•  — Edited

    Bishop Cedric Bridgeforth (R) and husband Christopher Hucks-Ortiz (photo by Patrick Scriven, PNWUMC)

    A New Day is Dawning, by Pastor David

    My Beloved Church Family and Friends,

    As we welcome our new Bishop (Rev. Dr. Cedric Bridgeforth – speaking in the foreground above), I think most of you know there are Sea-Changes (profound, notable) taking place in the United Methodist Church. The next General Conference will be held April 23 to May 3, 2024 (just 14 months from this writing) at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. This will be the moment when final plans are adopted to either create two new Methodist denominations, or to merely change the current church laws in the existing UMC. 

    Our local church family needs to recognize these coming changes and the implications that will arrive with them. In our most recent regional news, the Western Jurisdiction elected Rev. Dr. Cedrick Bridgeforth as our new Bishop. Bishop Bridgeforth began leading the Pacific Northwest, Oregon-Idaho, and Alaska Conferences on January 1, 2023. Before his election, he was the Director of Communications and Innovation for the Cal-Pac Conference. 

    You may or may not be aware of the fact that Bishop Bridgeforth is a married, gay man. His husband is Christopher Hucks-Ortiz (standing to his right). The Western Jurisdiction now has two married, gay/lesbian bishops: Rev. Cedrick Bridgeforth and Rev. Karen Oliveto. You can read more about Bishop Bridgeforth in this article from the Western Jurisdiction:

    https://westernjurisdictionumc.org/news/. What I just wrote may mean nothing to you at all. It might be a jubilant cause for celebration for some, and it might be grievous and sad news for others. This is the world of deeply held differing social mores we live in. 

    These responses also describe perspectives found in the broader Christian church. The best thing we can do, as Christians who are in conscientious disagreement with each other on these issues of gender identity and human sexual mores, is to follow the admonition of the Apostle Paul, who said, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15 NIV). That means be sensitive to what others are thinking/feeling on this issue and meet them in that place. Meeting them does not mean pretending to agree with them. It means acknowledging what this moment means to them, how it impacts them, and sensitively expressing awareness and either congratulations or sympathy. 

    Many of you know that I am a Traditionalist and Conservative/Orthodox when it comes to these divisive issues. I hope you also know that I want the church to be a place that is safe and accessible and welcoming for all people no matter what their background or beliefs. I also don’t believe it is a holy or good thing to label people who believe differently than me on these issues (or any others). Labels are contrary to God’s Kingdom, are demonizing instead of edifying, and are counter-productive to healthy relationships. I renounce these practices as evil. These sentiments are contrary to neighbor love and the witness of grace and mercy. 

    I am asking you to respect the confession of faith of our new Bishop, even if you disagree with his sexual identity and practices. I am asking you to respect the office he holds and the covenant relationship we have with the PNW Annual Conference. I am asking you to choose your future prayerfully, graciously, and devotedly. Jesus wants you to be an “all-in” disciple and follower. As Joshua said: “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15). Here’s what I believe you should do: Either (1) Dive in deeper into our important UMC church and minister fervently in this coming, broader inclusivity to make each day count, or (2) plan to replant your spiritual pilgrimage in another local body in Oak Harbor, as you leave graciously and peacefully, while offering encouraging sentiments and gratitude for your spiritual siblings as you go. Whatever your conviction and commitment, choose to “Do no harm” and to “Do all the good you can” (John Wesley). 

