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Jul 18 A Pastoral Letter to the Greater Northwest Area from Bishop Grant Hagiya
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Without a doubt, this is the hardest letter that I have had to write as your Bishop of the Greater Northwest Area. As you have heard by now, the Western Jurisdiction Committee on Episcopacy has assigned me to the Los Angeles Area, and I will be starting there on September 1, 2016.
I have to be honest, this news caught me completely by surprise, and I have been reeling from it ever since. Although United Methodist bishops are subject to reassignment every four years, and the standard term is for eight years or two terms, I was hoping that the work that we have started could have been completed by coming back for one more quadrennium. I was more confident of returning than not, and in my human folly, did not anticipate the possibility of really moving. Oh, I realized it was a possibility, but perhaps because I did not want to face that fact, psychologically distanced myself from that reality.
We plan – God laughs, and this sums up well my human sinfulness. I had not planned to move, but God had other intentions. It is once again a reminder that we are not in charge of our lives, and had I truly left this in the hands of God, I would not be in this state of shock.
The prevailing symbol of my calendar book, scribbled with events in date blocks of things I had planned for the Greater Northwest serves as a reminder of my folly. Had I left this in the hands of God, no future dates would have been made. In fact, if I really turned my life to God, I would have thrown away my calendar completely!
Which brings me back to the reason for this last pastoral letter to you all. It is to say goodbye, and to sincerely thank you for being in ministry with me these past years. It was a wild ride we were on, and I think we are posed to do great things in the near future. All of the signs of vitality are right there for us, and like Moses not being able to enter the promised land, I will not be able to go there with you. I do know that you will get there, and that is very comforting – not completely satisfying, but very comforting.
Those of you who know me well realize that I tend to suppress deep emotional outbursts, and in not facing some of the hard possibilities of life like having to leave people you care deeply for, you put off for tomorrow that which you should be facing today. That’s simply me, and that is why I am in this predicament of not being truly ready to leave. But what I have come to realize is these deep seated emotions of care tend to flood out at the most inappropriate of times, and I am somewhat glad that I didn’t embarrass myself in front of all you at annual conference or other big occasions.
However, this is also the hard evidence of how much I love all of you, and why I have so much gratitude for the time we have spent together. It is also why I wanted to end my episcopal career with all of you – to be the only area that I was able to serve. You also know that I don’t like “touchy-feely” reactions, and I have crossed way over that line already!
However, truly believing in servant leadership, I must model the itinerant system that was at the heart of John Wesley’s ecclesiology. As difficult as it is to have to accept that, I do so as a servant of Christ, realizing once again that it is not my plans, but God’s plans that must be obeyed and followed.
In closing, and by way of a final goodbye, let me share how much my time with all of you has meant to me. You have formed me and molded me into the servant leader I am today, and my only response is one of profound gratitude…
Be the Hope,
Bishop Grant J. Hagiya
July 16, 2016
The Alaska United Methodist Conference
1660 Patterson Street, Anchorage, AK 99504
907-333-5050 phone — 907-333-2304 fax
www.alaskaumc.org — firstname.lastname@example.org
Bishop: Rev. Grant J. Hagiya
Superintendent: Rev. Carlo A. Rapanut
On Friday, July 15, 2016, the Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto was elected to the episcopacy on the 17th ballot by the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church (UMC). Oliveto becomes the first openly gay bishop in the denomination.
Oliveto has served as the senior pastor of Glide Memorial UMC in San Francisco. Glide is the Western Jurisdiction’s largest membership congregation, and one of the top 100 largest membership congregations in the denomination. She has many gifts and graces for leadership in the life of the church and has been a leader across the denomination and across denominational lines. While voting delegates are not of one mind and heart about LGTBQIA inclusion in the church, they agreed that Rev. Dr. Oliveto is a skilled pastor and gifted preacher and will be an inspirational leader.
In Alaska, welcome is a part of who we are. Our mission statement says, in part, “Held and supported by the transforming relationship with God through Christ, we of the Alaska United Methodist Conference seek to be a community that creates a home for all peoples, finds our hope through grace and journeys together into God’s preferred future.”
I know and understand that we are not of one mind and heart on the matter of full inclusion of LGTBQIA persons into our church. Neither is our Jurisdiction. Neither is our denomination or our nation. However, I would ask that you join with me in prayer that this might be part of our journey into that “preferred future” we seek through God’s grace and that we would lift up Bishop Oliveto in prayer as well.
There are many details to sort through at a denominational level pertaining to Oliveto’s episcopacy and I know that you may have joys or concerns that you may want to share with me and others in leadership as we live into what this means for our church and our conference. I am very willing to have such conversations in the near future.
The work of General, Jurisdictional and Annual Conferences is behind us. However, the work of the church is ever before us. Our mission of making disciples for the transformation of the world continues to call us to be in ministry in the communities where we are in ways that are relevant. We have neighbors and towns across Alaska to love with the love of Jesus. We have people in the margins and even more people outside those margins eagerly waiting for us to continue “drawing the circle wider” to include as
Jesus, whom we profess to believe and follow, did. Our world is hurting on so many levels and needs the witness of the peace and grace of Christ.
As you may know by now, I will be in the Philippines for a month beginning Tuesday for a much needed Sabbath with my family. During that time, I plan to be unplugged and pray that you will respect that. I do commit to holding all of you, our churches, our Alaska Conference and our United Methodist Church in prayer as I go. May we all be journeying into God’s preferred future.
Your fellow disciple,
Rev. Carlo A. Rapanut