in the midst of this unique and challenging season. Facilitated by consultant Susan Beaumont and Lisa Greenwood from the Texas Methodist Foundation, the bishops centered conversations on the direction of their leadership in rapidly changing times, an intentional focus on anti-racism and practical matters related to cutting costs and expenses of the Episcopal Fund.
The meeting was one of the highest attended Council of Bishops gatherings with more than 115 bishops serving in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America in attendance. continue reading
I continue to hold all of you in prayer as we continue to work for justice in the midst of COVID-19. Tomorrow is election day and to be completely honest I am so anxious. I’ve already cast my vote weeks ago but the closer we have moved towards election day the more anxious I get. I hope that you have your plans in place to vote (if you haven’t done so yet). I know many of you have volunteered to encourage voters in your community and across the country. You are writing letters, sending texts, making phone calls, and volunteering as poll workers or poll monitors. The staff at MFSA are making our election day self-care plans and we anticipate that we might not know the results of the election until later than usual. Here are some resources I will be using.
- Leadership Resources As leaders we all need resources and support to help us lead through anxiety.
- Podcast on anxiety What is actually going on in your brain when we are anxious and what we can do to help manage our anxiety.
- Meditation I have not done intentional meditation work on a regular basis but I do hear that it is a very helpful tool. This app has created a series called Politics without Panic just for this election.
- Cooking through the election. When I’m anxious I usually tend to reach for the ready-made or easy meal options. Knowing this, I will be prepping food for election week this weekend to make things easier on myself. I often get meal ideas from websites and I love this one because of their flexibility.
This issue of MFSAVoices is jam-packed with resources and information. So much so that it won’t all fit in your email message so be sure to click view entire message at the bottom of this email to view the entire issue. Our newsletters are designed to be used all month long. So take a quick glance and take note of important dates to add to your calendar but also come back in the following weeks to work your way through the action items.
Gmail users—move us to your primary inbox
- On your phone? Click the 3 dots at the top right corner, click “Move to” then “Primary”
- On your desktop? Back out of this email then drag and drop this email into the “Primary” tab near the top left of your screen
We continue to see the urgency of our work to make broad systemic change. Change that honors the dignity and worth of all people, puts people over money, and honors the earth and all her inhabitants. COVID-19 continues to highlight the inequities in our society that has literal life or death consequences. Since 1907, MFSA has been shining a light on injustice and organizing to change it.
You make our collective work possible by your witness for justice every day in your church, community, and Annual Conference. MFSA does not receive any financial support from the United Methodist Church’s giving channels. 100% of our budget is funded through your membership dues and your generosity in giving.
Peace and Justice,
Dear Friends in Mission,
God’s mission, Missio Dei, remains constant and you have an opportunity to support the many mission, disaster relief and disaster recovery efforts of The United Methodist Church through the GIVE: LOVE, JOY, HOPE, PEACE campaign.
The need for evangelism and church growth, missionary work, global health and disaster response ministries has increased. It has also been challenging for churches to take an active role in missions at home and abroad.
This campaign provides an opportunity to focus on the missional work of The United Methodist Church. Between November 1 – December 31 local churches like yours will be moving God’s mission forward through prayer, sharing impact stories and fundraising for the #GIVELOVEUMC campaign on behalf of Global Ministries.
Getting started with GIVE: LOVE, JOY, HOPE, PEACE is simple:
- Click here to review the campaign how-to guide and customize it for your needs.
- Review the resources, which include sample letters, graphics and suggested social media posts at ResourceUMC.org/GiveLove.
- Include church leadership and laity in choosing where to share the information. This may include either a special giving message, a giving challenge to the church or small groups, designated prayer time, inclusion in sermons or social media posts, or any combination of these — you are only limited by your imagination.
This is an excellent opportunity to connect your church with the transformational ministry happening through Global Ministries, which is the missional and disaster relief arm of The United Methodist Church, and learn how gifts through The Advance impact lives. Together, and through the connection, we are making a difference in the world. resources
Introducing New People New Places: A Wesleyan Lens of Fresh Expressions (Discipleship)
Fresh Expressions of church have been the fastest growing and most popular type of new church start in The United Methodist Church in recent years. Some annual conferences have trained as many as 900 lay people in this NEW mode of doing church.
