Methodists Elect First Openly Gay Bishop

Jim Burroway

July 16th, 2016

In defiance of a United Methodist ban on ordaining “self-avowed practicing homosexuals,” delegates of the Western Jurisdictional Conference meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona, selected Rev. Karen Oliveto to be the denomination’s first openly gay/lesbian bishop. Ovieto is the senior pastor of Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco, which has a pro-LGBT history that goes back nearly six decades. Ovieto’s election came after two days and seventeen ballots. Two other contenders withdrew just before the seventeenth vote:

Rev. Karen Oliveto“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,” Oliveto said after her election.

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.”

Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, responded in a statement:

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.

Ough cautioned that “an endless cycle of actions, reactions and counter-reactions is not a viable path and tears at the very fabric of our Connections. …Our differences are real and cannot be glossed over, but they are also reconcilable.”

The United Methodist Reporter provided some background:

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.

Rev. Oliveto was formally consecrated this afternoon at Paradise Valley UMC in Scottsdale.


July 17th, 2016

Just being picky: The articles you quote give the new bishop’s last name as “Oliveto” yet you’ve spelled the name “Oviedo” and “Ovieto.”

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