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The Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church elects first lesbian bishop

The Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church elects first lesbian bishop

This past weekend the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church (UMC) held an election for a new bishop for the jurisdiction. A number of the Annual Conferences of the Jurisdiction nominated a candidate for bishop. After a total of 17 ballots, the Western Jurisdiction has elected the Revd Dr. Karen P. Oliveto (58) as a new bishop. The Western Jurisdiction has always strived for full inclusion in the life of the UMC and has been known for electing a number of firsts in the past. This time it has elected the first openly LGBT person as a bishop. Oliveto is married to Robin Ridenour, who is a deaconess in the California-Nevada Annual Conference.

The new bishop brings an extensive education and a wide range of experiences to her new episcopal calling. She has received BA (’80), MPhil (’91) and PhD (’02) degrees from Drew University and an MDiv (’83) from the Pacific School of Religion. She has served as the pastor of numerous parishes of the UMC and is currently the Sr Pastor of Glide Memorial UMC in San Francisco CA. She also serves on a number of Jurisdictional and General Church boards and has been an elected delegate to Jurisdictional and General Conferences of the UMC. She has also been an Adjunct Professor at Brite Divinity School, Drew University and the Pacific School of Religion.

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.

The Revd Dr Karen P Oliveto

The Revd Dr Oliveto is to be consecrated as a bishop at 2:00 pm PDT at Paradise Valley United Methodist Church in Paradise Valley, AZ. Her election and consecration by the Western Jurisdiction has not gone unnoticed within the UMC. The President of the UMC Council of Bishops issued a statement soon after the new bishop’s election.

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…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…

Bishop Bruce R. Ough, President
Council of Bishops

Soon after her election the South Central Jurisdiction of the UMC voted to ask the Judicial Council of the UMC for a declaratory decision regarding same-sex church leaders.

The Judicial Council is the highest court in the denomination. It consists of nine members, both laity and clergy, elected by the General Conference for an eight-year term. The ratio of laity to clergy alternates every eight years. The Judicial Council interprets the Book of Discipline between sessions of General Conference, and during General Conference, the Judicial Council rules on the constitutionality of laws passed by General Conference. The Council also determines whether actions of local churches, annual conferences, church agencies, and bishops are in accordance with church law. The Council reviews all decisions of law made by bishops. The Judicial Council cannot create any legislation; it can only interpret existing legislation. The Council meets twice a year at various locations throughout the world. The Judicial Council also hears appeals from those who have been accused of chargeable offenses that can result in defrocking or revocation of membership.

The United Methodist Church – Wikipedia

Information for this story was collected from Wikipedia, the United Methodist News and the Western Jurisdiction website.
The main photo is from the Western Jurisdiction website.


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John Johnson

Her appointment will be invalidated by the UMC Judicial Council.

JC Fisher

Blessings on her ministry!

Evan Anderson

Raised Methodist, (but receiving my confirmation in the Episcopal church in 2006), I was aware that gay clergy were allowed, so long as they pledged to remain celibate). Has that stance remained, in the United Methodist Church? Looks like maybe it has. Still, God blesses us all, regardless, and we all have more similarities than differences. – Peace!

Thomas Coates

Yes, although I believe the majority of US-based ordained clergy (bishops- who can’t vote at General Conference- elders, and deacons) don’t agree with the policy. The majority of lay voting delegates to General Conference and clergy outside the US are the reason the homophobic policies remain.
A very awkward situation for sure, forcing people who disagree with one single policy (not even a core doctrinal concern) to enforce it.

Thomas Coates

A few points that may be helpful here–
In The UMC, jurisdictions (somewhat like powerful versions of Episcopal Church provinces) elect bishops that are then sent to episcopal areas (“sees”) within (episcopal areas contain one or more conferences (“dioceses”). Other jurisdictions have little control over the election of bishops outside their own. Once a bishop is consecrated, disciplinary concerns are, to my knowledge, handled largely within college of bishops of the jurisdiction they are serving. Being a bishop in the liberal Western Jurisdiction may shield Bp. Oliveto from the formal complaints that will come to the church-wide Judicial Council–no one really knows how the JC will operate here. As Bp. Ough stated, The Council of Bishops and he as president, have little power here, and little power generally (outside ecumenical relations and presiding without vote at General Conference.)

John Chilton

Another justice development: Sharma D. Lewis elected 1st black female UMC bishop in Southeast

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