The Fresh Expressions movement began in the United Kingdom and then spread to the United States, and now we have an embedded theology of this in The United Methodist Church called, “New People New Places.” New People New Places will allow us to contextualize the foundational principles of Fresh Expressions in the United Methodist polity and practice throughout the United States.
Three FREE webinars where we explain what the New People New Places movement is all about and how it will help you connect with people outside of the church and help them birth a new a faith community.
Save the dates:
- Thursday, November 19, 1 p.m. CST
- Thursday, December 10, 1 p.m. CST
- Thursday, January 28, 1 p.m. CST
Webinar on Support for Asylum Seekers among Congregations and Communities
This Webinar, presented by California-Pacific Immigration Task Force in partnership with Clergy & Laity United for Economic Justice, will provide members of our congregations in Cal-Pac the opportunity to:
- Hear the voices and stories of Asylum seekers & as they share the challenges they face in these difficult times.
- Hear from congregations and ministries who are partnering with community organization to respond with support, solidarity and advocacy.
- To learn several possible ways your congregation can reach out in Hospitality, support and advocacy in solidarity with the those seeking asylum & refuge in our midst.
BISHOP HAGIYA’S MESSAGE ON WHERE LOVE LIVES
Continuing the “Where Love Lives” Campaign of the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church, Bishop Grant J. Hagiya shares a message of how scripture is kept primary. watch the video
With the recent COVID-19 spikes throughout the nation and world, and no decrease in cases and hospitalizations in our own area, it looks like we are in for another season of limited in-person worship and church. Many of us were optimistic that we would see a decrease in COVID-19 cases, and a gradual return to normalcy. However, it looks like we are in this for the long haul, and earlier predictions of it being limited in duration are not the case. Remember Andy Crouch’s question if the pandemic will be a “blizzard” (a passing but devasting storm), a “winter” (an ongoing season of deep crisis), or the beginning of an “little ice age” (a monumental epoch that changes the very fabric of the entire planet). We are clearly pass the “blizzard” and “storm” periods, and with news that the COVID-19 virus can mutate, we might be entering a “mini ice age.”
This is not good news to our church clergy and lay leaders. As I listen to our clergy and lay leaders from around the annual conference, I hear the weariness and exhaustion in their voices and stories. It is one thing to adapt to new platforms like online services for a short time, but as the months drag on, the intense work and stress becomes cumulative. We are going to have to continue in this medium for a while, and we need to find ways to make it easier and less intense to create.
One alternative we will offer in the month of December is a complete worship service that you can substitute on a Sunday and take some time off from the production end. We hope to have this available in early December, and you can use parts of it or the entire service.
We are also asking all of our local church Staff-Parish Relations Committees to allow extra time off for their clergy in the month of December. Our District Superintendents will be writing to our SPRC Committees requesting this time off.
Of course, these are only stop-gaps to the problem, and the only systemic solution is for us to move from the individual to the collective. Our United Methodist ethos has been to send and appoint individual clergy to individual charges, and this has to change. This practice has fostered a sense of competition rather than collaboration, and goes against the very nature of our Gospel message. We have to move to a collective ethos, where 3 or more local churches in a geographical area work together in mission and ministry. For example, if 3 or more local churches banded together and rotated worship responsibilities, it would ease the burden on each individual church precipitously. Many other programs could also be shared: such as church school, VBS, youth and young adult programming. Our Cabinet will be strategically working on this intentionally, but it will also require cooperation and openness on the part of each local church. I am asking all of us to pray upon this, and to seek God’s greater wisdom in bringing us closer together rather than working separately.
As we accept the long-term consequences of COVID-19, we must seek a greater patience and look to the future with hope. God will not abandon us in this hour of need, but we have to pace ourselves and turn to self-care in order to survive the long-haul. Be kind to yourselves, and turn to family and church friends in order to get through this. WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS!
For inspiration this week, let me remind us of Psalms 13:
How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I bear pain[a] in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
3 Consider and answer me, O Lord my God!
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have prevailed”;
my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.
5 But I trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
6 I will sing to the Lord,
because God has dealt bountifully with me.
Be the Hope!
