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IN SUPPORT OF OUR NATION’S FOUNDING PRIVILEGE, THE RIGHT TO VOTE IN A FREE ELECTION
As November 3rd nears, many of us in the Desert Southwest Conference are preparing to vote or have already cast our ballots. This is a precious right that is ours because our nation is built on the concept of a “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” Yet, there is considerable anxiety around the elections. Your Conference leadership is deeply concerned about the elections and offer our wisdom and our prayers as we move toward November 3rd. Here are some support and resources for you:

 

A statement that reflects our concerns, written by South District Superintendent, Matt Ashley:

Dear Clergy and Lay Leaders,

We are grateful for your faithful leadership during this most difficult time in the world. Between COVID-19, George Floyd, the national election, and more, you have been tried and tested on a daily basis for situations with no obvious pre-planned response.Many people are concerned about the possibility of violence before, during, and after the national election on Nov. 3rd. The leadership of the Desert Southwest Conference would like to share some resources and suggestions to help you prepare for different possibilities.Praying for Safety on Your Church Campus and In Your Community
If your church has an approved reopening plan, you are welcome to encourage your church to meet in small groups on campus to pray for a safe election season, using appropriate COVID-19 safety precautions. If you don’t have an approved reopening plan, please consider inviting members of your congregation to stop by the church individually for prayer.Spiritual and Theological Considerations
Our prayers for peace may be grounded in a Wesleyan theological understanding of God’s goodness and love for all humanity. One of the three simple rules attributed to John Wesley’s practical theology is to do no harm. As United Methodists, we support the right to peacefully protest, but we cannot affirm violence.

We remember that Jesus stopped the violent response of one of his followers in Gethsemane, saying, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) As followers of Jesus, we are inspired by the peaceful movements of Gandhi and MLK, who demonstrated the awesome moral authority of peaceful demonstration.

Remembering our call to grow in love with God, we can trust in God’s presence and faithfulness, rather than letting fear and anxiety control us.

Remembering our call to do no harm, we can honor the image of God in each person, even and especially in those with whom we disagree.

Remembering our call to do good, we can model respectful conversation and peaceful participation in the election process.

And we can live joyfully, giving thanks for the deep well of democratic tradition that guides our nation’s politics. Our system is far from perfect, but it has helped us to meet many grave challenges in our nation’s history. I believe it is enduring enough to help us meet present challenges too.

Developing a Safety Plan for Election Season
Many of our churches serve as polling places on Election Day. We invite the pastors, leadership teams, and Trustees in the DSC to talk now about how to handle campus security concerns during this contentious year. Developing a good safety plan now will help you if any unfortunate circumstances arise on campus during this election season. Please consider these suggestions:

  • Talk as soon as possible with city and county election officials, as they can help you find the local resources you need to keep your campus safe.
  • Talk with your neighborhood association about how the neighborhood will respond if there is trouble. Research non-partisan fair elections organizations ahead of time to see what help they can give you in responding to concerns.
  • Develop a safety plan to follow in the event of trouble, with clear lines of decision-making authority. Identifying ahead of time who will be responsible for key tasks will be invaluable.
  • Some churches are being creative in how they encourage a safe and fair election. You could, for instance, organize volunteers who are willing to accompany others to go and vote on Nov. 3rd. There is safety in numbers – socially distanced safety in numbers during this season of COVID-19, of course!
  • Consider ahead of time, as much as possible, what range of ministries your church will be prepared to offer if tragedy occurs. Could your facility be available to emergency responders or serve as an evacuation site for your neighborhood? Could you offer emergency aid? Would you host community vigils or prayer meetings? What other needs might your church fill?
  • COVID-19 precautions might not be foremost in your mind in the event tragedy occurs, but plan ahead on how you can best follow the safety precautions you’ve developed in your Comprehensive Re-Opening Plan.

If There Is Violence at Your Church

  • Persistently communicate the need for church members and leaders to quickly lead others to a safe place (identified ahead of time if possible) if violence occurs.
  • If something of concern does happen, the pastor or other key church leader should contact your District Superintendent and Conference Communications Office as soon as possible so conference leadership can assist you in your response.

Links That May Be Helpful
Resources offered by our General Board of Church and Society:
Support for Free, Fair and Safe Elections in the U.S.
A Statement by Rev. Dr. Susan Henry Crowe, General Secretary
A Prayer Service for the upcoming U.S. Election

Statements related to safety in our churches, especially those churches serving as polling places
Contributed by Dan Hurlbert, here are some fact sheets on “what to do if you encounter armed militia at the polls” prepared by Georgetown Law School for Arizona and Nevada:

If tragedy strikes, who will be the spokesperson for your church, and what is helpful for them to communicate? Contact your District Superintendent or the Conference Communications Office for materials to help you develop a Crisis Communications Plan for your church.

We Will Be Praying For You
Let us ask God to bring out the best in our neighbors, to bring out the best in our country as we do our civic duty. We are richly blessed. May we work together to peacefully elect our leaders and to realize a vision of liberty and justice for all people.

A Prayer for you to include in your personal or corporate prayer life, composed by DS N. Susan Brims:
God of life and mercy, we praise you for your presence which reveals to us the meaning and power of grace. We come to you during this time of deep division. It seems as if this time of waiting for our nation’s elections has been a long season, filled with anger and animosity. All that we hear on the news and read in the media makes it more important for us to listen to your voice as we cast our ballots. As we prayerfully consider how to vote, help us to move beyond the rhetoric in order that we might be able to better discern how the candidates will embrace and embody the values we read in your word, the highest values of our faith.

In the days after the election may we find ways to work together for the healing of our nation, so that all may live in a land that truly has justice and equality for all people. May we, who follow your ways, be witnesses of what love looks like in all that we say in all that we do. Empower us to pray for those who give their lives to public service, that they may hear your voice and lead in grace-filled ways.

