Council of Bishops president issues statement on Oliveto election

Bishop Bruce R. Ough, Dakotas-Minnesota Episcopal Area, presides over the May 19 afternoon session of the 2016 United Methodist General Church in Portland, OR.

Peoria, Il — Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, issued the following statement regarding the results of today’s Episcopal election at the Western Jurisdictional Conference of The United Methodist Church, meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona.

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 Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church encompasses the eight westernmost regional conferences of the United States: the Alaska Conference, the California-Nevada Conference, the California-Pacific Conference, the Desert Southwest Conference, the Oregon-Idaho Conference, the Pacific Northwest Conference, the Rocky Mountain Conference and the Yellowstone Conference.

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41 Comments on "Council of Bishops president issues statement on Oliveto election"

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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Jeff Smith

As an ordained elder I teach that grace and forgiveness are unmerited gifts from God. These gifts do not protect us from sin’s ramifications. Why are those who are breaking the covenant, I agreed to uphold, now being allowed to break thie covenant without ramifications? Why is our leadership not holding them accountable?

Marsha Stauss

Kind of reminds me of the way the government is handling the presidential candidates and their crimes.

Eric Pone

Its only a crime if you are charged and convicted and in the US that is the CHOICE of the prosecutor. They choose which cases to bring because you can’t take everyone to court!! And the same applies here. At a certain point you simply can’t prosecute all the clergy and you have to respond differently. If a law is on the books and its not working to check the behavior and society isn’t demanding prosecution save for a vocal few then maybe the law is no longer valid.

Eric Pone
The point is the BOD isn’t a ham handed document. There are those who disagree and simply have decided to ignore the parts they disagree with. Its not like the conservatives don’t do the same with the parts they disagree with. And its not like this is something new which it is not. The point is they have been no ramifications because the BOD is no longer a convenental document, GC is powerless and has zero power to act or act efficiently, and the Bishop have little to no real power to act anymore. That is is the core issue… Read more »
Chris Terrill

You assert that “Its not like the conservatives don’t do the same with the parts they disagree with.” Would you please cite some specific cases?


Doesn’t this line:
“The Council of Bishops is monitoring this situation very closely.”
make you think of that commercial where the bank is being robbed and the security guard’s only job is to “monitor” (so he does nothing)?

Joyce Little


Steve Spitzer
Ok, I’ll say it. Since we are obviously no longer “united,” why don’t those promoting this obvious breach of our Discipline break away and form their own church? It is sad that we as a denomination are being forced down a road of “cultural” Christianity instead of walking faithfully the road of Biblical Christianity. Even sadder is the fact that we are being pushed down this road by a group that composes such a small percentage of the church. I’m concerned that my mainline church will be forced to withdraw from the UMC unless our leaders (Bishops/Commision/whatever) act quickly and… Read more »
Joyce Little
Thank you Steve Spitzer for saying it. I spoke to my local UMC pastor this morning about just this subject…that it’s such a small percentage of the UMC (less than 10%) that is forcing the p.c. lifestyle of acceptance on the rest of us, at the cost of breaking the BOD laws, that it’s time for the majority of us to tell the small minority to go their own way…form their own church, their own governing body, break ties with the UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, not being allowed to function under that name, and give them our blessings! The rest of… Read more »
Rev. Dr. Enrique Lebron

I been a UMC Pastor for 31 years, My strong base have been the Bible and the Book of Discipline but today it hurts when the Bishops and Superintendence who are call to Guide and Protect Pastors and Laity to keep faithful following the Doctrine, Rules and the resolution of the General Conference; don’t use the authority given by God and the church to apply what the Bible and the Discipline and the G. Conference had established. My God Intervene in our Ministry

Brian Koontz

Scripture is clear. Respect authority.

By disregarding the Book of Discipline, disrespect for church authority has been demonstrated. In effect, this is an aggressive action to those of us who are adhering to Discipline as we respectfully work towards an amicable outcome.

My beloved Methodist Church is in disunity.

Marikay Green

The Methodist Church does not exist and has not since 1968. The United is part of our history also as in Evangelical United Brethren who joined with the Methodists on 1968 to form the United Methodist Church. And leaving them out is unfair to the former EUB members.

However this step of ordaining someone who does not meet our current Discipline rules for ordination does nothing to help the Church work through the issue and underlying issues at work.

Clinton Crawford

I just don’t understand how a gay/lesbian leader in the church is truly a way of showing members of the church and example of repentance. Yes Jesus Christ forgave sins but you have to repent. Why don’t we fallow the bible instead of trying to sugar coat it just to make everyone happy.
I love The United Methodist Church! I want to see it grow and if a split has to happen to keep Gods word so be it. I’m sorry but I have a huge problem with everyone trying to make it ok.

Eric Pone

This is my Bishop, and I think in general he has been awesome for MN. However, I can’t support him in this case. His council is not showing any leadership or sense of urgency. It seems like they are hoping this just goes away or works itself out. He quotes a BOD that is frankly irrelavent and out of step to a sizable chunk of UMC members who are not going anywhere but will not follow lock step policies they think discriminate against others. I really wish he would lead and just do SOMETHING, ANYTHING Bishop ANYTHING.

Leisa Wagner

It is time for the UMC to do some major house cleaning. Get back on track. Top to bottom all people holding positions of authority but not following the Book of Discipline should be booted out. The above was the most middle of the road presentation. Please get some backbone.

Lyle M. Miller Sr

This is by far the most outrageous example of the division that is happening within the church body and is being pushed by those who continue to listen and adhere to the lies of Satin which have been working on defeating the true Word for thousands of years now. It is time for this to stop and the Bishops who have some authority to do something about this need to stand up and be counted or resign and
leave the work to more qualified individuals.

Eric Pone

The Council has chosen to to their sweet time in getting a committee appointed and working. This will continue until they decide to take action.They have no one to blame but themselves. The Bishops have chosen to delay on this issue for years and now the jurisdictions are resolving this themselves. The GC is powerless, the Council is divided (besides their AC’s and Jurisdictions can ignore them) and refuses to act rather than being lead by interest groups its time for Jurisdictions to protect themselves at this point.

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