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
Los Angeles Area Resident Bishop
Church and politics: Ask The UMC tackles a tough topic
Should The United Methodist Church be involved in politics? What about the separation of church and state? How can I talk about political issues with others who disagree? In a new video series, Ask The UMC answers questions about the intersection of the church and politics. watch
New group explores General Conference options
With COVID-19 still menacing the globe, organizers are exploring various options for holding what many expect to be a pivotal General Conference. continue reading
Panel: Racial and sexual parity linked
Real progress on racial issues in The United Methodist Church is impossible unless LGBTQ people are accepted as full participants in every aspect of the denomination, said both panelists during a sometimes emotional online discussion. continue reading
Ideas for ongoing digital ministry
A collection of Local Church Learning Sessions will help your church build necessary skills for ongoing digital ministry. From social media and e‑giving to text messaging and livestreaming, the sessions cover a range of useful content and can be viewed on‑demand. begin learning
How can we support you?
Your local church is vital to the denomination and our global mission. How can we help you connect with your community? Our Local Church Services Team is standing by to offer training, coaching and marketing services in social media, website development, church branding/logo services and more that can be tailored to your needs. apply today
Save time & energy with ResourceUMC.org
All of the church leader resources you need are in one place: ResourceUMC.org. The site features denomination-wide information that’s sorted into 25 topic areas. This makes it quick and easy for you to discover the latest tools, ideas and updates. Get inspired, find events, connect with agencies and much more. explore today
NEW Dismantling Racism discussion
The next Dismantling Racism panel discussion is Wednesday, October 28, at noon CDT. The panel will be discussing intersectionality. Until then, view and share a collection of videos from previous discussions, as well as other denominational Stand Against Racism events. watch other discussions
Dismantling Racism Panel Discussions
The General Commission on Religion and Race in partnership with the Council of Bishops, United Methodist Women, the General Board of Church and Society and United Methodist Communications, is hosting panel discussions on dismantling racism.
Experts come together to talk about the history of racism and what the church can do–both as a body and as individual members–to move toward racial justice.
Explore previous conversation below and plan to join us for our next panel discussion. videos
Kairos Palestine & The Global Church: Standing at the Crossroads of 2020
14 OCTOBER 2020
10am PT, 1pm ET (US, Canada)
5pm UTC / 7pm Palestine
A free webinar series for church leaders who are pastoring in the midst of a divided country.
Americans feel more divided from their fellow Americans than they have in decades. And nowhere is this more painful than in our churches, where we are called to put aside our differences and come together as Christian family. Pastors were already planning for the tensions that elections can sometimes create, but this year’s pandemic, economic worries, and racial injustices have exposed further how divided we are as a country.
With many Americans reporting they are “worn out” by political discussions:
– How do church leaders pastor through this great divide and bring prophetic hope to their communities?
– How do we hold space for multiple views without holding space for harm?
– How do we disagree without becoming enemies?
– How do we transform our fears into opportunities for being light in the world?
Join us in this important series as we give hope and seek transformation for our weary spirits. register now
Navigating Racial Biases & Cultural Distinctions for Better Ministry 2020 (New Ministries)
Rev. Anthony Boger will teach and facilitate a conversation focused on addressing issues around racial biases and cultural distinctions, addressing the issues of segregation that hinder our church from moving into new models of effective ministry. Rev. Boger comes to us with a career-long journey specializing in multicultural and multiracial ministry. The social issues that separate people groups and continue to destroy our trust in one another cannot be ignored any longer.
Many of the answers needed to heal our communities must begin in the church, thus the conversation and learning about overcoming the hurdles that keep church communities from moving forward in peace, love, and cultural acceptance beyond one’s own homogenous groupings. RSVP online now
UM Creation Justice Summit 2020 (JCEMT)
Join fellow United Methodists from across the United States for the 2020 Online Creation Justice Summit. Attendees will be encouraged to dream boldly of ways they can play a key role in healing the planet, dive deeper into advocacy and Green Team development training, gather wisdom from speakers and other leaders, and gain strength and inspiration by worshiping together.
Keynote Speakers are Bee Morehead, Director of Texas Impact and Texas Center for Interfaith Public Policy, and Rev. Michael Malcom, Executive Director of Alabama Interfaith Power and Light.
Since the Summit is online this year and travel isn’t necessary, it is our hope that this event will be accessible for people from across the country and that we will have representatives from every US annual conference.
