Openly Gay Bishop Elected To United Methodist Church’s Western Jurisdiction In Defiance Of Church Law

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

united-methodist-church-logoA fortnight ago we featured an article reporting that the The Pacific NW Annual Conference voted to not enforce church law proscribing homosexuality. Now, The Western Jurisdiction Conference elected the first openly-lesbian United Methodist Bishop.

The Rev. Karen Oliveto, senior pastor of Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco was elected on the 17th ballot which included The Rev. Frank Wulf, another openly gay candidate.

Such ordinations are in direct contravention to The Book of Discipline which reads as follows:

304.3 Qualifications for Ordination

“While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.

1. “Self-avowed practicing homosexual” is understood to mean that a person openly acknowledges to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee of ordained ministry, board of ordained ministry, or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual.

With several Annual Conferences adopting non-conformity to enforcing bans against gay individuals, the election of gay bishops I believe certainly shows evidence of effective inertia toward acceptance of our gay community members

Bishop Karen Oliveto
Bishop Karen Oliveto

Bishop Oliveto, began her ministry as pastor of Bloomville (N.Y.) United Methodist and has served as a campus minister at San Francisco State, pastor of Bethany United Methodist in San Francisco and a faculty member at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. She serves on the board of the United Methodist Council of Finance and Administration. She is also an adjunct professor of United Methodist Studies at the Pacific School of Religion. She has been at Glide Memorial Church since 2008. She is a graduate of Pacific School of Religion and Drew University.

After her election, Oliveto stated: “I think at this moment I have a glimpse of the realm of God. I want to thank the candidates who I have journeyed with these past few days, for the grace with which we walked with each other. And know I stand before you because of the work and prayers of so many, especially those saints who yearned to live for this day, who blazed a trail where there was none, who are no longer with us, and yet whose shoulders I stand on,”

She especially thanked the delegates of the Western Jurisdiction “who dared to live into this Kairos moment. Today we took a step closer to embody beloved community and while we may be moving there, we are not there yet. We are moving on to perfection,” Oliveto said.

She said as along as people “walk by our churches and wonder” if they belong, because of race, sexuality orientation, ethnicity, social class or immigration status, then “we have work to do.”

Of course, her election was not without controversy as reported by the UMC’s news services:

The Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of Good News, an evangelical United Methodist organization that upholds the church’s current stance on homosexuality issues, said the election and other actions by annual conference this summer ignored the Council of Bishops’ proposal for a commission to examine all church law dealing with human sexuality. Renfroe said that proposal called for a “pause for prayer to step back from attempts at legislative solutions and to intentionally seek God’s will for the future.”

“Instead, these conferences have moved ahead with legislative enactments pledging non-conformity with the Book of Discipline, culminating in the election of a practicing homosexual as bishop,” said Renfroe. “If the Western Jurisdiction wanted to push the church to the brink of schism, they could not have found a more certain way of doing so.”

I see the schism argument as being wielded frequently by the more traditionally minded and vocal camp of the Church, since it is difficult to counter gradual social change by argument alone when such controversy has not in forty years but is showing signs of change. Yet, with time the schism rubric loses power since demographically the congregants more likely will be supportive of gay rights.

Shortly after the election, Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, issued the following statement which seems to try to grasp the issues facing the Church yet does express some uncertainty as to how the denomination will accept not just appointment of an openly-gay bishop in defiance of the Discipline, but does seem to acquiesce to eventual change:

“The Western Jurisdiction has elected the Rev. Karen Oliveto of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco to serve as a bishop of The United Methodist Church. Rev. Oliveto has been described as “an openly lesbian clergyperson.” This election raises significant concerns and questions of church polity and unity.

Our Book of Discipline has clearly delineated processes in place for resolving issues even as complex and unprecedented as this election.

The authority to elect bishops is constitutionally reserved to the jurisdictional and central conferences. Any elder in good standing is eligible for election as a bishop of the church. An elder under an unresolved complaint is still considered to be in good standing. Being a self-avowed, practicing homosexual is a chargeable offense for any clergyperson in The United Methodist Church, if indeed this is the case.

The Council of Bishops is monitoring this situation very closely. The Council does not have constitutional authority to intervene in the election or supervisory processes at either the annual conference, jurisdictional or central conference levels. And, we are careful to not jeopardize any clergy or lay person’s due process by ill-advised comments.

However, we clearly understand the Church appropriately expects the Council to provide spiritual leadership and for bishops to uphold our consecration vows. In May, prior to General Conference, the Council again affirmed to keep the promises made at our consecrations, including, among others:

  • Shepherding all persons committed to our care;
  • Leading the church in mission, witness and service;
  • Ordering the church including administering processes for handling complaints;
  • Seeking unity in Christ, including the work the Council proposed to the General Conference in “An Offering for a Way Forward.”

There are those in the church who will view this election as a violation of church law and a significant step toward a split, while there are others who will celebrate the election as a milestone toward being a more inclusive church. Others will no doubt have questions as we find ourselves in a place where we have never been. Still, others will likely see this election as disrupting or even rendering moot the purpose and work of the Commission currently being formed by the Council.

