Bishop’s address: In the midst of turmoil, run toward love


Even in the midst of uncertainty about the future of the United Methodist Church; even as we sometimes feel like things are crumbling and we can’t all agree on recognizing our differences there is still opportunity to live and love boldly, Bishop Elaine Stanovsky proclaimed during her Episcopal address to open the 50th session of the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.

She reminded laity and clergy sitting inside Boise First United Methodist Church, Cathedral of the Rockies, Wednesday night of the scripture introduced last year from Luke 10: 25-37 and how a lawyer testing Jesus on how to live eternally is both a call to live boldly in Jesus response and subsequent parable of the Good Samaritan.

“Who is my neighbor?” the lawyer asks Jesus in scripture.

Stanovsky said in her address Wednesday night that the way you treat a person makes them a stranger or a neighbor.

“That is a lot of authority,” Stanovsky said.

There is a lot to lament in the church and in this world right now, she said. From tightened budgets and closed churches to immigrant families being torn apart and school shootings a regular occurrence. The United Methodist Church is at the precipice of change with a special General Conference being held in St. Louis in February to declare the church’s position and way forward on human sexuality (see Rev. Donna Pritchard’s report below).

But Stanovsky said the church cannot stop reaching out – acting in love – and being neighbors to others while these hefty decisions are made.

She pointed to the image of a labyrinth – a special maze with a winding path to follow that eventually ends up in the center. If everyone is following a labyrinth and we’re all at different points on the path, Stanovsky said it’s a way we can look at our differences and perhaps find unity because we all want to get to that center.

This is a crossover year for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference. For the United Methodist Church as a whole, she said.

“The conflict is beyond our control. But how we will be engaged with people who hunger and thirst for a kind word, a generous hand, an authentic conversation is totally within our control,” Stanovsky said. “We don’t have to sit passively by and wait for General Conference to make a decision.”

She looked into the crowd of people who she surmised are interested in authentic innovation and vitality – people interested in loving and living.

“We don’t have to be passive. We’ve got the authority to be neighbors,” she said. “Run for it.”

Kay Graven, a lay delegate from Falls City UMC, said the Bishop’s message resonated loudly with her.

“The whole definition of who our neighbor is and the connection to the Good Samaritan was great,” she said. “We can set our mind and our hearts in the direction that works for us.”