By the Rev. Cara Scriven | Tacoma District Superintendent
Over the last year, my eldest daughter has steadily grown taller. As she stands on her tip toes, she jokes that she is taller than me. I, in turn, push her shoulders down and remind her that she is not taller than me yet. However, inside of me, I know that this is a losing battle. Mostly likely by the end of the year, she will overcome that last inch. Change is hard.
At the Western Jurisdictional Conference a few weeks ago, the delegates elected a new bishop, the Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto who pastors Glide Memorial, the largest United Methodist church in the California-Nevada Conference. While delegates elected the person they thought would make the best bishop, some challenge this election. The United Methodist Church has been debating the issue of full inclusion of the LBTQIA+ community for over 40 years. Change is hard especially when the church as a whole is divided on how to move forward together, if at all.
Around the same time, my daughter became a teenager. I knew this was coming from the moment she was born, but I could not anticipate how hard it would be to accept that she is no longer the “little girl” I cuddled with so many years ago. This is not to say that I do not love who she is becoming and the young lady that is evolving before my eyes. But change is hard.
When Bishop Grant Hagiya was assigned as our episcopal leader 8 years ago, we knew that he would not be with us forever. As we approached the Western Jurisdictional Conference earlier this month, there was some speculation about whether Bishop Grant would continue to serve this Greater Northwest Area. We knew there was a potential for change and yet, when it was announced that he was moving, it caught us all by surprise. While we are sad that Bishop Grant is moving, we look forward to Bishop Elaine Stanovsky’s assignment here and the insight she will bring as one who grew up in the greater northwest. Yet, change is hard no matter how long we prepare for it.
During times of change, everything seems uncertain. Decisions and programs are put on hold as everyone involved waits to see what happens next. This time can also be unsettling for individuals as we search for where we belong amidst the swirling changes. When encountering change, some may even be tempted to purchase higher heels, metaphorically speaking of course.
However, even in times of uncertainty, there are things that stay the same. I will still be your district superintendent and pray for you regularly. In turn, I hope that you will still trust me to care and advocate for you regardless of your theological position. I believe that together we can continue to build the kingdom of God and transform the world that so desperately needs the love and peace that Christ offers each one of us; I know we still have much to learn from each other along the way.
I suspect that there are many questions about what happens next. For example: What will the new bishop expect of us? Will we still have the same vision for the conference? What will the election of Bishop Oliveto mean to our district, conference, and general church?
I do not yet have clear answers to these and the many other questions that are being asked; I recognize a certain anxiety in this for myself and perhaps for some of you. All the same, I take hope in remembering that God can prompt new life to spring out of the cauldrons of our uncertainty. We do not need to fear change; there are times where we need to wait, discern, and trust in the faithfulness of others.
During charge conferences this fall, we will spend some of our time in a question & answer session where we will discuss as many of your questions as possible. I promise you I won’t have all the answers, but I will walk with you as we discover them together.
May God fill your spirit in this time of uncertainty with peace and patience.
Image Credit: “Slink High Heels” by Flickr user Gidge Uriza, CC BY-SA 2.0.
Cara, a college professor, 60 years ago, told our class that the “Only certainty was change.” That was true in 1956 and it is still true today. I am proud of my conference, the New England Annual Conference, because they, like your annual conference and four others have accepted our LBGTQAI sisters and brothers into FULL inclusion. This means that same gender couples can marry in their church. It means that in these six annual conferences that and, after graduating a three or four year progressive seminary, they can be ordained as UMC clerics in one of those six conferences. One’s height, eye color, ethnicity, or sexual orientation, in no way compromises their competency.