The Council continues to place our hope in Jesus Christ. Though conflicted and fragile, The United Methodist Church remains a strong witness to the transforming love of God and the saving grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We affirm that our witness is defined, not by an absence of conflict, but how we act in our disagreements. We affirm that our unity is not defined by our uniformity, but by our compassionate and Spirit-led faithfulness to our covenant with God, Christ’s Church and one another.

As a Council, we continue to maintain that the proposal for a way forward and the formation of the Commission is the best path. An endless cycle of actions, reactions and counter-reactions is not a viable path and tears at the very fabric of our Connection. The current and incoming COB Executive Committees recently met by conference call to initiate the implementation of our Offering for a Way Forward and the formation of the Commission called for in the proposal. We will resume this work at our regularly scheduled meeting on July 19-20 following the Jurisdictional Conferences. A progress report will be released shortly after the meeting.

Our differences are real and cannot be glossed over, but they are also reconcilable. We are confident God is with us, especially in uncharted times and places. There is a future with hope. We invite your constant and ardent prayers for the witness and unity of The United Methodist Church. May God guide us as we seek to maintain unity in the bond of peace.

Bishop Bruce R. Ough, President
Council of Bishops”

The consecration service can we watched here.

It is greatly important that we as a church accept every member of our society as an equal and do so in a welcoming and non-judgmental manner.  We are not the Divided Methodist Church.

By Darren Smith

Source: United Methodist Church, Official Website

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.

52 thoughts on “Openly Gay Bishop Elected To United Methodist Church’s Western Jurisdiction In Defiance Of Church Law”

  1. JustSomeGuy, the tax exemption does not depend on the church/entity adhering to any particular religious doctrine or belonging to any particular larger organization. Rather, the determination is based on whether the functions/purposes of the church/entity itself qualify for the exemption.

  2. Would say that a religious organization that receives federal tax breaks [which they do] based upon the adherence to discipline [which they shall], that do not adhere to those disciplines [which they don’t] are no longer eligible for those tax breaks . .

  3. Why does the UMC call it a book of discipline, sounds more like a book of suggestions.
    Unenforceable rules are no rules at all.

  4. Steve,

    I didn’t bring up the bible. Again, we do not have a free market system here so I do not understand why you keep bringing it up.

    So, I think a box is freedom? When did I write that? I stated that you do not have freedom if you can not discriminate.

    I never commented on the New Deal social welfare.

    Very odd post you put out.

  5. “socialism is really the…
    Government has nothing to do with it.

    Ignorant or mendacious.
    Could be a mix of the two.

  6. And, by the way, Jim22, socialism is really the democratization of employment in private enterprise. Government has nothing to do with it. You’re commenting on New Deal social welfare.

  7. Paul,

    People like Steve believe in regulation but then complain that business owns the politicians who make up the regulations and then turn around and blame capitalism so they can make more regulation. It’s quite a little circle they have. People like Steve don’t like us discriminating (voting with our dollars) and taking care of ourselves. They need the govt. to take care of them and us. On top of that, they will also make us the bad ones when we try to judge (make accountable) those who require the govt.

    1. Jim22, you believe in so-called free-market capitalism as if it were religious dogma. Where in the Bible do you find that?

      You’ve got to think outside the box to get out of the box which you interpret as freeom. Perhaps that’s your problem with Bishop Oliveto of Glide Memorial, too?

  8. Steve,

    No spin. My ability to discriminate makes me free and my judgment allows me to hold people accountable. I’m sorry you do not like either. But that was to be expected even though you do both.

    Again, pointing to crony capitalism and then blaming capitalism is very disingenuous. We do not practice capitalism here. Your own words show that.

      1. Paul, not this one. Capitalism is a hoax so that the wealthy can maintain their wealth at our expense.

        I’m ready for your tangential response. 🙂

  9. Steve Groen,
    What is wrong with my right to discriminate? Am I not allowed to choose Coke over Pepsi? Sounds like you are for more crony capitalism.What is wrong with me being judgemental? Should I not be allowed to hold anyone to some sort of standard? Or should everyone get a degree even though they might be illiterate?

    Also, don’t blame capitalism when we do not have a capitalist system. When scum politicians wear for sale signs don’t be surprised that someone buys them.

    1. Jim22 writes, “Steve Groen,
      What is wrong with my right to discriminate? Am I not allowed to choose Coke over Pepsi? Sounds like you are for more crony capitalism.What is wrong with me being judgemental? Should I not be allowed to hold anyone to some sort of standard? Or should everyone get a degree even though they might be illiterate?
      Also, don’t blame capitalism when we do not have a capitalist system. When scum politicians wear for sale signs don’t be surprised that someone buys them.”

      Nice spin.

      Look no further than your own ten commandments regarding discrimination and judging others. They’re dripping with irony. This isn’t about coke and pepsi. It’s about discrimination of the majority of our citizenry based on your interpretation of some book written hundreds of years after some fellow – who may not have ever lived – died.