    Bishop Bridgeforth has introduced himself to us via a personal video testimony. You can watch his nine-minute introduction at this link: https://vimeo.com/784668057/8ca518f59e. In his introduction, he affirms the reality and scope of our denominational strife as being greater than a mere complication or an issue that has come up. It is indeed a sea-change moment. Regarding our response to our great divide, he offers this reflection: 

    “If folks feel they can no longer be United Methodist, that’s fine, that’s a great thing for someone to be clear about. And so, I believe on one hand, we have to be ok with blessing people to go to be the faithful disciples that they feel they are called to be, wherever God is calling them to be faithful disciples. And for those who remain United Methodists, I believe it’s hopeful and helpful for us to become even clearer about why we have made that choice, and we haven’t made a choice to remain United Methodist because some people left, but we remain United Methodist because we believe in the strength of Wesleyan grace. Do we believe in the strength of being connected? Do we believe that serving together is better than just serving on our own? Do we believe that there is truly hope in Jesus Christ? Do we believe that we have a message of salvation and resurrection that can resonate in this season and in coming seasons? So for me, I’ll preach that, I’ll teach that, I want to organize us so that we are delivering that message in every way possible.”

    I appreciate our Bishop’s call to clarity and choices regarding our future as disciples of Jesus Christ. I am a proudly ordained UMC pastor (by choice and by calling) who has served in full time appointments for 32 years. I have always made my convictions known on these divisive issues without brandishing them as a club for conformity. The Bible says, “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12 NIV). Everyone is responsible and accountable to God for their own journey in following Jesus. Give yourself, and other people, the gracious space they need to do that. 

    As for me, I will eventually be joining (realigning my ministry calling and service) the new Global Methodist Church (GMC – https://globalmethodist.org/) in the future. I will do that as a gift to myself (for conscience’s sake) and as a gift to those who yearn for a different kind of church communion (showing deference & spiritual courtesy to my progressive brothers and sisters). This is a space-making moment in our larger church. I hope our actions (from both sides) can come with the notions that our siblings in disagreement with us need a space to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.” 

    The New York Times recently published a very significant article on how we move forward in a divided, pluralistic culture (and church). In her article entitled, “Why Pluralism Matters” (December 4, 2022), Rev. Tish Harrison Warren (a Priest in the Anglican Church in North America), commends us to embrace, and express, “a spirit of mutual love and honesty, a spirit of reaching however clumsily across differences to support one another, a spirit that doesn’t expect agreement and works for peace.” Legal battles, in and over culture, are almost always toxic, divisive, and demonizing. Christians need to be committed to Democracy and not “State Theocracy.” State mandated religious and moral conformity (however well intended), has had universal oppressive effects on cultures around the world. Rev. Harrison-Warren holds a unique and helpful slant on a better approach:

    “Pluralism is not the same as relativism – we don’t have to pretend that there is no right or wrong or that beliefs don’t matter. It is instead a commitment to form a society where individuals and groups who hold profoundly different and mutually opposed beliefs are welcome at the table of public life. It is rooted in love of neighbor and asks us to extend the same freedoms to others that we ourselves want to enjoy. Without a commitment to pluralism, we are left with a society that either forces conformity or splinters and falls apart.”

    It would be my hope that our OHFUMC Family, no matter how we conceive and align our future, would be open to receiving all persons into our fellowship who are ready and willing to participate as a pilgrim follower of Jesus Christ. If you are curious about why traditionalists are forming a new denomination, the best resource I can send you to is a series of six brief videos (1.5 hours combined) on YouTube by Rev. Rob Renfroe of Good News Magazine. He explains the current divisions within the United Methodist Church and discusses how Traditionalist Methodists should navigate future decisions.

    Good News Video Series: Differences that Divide the UMC


    No matter what we face in life, there is only one appropriate way to live: with gratitude for the past and hope for the future. Anything else is disgruntled survival. Let’s live better! Let’s help each other soar. 

    Many Blessings,

    David Parker 😊

    1. North Whidbey Help House warehouse, image by David Parker

      Mission Highlight: Help House Tour

      On Wednesday, January 11 at 3 pm, eleven of us met at North Whidbey Help House for a tour of our local food bank. Jean Wieman, the Executive Director, began the tour with information on the area served, guidelines, funding, and statistics. A few highlights: area is Deception Pass to Greenbank, 90% of their operating budget comes from private donations from the community, administration cost is 6%, and the senior population they serve has increased 6% since Covid. The amount of food received is determined by size of family and given twice a month, produce and bread twice a week. They have customers with special dietary needs so when they receive donations that fit these needs they are set aside for the individuals. They have a large walk in freezer, and regular size refrigerators so they are able to accept such donations. They also accept pet foods, hygiene items and home grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Please keep this in mind when you have too much in your garden or grow a row to donate.