This Zoom gathering will be accessed by computer or cell phone; the link will be emailed to registrants the week before the event. register online now
CHURCHES AND LAITY INVITED TO GIVE: LOVE, JOY, HOPE AND PEACE IN THE MIDST OF 2020’S CHALLENGES
The year 2020 has been a difficult one. The pandemic forced many to reflect on the past, reconsider priorities and cope with uncertainty. In the midst of this time of great change, one thing has remained constant: Missio Dei, God’s mission. The mission work of The United Methodist Church continues and would not be possible without the prayers, generosity or support of laity, leaders and local churches. Thank you.
As we look toward the future, we know God’s mission continues through the work of Global Ministries. With this in mind, local churches and laity are invited to join in giving love, joy, hope and peace through the mission and disaster response agency’s end-of-year campaign. Between November 1 and December 31, churches will have the opportunity to share stories of the transformational work of The Advance and discover how financial gifts made through The Advance impact lives with their congregations.
Global Ministries connects the church in mission through evangelism and church growth, missionaries, global health and disaster response and recovery. Every contribution makes a difference in this important work.
Help us spread the word by visiting ResourceUMC.org/GiveLove to access resources to aid church leaders and laity to share how they can support God’s mission and participate in the GIVE: LOVE, JOY, HOPE, PEACE campaign.
Since 1948, support of The Advance, the designated mission giving channel of the church, has raised funds that positively affect change within communities and empower individuals across the globe. Thanks to faithful giving, The Advance has funneled more than $1 billion to thousands of people, equipping ministries worldwide.
For additional information and resources about the GIVE: LOVE, JOY, HOPE, PEACE campaign, click the button below. resources
U.S. Bishops call for full participation in November elections
WASHINGTON, D.C. – United Methodist bishops based in the United States today issued a statement on Faith and Democracy, calling on the people of The United Methodist Church to support voter registration and encourage people to vote in the November 3 elections. continue reading
Bishop Hagiya’s Briefing (October 5, 2020)
We are living in a time of totally uncertainty. There are a lot more adjectives we can cite: dislocation, disillusionment, disorientation, and dis-ease. The only thing that is certain in our times is uncertainty. continue reading
Bishop Hagiya’s Briefing (September 21, 2020)
Upon hearing of the news of the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I went into a deep sadness, but even deeper depression that evening. “RBG” as she is affectionally referred to, was not only a renowned Supreme Court Justice, but a towering example of fairness, justice and compassion. To lose someone of this stature in our divided and polarized society made me mourn what will happen next. The political divide will jump on the implications of naming her replacement on the Supreme Court, and even though her life exemplified fairness, her death will be used to continue the polarization and divide we are facing as a nation. continue reading
Rev. James M. Lawson Jr. Honored with “Reverend James M. Lawson, Jr. Day” by Los Angeles County
Honor grandparents with the #IGiveUMC campaign
Now through September 13, the #IGiveUMC campaign is highlighting grandparents and the blessings they offer in their families, communities and churches. Show gratitude for grandparents and support your local church by launching an #IGiveUMC campaign in your community! A suite of downloadable resources is available in five languages. download now
Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month
Hispanic Heritage Month begins on September 15! Invite your community to attend special events and worship services with the help of outreach resources crafted specifically for this important celebration. Customize and order postcards, invitation cards and a banner, available in English and Spanish. order resources
Order ‘Stand Against Racism’ T-shirts
Planning to attend an event, community gathering, special worship service or demonstration in support of racial justice? Order a “United Methodists Stand Against Racism” T-shirt for yourself or your group! Sizes S-3XL are available, in both long- and short-sleeved styles. order today
Did you know?
World Communion Sunday funds education for church leadership in The UMC. Half of the gifts made on this Special Sunday will benefit World Communion Scholars, students pursuing expertise in a wide range of fields as they follow God’s call to serve communities and churches around the world. learn more
Dismantling Racism panel discussion: Sept. 16
Mark your calendar for the next Dismantling Racism panel discussion event, titled “The Theological Roots of Racism and Colonialism.” On September 16 at noon CT, panelists will discuss how the church has the ability to theologically interpret our current realities, naming where God is present and where humanity is called to help bring about the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Join us 9/16 at noon CT
Extend invitations to connect
People are yearning to be a part of a caring community. Invite them to visit yours, whether in person or online! Take a moment to explore, customize and order fall outreach resources, including postcards, banners, yard signs and more. Use coupon code UMCF20 to get up to $150 off these resources for your local church! order now
UMCOR Responding to Hurricane Laura Needs
UMCOR-trained Emergency Response Teams have been responding to the critical needs of people impacted by Hurricane Laura since the storm made landfall last week.
