Western Jurisdiction elects first openly lesbian bishop

glide-oliveto1by Jeremy Smith, Nancy Speas-Hill, and Jay Voorhees

Tonight the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church unanimously elected the Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto as a bishop of the church. Oliveto, the Sr. Pastor of the Glide Memorial UMC in San Francisco, CA, came out this past year as practicing lesbian, and she is the first openly gay person to be elected to the episcopacy in The United Methodist Church.

The election lasted over 2 days and 17 ballots, with the voting split between Oliveto, the Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank, and the Rev. Skip Strickland. Stickland and Escobedo-Frank withdrew from consideration prior to the 17th and final vote.

Matthew Berryman, executive director of Reconciling Ministries Network, sees today’s historic step forward as a confirmation of inevitable change in The UMC saying,

“A 40-year movement to end codified discrimination against LGBTQ persons is reaching a tipping point that hardly any rational-minded observer can deny. Since LGBTQ people have long been denied access to public spaces, homes, and churches, today’s news represents the breaking down of a long- standing barrier that has prevented queer people access to the fullness of Christian vocation on the grounds that they are ‘incompatible with Christian teaching.’”

Most Annual Conferences in the Western Jurisdiction passed resolutions that said sexual orientation should not be a consideration for qualifications to be bishop. The 2012 Discipline only indicates that “Elders in good standing” are eligible to be Bishop, and many Annual Conferences interpreted that as not a bar to sexual orientation. All of the episcopal candidates in the West are in good standing.

However, some are wondering the implications of this election, given the United Methodist Book of Discipline’s proscriptions against homosexual clergy being ordained as ministers in the UMC. While a complaint could be made, it would have to be filed with the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops and they generally been more inclusive of LGBTQ persons in ministry in the past.

“It is deplorable that the Western Jurisdiction, along with many annual conferences, has ignored the Council of Bishop’s proposal, ratified by the General Conference, for a ‘pause for prayer – to step back from attempts at legislative solutions and to intentionally seek God’s will for the future,’” said the Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of Good News, in response to the Western Jurisdiction election.

“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.”

As Oliveto was being elected, the South Central Jurisdiction was debating a request for a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council on the issue. The request asked the Judicial Council to rule on the “application, meaning and effect of ¶304.3, ¶310.2d, ¶341.6, and ¶2701.1 in regard to the nomination, election, consecration and/or assignment as bishop of a person who claims to be a ‘self-avowed practicing homosexual’ or is a spouse in a same-sex marriage or civil union.” The request was adopted by the SCJ by 109 to 84.

Oliveto was ordained to full membership in 1985 and has degrees from the Pacific School of Religion and Drew University. Prior to becoming the Sr. Pastor at Glide Memorial, she served both as a pastor and on the faculty of the Pacific School of Religion. Oliveto was elected as a delegate to the 2004 and 2016 General Conferences and is a member of the California-Nevada Annual Conference.

Oliveto’s consecration service will be Saturday, July 16 at 2:00 p.m. at Paradise Valley UMC in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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Phil
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The sad thing is that the UMC won’t rule on this one way or the other. It will fester and breed discontent due to inaction. You can’t steer a parked car. I, for one, am tired of this parking lot, let’s move!

Ian McDonald
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Ian McDonald

Well let the schism begin! as Paul W. wrote, they glory in their apostasy. They are leading people down the road to perdition and revel in it!!!

Sherrie Lynn Robertson
Guest
Sherrie Lynn Robertson

“Apostasy” is something like saying Jesus was a lizard from outer space. This is more like the dispute between Lilliput and Blefescu in Gulliver’s Travels over the proper way to crack an egg.

Eric Pone
Guest
Eric Pone

Seriously apostasy! That is massively serious charge to make. Apostasy is denial of our salvation. They are not doing this in the least bit. They are arguing that all are welcomed at the table. But being a God hater and denier of Christ? No.

Paul W.
Guest
Paul W.

Sad and shameful. They glory in their apostasy.

Maxwell
Guest

One side of this debate is rooted in the love and acceptance Christ intended for us to have. The other side of this debate is based in bigotry perpetuated by the convenient misunderstanding of words written thousands of years ago and translated hundreds of times over who’s original intention was to stop the sodomy mainly of young boys in the military of the time as a sign of dominance. Take a history class please, and if possible take a moment and think about whether or not this decision actually negatively effects your life or if you have a problem with… Read more »

Kelli
Guest
Kelli

Your school books are old. The claims you make about the lack of authenticity of the Bible have been debunked in all od academy. Among serious scholarship, whether Christian or Athiest, the evidence is overwhelming in the affirmative of quite remarkable authenticity. Of course, the old ideas and understandings, prior to the advances in linguistics and scientific discovery, are still being perpetuated, but as a tool to fool the ignorant. Now whether you believe Scripture is another thing, but your attack was based upon the unreliability and lack of authenticity of Scripture–and no matter what you believe about Scripture, the… Read more »

Daniel Wagle
Guest

I don’t think that Maxwell is per se questioning the “authenticity” of the Bible. The point is that the Bible meant a certain thing at that time and wasn’t addressing sexual orientation. If you read the Sodom and Gomorrah stories, it does seem rather an attempt to control persons by raping them. You can read the parallel story in Judges 19:22-30 where the men intended to rape some men, mainly to show their dominance over them, but ended up raping a woman and cutting her into pieces. This is NOT something that most gay men would do and is something… Read more »