      Your assertion that this is not capitalism is funny because Hillary Clinton is the exemplary capitalist, taking the crony elite’s game to new heights. You also likely deny the 2009 Great Recession was due to deregulation toward your hallowed ground of a free market. You thought Citizens United was a good ruling, didn’t you? Well, now you’ve got a good dose of your own medicine, and your own folks riding the elephant to the White House look like a bunch of monkeys trying to pull the banana bunch from the tree.

      You get the picture. Hypocrisy.

  10. There’s only two things in this world I hate, everybody and everything. I don’t discriminate!

  11. Seems to me every opposing issue is being resolved by a blatant violation of an existing rule, law and/or standard. The rule of law is in shambles. We should burn all books and start over.

  12. United we stand. Divided we fall. A bent methodist is good for Y’all. First it was women and now they are gay. Next it will be dogfest in the middle of May. For all who believe most all can leave. What will be left will be right of the pests. If you are bent, you are bent, you are bent all the way. From your first prayer at church to your last soiree. Let us be grateful for those who are dead and when they come play here we can look ahead. Gerry Carcia.

  13. What did Jesus say about homosexuality? It would seem to me that Christians should know. According to Jimmy Carter, a lifelong teacher of Bible studies, Jesus said nothing about it. It’s about time that Christians started acting more Christ-like.

    If the Anglican Church rejoins the Catholic church, the head of the Anglican Church would be the Pope instead of the Queen? I think Charles’ divorce eliminated from being head of the church and therefore eliminated him as the next king. Ah, politics.

  14. “The last time I attended church was in 1995, and it was Glide Memorial in the Tenderloin on Easter Sunday. It was the most fun I ever had in church. Ever.

    For the same reason, the election of the the first openly-lesbian United Methodist Bishop will be the last time many others go to church.

    1. KCFleming: Of course it will be the last time much of the membership will attend church. As Jim22 wrote, those leaving like to discriminate and judge.

      Religion can be one big pile of contradictions. Say it ain’t so.

  15. Tin,

    Well written. I will not be returning to the UMC. Our church was already small and if enough people leave, it will most certainly kill it. It will be a proud moment for the progressives.

    I’ve kind of boiled our dying country to two things.
    – Our right to discriminate
    – Our right to judge.

    This decision attacks both of them.

    1. Jim22 writes, “I’ve kind of boiled [down] our dying country to two things.
      – Our right to discriminate
      – Our right to judge.”

      Jim, thanks for today’s WTF moment. Take a good look at your own right to discriminate and your own right to judge other members of your own church before projecting blame elsewhere and leaving the UMC.

      What’s more, the inherent disparate impact of state-sponsored capitalism (just like state-sponsored socialism) as an economic model which now has control of our political process is at the heart of our demise. Citizens United was the final blow.

      Alexander Hamilton’s flawed vision of a plutocratic oligarchy now controls the government and our electoral process. If we don’t have a democratic electoral process to balance against the cancer of capitalism, then I agree with you: ours is a dying country.

  16. The Rev Jeremiah Wright? Black Liberation Theology? Ah yes, that modern brand of lowbrow quasi- Marcionism.

    Being familiar with both the individual and theology lauded by Autumn, it’s notable there’s nothing new about the bedrock of Wright’s beliefs. Marcion was a lot smarter as well as more open about his precise underlying principles. Not that Wright’s church didn’t frequently fall back rather obviously on its vile messages.

    That we elected someone who spent twenty years in a congregation teaching Structural Supersessionism yet then express surprise at certain … peccadillos of President BH Obama can only be chalked up to ignorance and political correctness. Obama was shaped by twenty years of Wright’s extreme ambivalence towards the OT and hostility towards Israel and Jews. That Wright ultimately prettied it up a bit (I’m against Zionists, not Jews) was no better than “some of my best friends are negroes” in 1970.

  17. Paul I do not follow the MSM so I was unaware that he is in the newz. Given the recent killings and maybe coupled with Dr. West’s fiery opposition to the DNC’s (lack of) platform I thought of him.

    tnash80hotmailcom – Obama was a member of his church for political expediency apparently as he was fully aware of Wright’s views. People can “cherry pick” in regards to Wright’s beliefs regarding HIV/AIDs, etc. but the man was fully aware of the Tusgkeee experiments so why wouldn’t he see a conspiracy?

    Fact is that the man built up a viable community in the worst area in Chicago.

  18. @ Benton C.

    It would be interesting if the Catholic Church merged with the Anglicans, although it is my understanding that there are more theological differences between the two than just divorce. I’ve also heard that there were discussions between the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox, although I can’t imagine they would ever reunite because the Eastern church doesn’t recognize the Pope as infallible.

  19. Autumn-
    The Jeremiah Wright controversy didn’t start with his appearance at the National Press Club in 2008.
    Wright’s “god damn America” sermon was made delivered long before 2008.
    And Wright’s “discovery” that HIV/AIDS was developed by the U.S. government also predated the Press Club appearance.
    Association with Wright may have been expedient in the climbing the political ladder in Chicago, but was not helpful on a national level.
    Once Wright’s views became known nationally (they were likely known to members of his church), Obama went into damage control mode.

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