The most urgent need is for funds to purchase water, generators and fuel and to supply transportation, food, and personal protective equipment for volunteers. Residents and volunteers cannot stay in the affected areas due to the damage and a strict curfew imposed to ensure public safety. Volunteers must travel each day between badly damaged areas and supply hubs.
UMCOR-trained volunteers are already at work assisting people – will you please help?
Your help is needed, today, to provide the tangible items necessary for relief work. give now
Dual Threat of COVID-19 and Malaria
While people around the world are wearing masks and exercising social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19, mosquitos are doing neither!
Every 2 minutes, a child dies of malaria according to a 2019 study released by the World Health Organization. And at a time when the infectious disease of the coronavirus poses worldwide danger, the insect-borne disease of Malaria is still at large.
And yet, there are simple and effective interventions for both diseases. You can give them to the world’s most vulnerable populations.
In over 300 partnering hospitals and clinics, gifts from people like you are helping to provide essential services in the ongoing fight against malaria and now, COVID-19:
- Accessible health facilities staffed by medical professionals
- Vaccinations and prenatal care for pregnant women
- Water, sanitation and hygiene facilities
- Mosquito nets
- Masks, gloves and hand sanitizers
Deaths have been cut in half since 2000 thanks, in part, to efforts such as The United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria campaign. The spread of COVID-19 is being mitigated by Global Ministries’ Water, Sanitation and Hygiene facilities.
Essential services provided at UMC-partnering health facilities are effective, affordable and needed now more than ever! give now
Bishop Hagiya’s Briefing (September 7, 2020)
As we enter into our sixth month of social isolation and no real end to the Coronavirus infections, we are seeing the more long-term effects of this devastating disease. Secondary, yet just as worrisome, are the anxiety and depression that is settling in among our society. continue reading
Toiletry Kit Ministry Helping Asylum Seekers, Migrants and Immigrants (Disaster Response)
How does one start a new ministry? Sometimes it is just a matter of offering to help existing ministries.
The California-Pacific Disaster Response Task Force recognized last fall that the humanitarian crisis on our southern border is a disaster in which our Task Force should be taking a more active role. The Disaster Response Task Force has since become more involved with the Cal-Pac Immigration Task Force in searching for ways to address the problems facing asylum seekers, immigrants and migrants.
The Lord must have heard the people crying out for help. This spring, the Disaster Response Task Force received a large donation of hotel hospitality items (shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, disposable razors, toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc). What to do? continue reading
VBS, pandemic style
Summer is synonymous with Vacation Bible School (VBS). But VBS, pandemic style, requires pairing safety with creativity. continue reading
Bishop Hagiya’s Briefing (July 27, 2020)
I am teaching United Methodist Polity this summer, and as I go through the material, I can’t help but to filter our Book of Discipline and secondary resources on polity through the lens of COVID-19. continue reading
Bishop Hagiya’s Emergency Health Care Briefing (July 14, 2020)
By now you have probably heard that Governor Gavin Newsom has ordered that all in-person worship services cannot meet in almost all counties in California. continue reading
2020 COVID-19 Update from Bishop Hagiya
As predicted by our health experts, COVID-19 cases are continuing to spike after normalizing with social distancing. Thinking only of re-election, many of our politicians rushed to reopen too soon, and we are seeing the dire consequences playing out before our eyes. continue reading
Pride Worship 2020 (Video)
During this season of pandemic and stay at home orders, many Pride celebrations have been cancelled. The LGBTQIA+ community of the UMC are now having to wait an additional fifteen months longer for a decision from General Conference, continue reading
What does the United Methodist Church say about Racism
The 2020 killings of three African Americans — George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, who died at the hands of police, and Ahmaud Arbery, chased and shot to death by two individuals — sparked a national outcry against white supremacy and institutional racism, a protest that has now spread globally.