The Rev. Nathan Stanton, director of congregational excellence for the Great Plains Conference, died Saturday morning, March 12, 2022.
Stanton, 52, was diagnosed in August 2020 with bulbar-onset ALS, which began limiting his speech and swallowing while also causing the loss of use of extremities. He suffered from respiratory ailments in recent days but worked to fulfill his conference duties until just days before his death.
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Nathan, and I sorrow for his wife Brenda and their three amazing sons, Noah, Isaac, and Eli,” Bishop Saenz said. “Nathan and I have been friends and companions in Christ’s mission for nearly 10 years. I will miss his physical presence, his voice, and laughter but his spirit, his message, and my memories of the joyful way he lived will remain with me and all whose lives he touched with his goodness.”
Bishop Saenz announced in early February that Stanton would go on medical leave from his appointment effective July 1, with the Rev. Jeff Clinger moving into that role leading the team dedicated to providing training and resources to local congregations; campus, camping, and justice ministries; as well as disaster response, among other ministries.
Stanton succeeded the Rev. Evelyn Fisher in 2017 as director of congregational excellence. Prior to serving in that role, Stanton served four years as new church development coordinator. And prior to serving on conference staff, he served as pastor at Wichita Pleasant Valley, Anthony, Plains-Kismet, and at Wichita Saint Mark, a historic Black church.
“All of these churches taught me so much,” Stanton wrote for a story on his medical leave published in February. “I am honored to have had the opportunity to live in community with them and to be a part of the important faith moments of such wonderful families. Many, many people in each one of these churches are still family to me. It was such a blessing to serve these different charges. Each one taught me and prepared me for the next step of my journey.”
Stanton said he hoped his congregational excellence team had created a culture where churches have the capacity to build their own relationships and programs. In his four years as coordinator for new church development, 13 new congregations were formed, and a majority of those were predominantly Black, Hispanic and African congregations. He introduced Planter Incubator and Crucible programs for growing new churches, and Stanton said he took great joy in developing the 20 By 2020 plan to grow congregations in the Great Plains.
“I am so grateful for the meaningful connections and relationships that I have had in my life because of the United Methodist connection,” he wrote in February. “Pastor friends have reached out and given me such love and support. Likewise, very dear friends from congregations that I have served continue to reach out with prayers and words of support every day. This church and the people in it have been a true lifeline through this illness.”
Many of those pastors were in attendance in June at Kaufmann Stadium in Kansas City, where he was honored with the Buck O’Neil Legacy Seat for the Royals game in honor of Lou Gehrig Day. The seat is a special honor named after Negro Leagues star Buck O’Neil given for a game to individuals making positive impacts on their communities. Stanton’s game in that seat coincided with a day Major League Baseball set aside to honor the New York Yankees player who died in 1941 from ALS, a disease that often is now known by the nickname bearing his name.
Stanton is survived by, his wife, Brenda, and sons Noah, Isaac and Eli, as well as his parents and other family members. A full obituary will be available soon. And arrangements for a memorial service are still pending.