      They are currently in need of volunteers in the food room Tuesdays from 1:00 to 5:00 and Wednesdays from 1:00 to 4:00. Call 360-675-0681 or email northwhidbeyhelp@yahoo.com if you would like more information, sign up to volunteer or wish to have a tour.

      Thanks for your ongoing support of this local mission!

      Cheryl Toner

      Mission Outreach Team Leader

      1. Bishops Dottie Escobedo-Frank, Cedrick Bridgeforth, and Carlo A. Rapanut at their Consecration Service, November 5, 2022. Image by Patrick Scriven, PNWUMC.

        Western Jurisdictional Conference Report by Erin

        As I shared in anticipation last month, last week our United Methodist Jurisdictional Conferences were held across the five US Jurisdictions. I was elected as a lay reserve delegate, but had the opportunity to participate in our Western Jurisdictional Conference in Salt Lake City as an active delegate due to other lay delegates not being able to attend.

        Our biggest focus was electing three new episcopal leaders (bishops) to replace three of our bishops who have recently or are about to retire. We entered the conference with 32 episcopal candidates discerning their call, and the first day brought a certifying ballot that reduced that pool to 18 candidates. We then had opportunities to get to know the candidates as they gave brief speeches about how they see the office of the bishop evolving, participated in a situation room activity to work collaboratively with other candidates, and engaged individually with delegations to share more about themselves and learn about each annual conference’s specific needs and values.

        There are 100 delegates total in the Western Jurisdiction, though the most we ever had voting were 97 due to absences. In order to be elected, a candidate must receive 67% of the votes. We cast ballots throughout the first three days of the conference as we worked toward getting enough votes for one or more candidates to be elected, but no elections happened until the third day. We finally had our first election on the 13th ballot, electing Rev. Carlo A. Rapanut, from the Alaska Conference. The Rev. Dr. Cedrick Bridgeforth was our second election, finally reaching the votes threshold on the 18th ballot. Cedrick is from the California-Pacific Conference. Shortly after, the 19th ballot brought our third and final election, Rev. Dr. Dottie Escobedo-Frank, coming from the Desert Southwest Conference. All three were consecrated Saturday afternoon.

        Once the new bishops were elected and celebrated, the Committee on Episcopacy met to determine where to appoint each bishop. They met with each of the five bishops to gain an understanding of their personal and family dynamics and needs, as well as considered the needs and values of each episcopal area. The assignments the committee presented and the conference body approved were: Bishop Karen Oliveto to the Mountain Sky Area (where she has served since 2016), Bishop Cedrick Bridgeforth to the Greater Northwest Area (this includes our conference, Alaska, and Oregon-Idaho), Bishop Carlo A. Rapanut to the Desert Southwest Conference, Bishop Dottie Escobedo-Frank to the California-Pacific Conference, and Bishop Minerva Carcaño to the California-Nevada Conference (where she is currently assigned).

        I am very excited that Bishop Cedrick will be coming to our conference starting January 1, 2023! In addition to his pastoral ministry, he has experience with organizational leadership, innovation and communication, and community outreach and involvement. In our conference’s delegation meeting with him, he shared several initiative ideas that a conference could take on, including some environmentally conscious efforts that double as outreach.

        While electing bishops consumed most of our time at Jurisdictional Conference, there were several other legislative items that came before the body and were approved. Some to note include:

        • “Rejection of the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation” – While the Protocol was relevant leading up to the 2020 General Conference, the body approved the rejection of the Protocol as the Global Methodist Church has already launched without it.