As we pray for the elections this year, hear us as we sing these words from “For Everyone Born.”

For just and unjust, a place at the table,
abuser, abused, with need to forgive,
in anger, in hurt, a mindset of mercy,
for just and unjust, a new way to live,
and God will delight when we are creators
of justice and joy, compassion and peace:
yes, God will delight when we are creators
of justice, justice and joy!

For everyone born, a place at the table,
to live without fear, and simply to be,
to work, to speak out, to witness and worship,
for everyone born, the right to be free,
and God will delight when we are creators
of justice and joy, compassion and peace:
yes, God will delight when we are creators
of justice, justice and joy!
* © 1998 Hope Publishing Company, Carol Stream, IL 60188. Used by permission. All rights reserved

As your people, known as the people of the Desert Southwest Conference, we commit ourselves to being your instruments of justice, peace and love.  In the name of the one who calls us, Amen and Amen.

 

A COMPANION STATEMENT FROM THE COUNCIL OF BISHOPS
A statement was released on Monday, October 12, 2020 which I am pleased to have signed. It affirms our right to vote in a peaceful election with a peaceful transition of power for all newly-elected persons. It also reaffirms our United Methodist stand against the sin of racism. Read the statement here.

NEW CONFERENCE TEAM:  CONNECTIONAL MINISTRIES TEAM
As you know, the office of Director of Connectional Ministries of the DSC has not been filled by a single person. Instead, the many tasks that have been cared for by the DCM and the Conference’s Director of Outreach and Justice, have been assigned as additional responsibilities to leadership already in place in our Conference. As a result, a new team has been formed to coordinate the committees, teams, and task groups working to oversee ethnic ministries, leadership ministries, lay ministries, for the support of laity and clergy of the conference. The Team will also be responsible to address new ideas and needs for ministries that emerge and to work to provide leadership opportunities that represent the diversity of the Desert Southwest Conference. This Team is composed of all the persons who have willingly accepted the assignments:  Conference Lay Leader: Laurie Lineberry, Director of Outreach and Justice: Billie Fidlin, Director of New Faith/Vital Faith: David McPherson, and District Superintendents: Dan Morley, N. Susan Brims, Nancy Cushman, and Matt Ashley as well as the Bishop. Nancy Cushman will serve as chairperson for this new Team.

DESERT SOUTHWEST CONFERENCE CENTER RE-OPENS
Under strict safety practices, the Desert Southwest Conference Center office is now re-opening. Under the guidance of the Conference Staff, the Extended Cabinet, and especially with the leadership of Randy Bowman, we have begun to open the Conference Center. This action enables staff to return to their office if desired. We will not be having in-person meetings for staff and outside guests at this time. We have developed a set of agreements and protocols to be adhered to, and each member of the Conference staff has signed a covenant. Among the agreements we have made is the encouragement that those staff members who prefer to work at home are encouraged to do so, and the pledge to wear facial coverings when we are in areas other than secluded in our own offices. Among the practices we have agreed to observe for the safety of all of us are:  We are people who care for one another, and we care for the stranger among us.  In love and faith, and with God’s help, we commit to one another to protect each other’s health and safety as we seek to prevent the spread of COVID-19 . . .In the spirit of John Wesley’s proclamation of “Do no harm, do good and stay in love with God.”

IMPORTANT LEARNINGS AND CONVERSATIONS ABOUT RACE
Your Conference Appointive Cabinet made commitments to engage in conversations and discerning prayer about the Black Lives Matter movement and the challenge of confronting race. As one step in that journey, we participated in the 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge, a valuable resource written by Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr.. The deeply moving learnings gained from participating in the Challenge cannot be easily detailed. Suffice it to say, we all experienced growth, learning, challenge, discomfort, spiritual growth, and “aha” moments. I commend this Challenge to you! It is an experience that will lead to your growth and a deepening awareness of the positive impact our participating in this conversation can bring to ourselves, our families, our communities, and our world. Interested? Click here to learn more.

A WORD FROM OUR CONFERENCE LAY LEADER, Laurie Lineberry

Celebrate Your Clergy!

It’s October. The pandemic has dictated our way of life for almost nine months.

Once our cities went into lock-down, all in-person church services stopped. But ‘church’ continued. Pastors stepped up and in record time, learned how to produce on-line worship. They figured out how to reach out to members that could not receive visitors and had no family near-by. They lead the willing laity in new ways to keep the mission of the church in motion – during a time of no in-person connection.

Your pastor(s) is/are amazing, and you know it!! This is the month that is traditionally reserved to honor our clergy. What can you do? Try writing a note and sending it via snail-mail. Why not pray for your pastor and let them know via email? A gift card from a favorite restaurant is always a thoughtful gift (we haven’t had a potluck in almost a year!!) Think of something you know your pastor would appreciate receiving from you. Your pastor is there for you 24/7/365. Let them know you care and appreciate all that they do for you and your church family.

Email me a photo and explanation of how you honored your pastor this year. Overflow my inbox with your expressions of gratitude for your pastor. You may see this in some form at Annual Conference 2021.

A BLESSING FOR YOU
In the most complex time of national, global, and church life, I hold you in prayer daily. As we wend our way through this, we are reminded of the assurance of a hymn written in 1887 by Anthony J. Showalter who experienced the grief of the death of loved ones. He wrote these words which have meaning for us today:  “What have I to dread, what have I to fear, Leaning on the everlasting arms; I have blessed peace with my Lord so near, Leaning on the everlasting arms.”  May the strength of God’s love be with you and your loved ones; may your ministries of compassion and grace give support to others. Be well and stay safe!

In Christ’s love,

Bishop Bob

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