Religion News Service reports that 1,500 United Methodists have formed the Wesleyan Covenant Association in response to the election of Bishop Karen Oliveto, who is openly lesbian, and ordination of LGBT ministers. The association meets this week in Chicago and asserts that its intent is not to leave the United Methodist Church, but try to reverse its “acts of covenant-breaking.” The association intends to express their views to a denominational commission that will be appointed to develop a plan that addresses issues of sexuality in the UMC.
“‘A plan that requires traditionalists to compromise their principles and their understandings of Scripture, or that allows for varieties of beliefs and practices within the global communion of the church, isn’t acceptable to most evangelicals,’ said Jeff Greenway, lead pastor of Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church in Ohio and a member of the WCA’s board of directors.”
The commission’s work is timely:
Oliveto’s election has touched off a crisis in the 12.4 million-member United Methodist Church worldwide, where defiant clergy are refusing to abide by what they regard as unjust prohibitions.
More than 140 LGBT clergy came out in May, according to the Reconciling Ministries Network, a Methodist advocacy group. In addition, 820 Methodist clergy have pledged to officiate same-sex weddings even though church rules prohibit them.
Last May, the General Conference of the UMC declined to vote on proposals to revamp policies, deferring instead to the new commission to find a solution that can pass muster with progressives and conservatives alike. Among the possibilities: repeal policies regarding homosexuality, restructure the church to allow for varying practices or separate into different denominations.
On Wednesday, the Executive Committee of the UMC’s Council of Bishops said it had invited 29 individuals (eight bishops, 13 clergy and eight laity) to join the commission. Invitees were asked to respond within a couple of days. The commission is expected to begin its work later this fall.
Photos: At left, Bishop Oliveto; at right, pastor Jeff Greenway.