        • “Endorse Christmas Covenant Legislation" – The Christmas Covenant values “respect for contextual ministry settings, connectional relationships rooted in mission, and legislative equality for regional bodies of the church.” It would establish a US Regional Conference and allow for global regions to have some different rules based on their individual contexts.

        • “Leading with Integrity” – With respect and gratitude, this resolution calls on all United Methodists to move forward in fairness and with integrity, asking all who intend to disaffiliate from the UMC to recuse themselves from leadership roles.

        • “Queer Delegates’ Call To Center Justice And Empowerment For LGBTQIA+ People In The UMC” – This exact same legislation was brought to each of the five US Jurisdictional Conferences, and all five approved it. While the Western Jurisdiction is known to be the most progressive in the US, it is notable that even our more conservative jurisdictions passed this resolution.

        • “Establishment of a task force to study and bring recommendations related to permeable boundaries to the 2024 Western Jurisdiction Conference" – This encourages more resource sharing across our Jurisdiction.

        • “Officially Establish Western Jurisdiction Committee on Native American Ministries (WJCoNAM) and support the creation of a Jurisdictional Native American Ministry Plan” – This resolution established WJCoNAM and allocated funds for its implementation and ministry.

        To read more details about the conference, new bishops and episcopal candidates, legislation, and more, go to the Western Jurisdiction website. Or get in touch with me and I’ll gladly chat with you about it!

        - Erin

        1. Image by Maja Petric on Unsplash

          Tomorrow Begins Today! by Pastor David

          “On the first day of the week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.”

          1 Corinthians 16:2

          2023 is right around the corner, and with it comes opportunities and challenges to invest our time, talents, treasures, and testimonies in the Kingdom of God. All followers of Jesus are called to commit to this sacred enterprise of partnership and investment. King David modeled that well for his nation and people:

          “In my devotion to the temple of God, I now give my personal 

           treasures of gold and silver for the temple of my God.” 

          1 Chronicles 29:3

          At FUMC, one of our five chosen core values is Extravagant Generosity! Perhaps more than any other character attribute, the practice of Extravagant Generosity showcases the heart of the Father who is all about giving His highest and best for us. To be generous is to be selfless. To be generous is to be moved and motivated to enjoy adding value to other people’s lives. 

          Generosity, in a Christian stewardship context, is all about the desire (and deep satisfaction) that comes from investing our lives in the things of God. Deploying our resources for the Lord’s purposes is the will of the Father. Doing those things with a great sense of excited joy, partnership, and fulfilling adventure is much more about the size of the heart than the size of the gift. This is the “responsibility” that every Christ follower has. 

          “We also assume the responsibility for bringing to the house of the Lord each year the FIRSTFRUITS of our crops and of every tree.”

          Nehemiah 10:35

          As we approach the coming year, Cara and I will continue what we have practiced our entire marriage. We live out our discipleship by being committed to a FIRST FRUITS lifestyle. That means we give the first and best of our resources to God. We believe that our full tithe belongs in our local church, just as the Bible says, 

          “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse (the treasury room of the sanctuary), that there may be food in my house”

          Malachi 3:10

          Please pray and pledge for 2023 what you believe God is calling you to share in our financial ministry partnership. We will pray over all our received pledges on Commitment Sunday, December 11th, as we dedicate our lives and giving to the Lord. Cara and I will be committing our lives to a full tithe of our gross income to the church operating budget. But in reality, we see our giving as to Jesus and his kingdom. Making the Lordship of Jesus Christ central in our lives and faith, means taking seriously God’s call to…

          “Bring the best of the first fruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.”

          Exodus 23:19

          Bringing our FIRST and our BEST to God in every area of life is what stewardship and Christian maturity is all about. When everyone gives, it ensures that our operating budget will be strong and uncompromised by designated giving or by challenging times of recession. May God challenge us and stretch us all in our faith and discipleship as together we seek to become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ!

          Excelling in this grace TOGETHER!

          - Pastor David