Stanley follows his faith

By Laura NewmanRALEIGH, N.C. — The Rev. Bruce Stanley’s business card is about to change in a way uncommon to leaders of religious congregations.

In the place of “pastor,” it will soon read “president and CEO.”

Starting in July, Stanley will take over the Raleigh-based Methodist Home for Children, a nonprofit dedicated to helping youth, regardless of their religion, grow up in safe and loving homes.

Throughout his upbringing and religious work, Stanley believed his duty included service to all those in need.

“I believe the entirety of being a pastor includes a call to do work with those who aren’t necessarily a part of your congregation,” says Stanley, senior pastor at Millbrook United Methodist Church in Raleigh.

The Methodist Home for Children was founded in 1899 as an orphanage, but over the course of the next 100 years, it developed into a comprehensive center that includes a residential facility, school and recently, a day-care center.

The home follows a family-centered, community-based approach, and serves over 1,500 children and families a year.

Looking back, Stanley points to an internship at Pine Street Inn in Boston as one of his most formative experiences.

While earning his master’s degree in divinity at Harvard University, Stanley worked at the Boston shelter doing advocacy and helping accommodate anyone in need of a place to sleep.

Every night, Pine Street Inn provided beds for at least 350 people and during difficult times in the winter, they often slept as many as 1,000, Stanley says.

“The experience was so gratifying, the needs so immediate, I knew I wanted to continue similar work,” he says, an experience that led him to begin a dual-career in ministry and service in North Carolina after graduation.

Life as an itinerant Methodist minister has resulted in countless moves for Stanley and his family.

As a member of the Methodist church, Stanley’s career is determined by his bishop and he follows his bishop’s direction, going wherever he and the bishop feel he is called.

So far, this has led him to a number Methodist churches throughout central and eastern North Carolina.

He has also served as executive director of the Board of Missions, a loan fund with $6 million in assets that assists in the construction and development of churches, and as associate director of the Council on Ministries for Missions/Evangelism at the North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.

“It has been a challenge for my family,” Stanley says. “But they believe when I am called, it is also a call to them as family members.”

Stanley’s calling to service has led him to work in particular with children and adolescents of all backgrounds.

Bruce Stanley

Job: President and CEO, Methodist Home for Children, Raleigh, effective  July 1

Born: Grafton, W.V., where Anna Jarvis first introduced Mother’s Day, he says

Education: B.A., history, West Virginia University; master of divinity, Harvard University

Career: Senior pastor, Millbrook United Methodist Church, Raleigh; director of field education, Duke Divinity School; executive director, Board of Missions, Inc.; associate director, Council on Ministries for Missions/Evangelism, North Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church.

Hobbies: Tennis, an interest he shares with the rest of his family

Favorite books: “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee,” by Dee Brown; “Lord of the Rings,” by J.R.R. Tolkien

Favorite Biblical passage: John 12: 27-33, in particular, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”

Favorite religious holiday: Easter, “As a pastor, after Christmas I am so tired it is often hard to enjoy it!”

Inspiration: Father, “A fine, fine, wonderful man.”

“We are all in need, although some needs are more obvious than others,” Stanley says. “There is pain and suffering also for those who appear week by week. But the least, the last and the lost are going to draw my faith.” That is the case regardless of their religion, he says, recalling an instance when he worked to distribute food to Muslim children in need in Azerbaijan. “Methodists will not withhold care or discriminate on the basis of faith,” he says.Maria Murray Riemann, director of communications at the Methodist Home, also emphasizes the openness of Methodist homes.

“The challenge with a name like Methodist Home for Children is to convince donors that we are interested in helping all children regardless of their religion,” she says.

To Stanley and Riemann, the Methodist tradition gives the organization its strength, but does not limit the population it can serve.

For Stanley, this is a global population, and throughout his career he has developed strong relationships with groups in Liberia and Peru, among others.

He was able to transform his first-hand experiences abroad into valuable help for students interested in international ministry when he worked as director of field education at Duke Divinity School from 2000 to 2004.

During his time there, students increasingly took up posts in faith-based agencies in South Africa, South America and the former Soviet Union, which had not always been possible before, Stanley says.

When he took the position at Duke, he intended it to be longer-lasting, but his calling instead brought him back direct ministry at Millbrook, where he will continue to oversee the 2,000-member congregation until he begins work with Methodist Home on July 1.

“The Methodist Home is a unique institution,” he said. “It draws its inspiration and life breath from the church and yet it draws most of its funding from the state.”

In addition to this challenge of maintaining fidelity to both church and state, another challenge the home faces is finding funding to meet increasing needs, Stanley said.

But the greatest challenge is convincing young people that no matter their past, they deserve a better future, he says.

In confronting this challenge, the home relies on several core values, including spirituality.

Yet, Stanley continues to emphasize tolerance. “I’m enthusiastically Methodist,” he says. “But not exclusively Methodist.”

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