Scott
Guest
Scott

To the people who think this news is great — You are applauding the election of a practicing lesbian in a same-sex “marriage” as a bishop of the United Methodist Church. Think about that for a minute. You are saying that a leader in our church can be defiantly in a sexual relationship with a member of the same sex, married civilly, and be expected to be a “leader” of a church which, ostensibly, follows the Bible and its own Book of Discipline. This simply should not be permitted, and, if allowed to stand and is made known sufficiently publicly,… Read more »

Eric Pone
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Eric Pone

The BOD is a book based on policies that we came up with. Times change. In the past there were very solid reasons for not ordaining or consecrating. There are not now. We had similar arguments in the Church regarding women voting and slavery and they same argument and doom and gloom arguments were espoused and we survived that. We will survive this. Our God is way bigger than this. Salvation is way deeper than this.

Floyd L.
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Floyd L.

At this point, the handwriting is totally on the wall. The pro-gay, liberal forces aren’t waiting for 2018 or 2019 or 2020. They are actively doing their takeover, their coup, right here and now. And it honestly looks like they are going to get away with it. If they do, it will mean very heavy and far-reaching consequences for the entire UMC.

Sherrie Lynn Robertson
Guest
Sherrie Lynn Robertson

Well, thanks for the good news there.

Eric Pone
Guest
Eric Pone

This isn’t a coup. We have democratic process unlike other evangelical organizations. If a jurisdiction chooses to run one way hey let them be. A conservative Jurisdiction can choose to decline pastors and bishops, heck even members from those juridictions they disagree with and keep their culture the way it is. The liberals only have so much clout and can’t change conservative hearts and minds to this. Those jurisdictions can and should be able to choose for themselves.

Mike Thomas
Guest

I take it that you believe that you are not “living in intentional violation of Scripture,” is that correct?

Mike Thomas
Guest

Congratulations on living such a perfect and sin-free life. That must be why you feel justified in casting so many stones.
But I’m curious, which scripture that she is intentionally violating is the one that has you so upset? I noticed that she doesn’t keep her head covered which is in violation of 1 Corinthians 11:5-6 or is it because she doesn’t stay silent in church in violation of 1 Corinthians 14:34? Or is it something else?

jimmie shelby
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jimmie shelby

Thank you, theenemyhatesclarity, for your calm and measured responses. Father/Son/Holy Spirit says love the one who sins–but–not the sin. You are a great example of Christian Love.

Daniel Wagle
Guest

To me hating someone elses sexual orientation is NOT loving that person, because one’s sexual orientation is a basic immutable part of one’s personality, whether gay or straight. It makes no more sense than saying you hate the color of another person’s skin, but you still love that person.

jimmie shelby
Guest
jimmie shelby

It is so difficult for this writer to believe or even imagine that the umc is embroiled in such a discussion as this when the demise of this once great country grows ever more possible and in deed–probable. Little will matter how this discussion ends if what Father/Son/Holy Spirit inspired our Founding Fathers to establish is thrown to the wind. Wake up all of you who post and post and post (this writer included!!) Fall on your knees and lift this once great country up in fervent prayer. If the country is lost, nothing else will matter……………….

Eric Pone
Guest
Eric Pone

The good news here is the situation is working itself out. The Southern conferences and African Conferences are living their faith and the Western and NCJ is living out theirs. No one died, God didn’t strike anyone down into a greasy spot, life goes on. I think as long as juridictions respect their differences this seems to be the appropriate approach going forward. Pastor Renfroe has been pushing for schism for a long long long time and will only be satisfied by it. But there are a lot of UMC people out there who don’t agree on both sides and… Read more »

Floyd L.
Guest
Floyd L.

No, actually you really have **not** found the “way forward.” The “way forward” was for everybody to give the leaders sufficient time (2018 or 2019) to select a so-called Commission to study the issues (yet again) and then recommend their changes to the Book of Discipline, which would then supposedly be the definitive word for all sides regarding gay ministers and gay marriages within Methodism. The deal’s been broken now. Outright Betrayal, really. You can’t have Methodist unity when one side — the pro-gay and liberal forces — insist on doing a coup instead of doing cooperation. You can only… Read more »

Eric Pone
Guest
Eric Pone

The pro-gay forces (as if this is combat) are choosing aggressive activism over waiting for a do nothing council of Bishops. They can do this. The conservatives are not innocent in the matter either with Rev Renfroe constantly desiring a formal schism now.
The Bishops are in pastoral navel gazing mode. You can forget any real solution or probably even a legit committee being appointed. The extremists on both side have coopted the debate and we are now on a path towards the UMC simply dying. So sad.

Eric Pone
Guest
Eric Pone

I don’t think anyone is arguing that. We agree that the area with largest UMC populations are conservative. However, its concentrated in the South which is a Red area and Africa. In the North and West the situation is quite different. Its not like if the south go what they wanted like these areas would come into compliance. Differing cultures.

Sandy Wylie
Guest
Sandy Wylie

God bless Bishop Oliveto. May she be a caring and effective bishop.

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