Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Western Jurisdiction Post-Judicial Council Hearing Press Conference Remarks


My name is Karen Oliveto and I am the Bishop of the Mountain Sky Area of The United Methodist Church. I stand here with my colleagues of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops, the cabinet of the Mountain Sky Area and delegates and leaders from the Western Jurisdiction as well as my siblings in Christ, the Queer Clergy Caucus of The United Methodist Church. Also standing with me today is the childhood pastor who helped me hear my call into ministry, Rev. Ken White, my mother, Nellie Oliveto and my wife, Robin Ridenour.

I want to thank Rich Marsh for his hard work as counsel over these past many months, for Llew Pritchard for his assistance as co-counsel, and for the prayers from across the connection and around the world, that have sustained Robin’s and my souls.

I love being a bishop in The United Methodist Church. I have been moved by the faithful ministries within the churches of the area I serve. I love the relationships we have formed and the vision for our future that has prayerfully emerged in these nine months. It is as if everything I have done throughout my vocation has brought me to this position where I can best serve God as we make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

What is fascinating about today’s hearing is that no one questioned the gifts and graces I possess for ordained ministry and specifically for the episcopacy. And no one has looked at my work and said my abilities for this task are lacking.

In the Gospel of John it is written:

John 15:16  You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name God will give you.

This is a pivotal moment in the life of The United Methodist Church as the Judicial Council deliberates on those whom God has called to bear fruit in the world-- specifically, the role gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people have in ordained ministry.

In fact, lgbtqi people have been serving faithfully as ordained ministers and yes, even as bishops, in The United Methodist Church since it was created in 1968. And we have done it at great personal cost, serving in the silence of closets, in order to be faithful to God’s call.

Making heterosexuality a requirement for ordained ministry instead of asking whether someone possesses the gifts and graces for ministry denies God’s infinite imagination that is evidenced through the lives of God’s diverse children. One part of Christ’s body cannot say to the other, “We have no need of you.”

Since 1972, The United Methodist Church as a human institution has been divided about homosexuality. We are not of one mind. What we know is that God loves us all unconditionally. We’ve come to an impasse. The legislative process and the decisions we’ve made have not allowed us to get to know each other, understand each other, hear how the Holy Spirit is working in our lives, and love each other deeply as God would have us do.

This is why I support the work of the Commission on a Way Forward. Some have said that my election was ill-timed. As people of faith, we know we can’t give deadlines and timelines to the Holy Spirit, who moves in our lives in surprising and unexpected ways and compels us to follow.  I strongly and prayerfully support the work of the Commission. If my election does anything, it highlights the urgency of their task. Because God has and will continue to call faithful United Methodists who happen to be lgbtqi to serve their church. This helps move the conversation away from debating homosexuality as an issue, to talking with people in The United Methodist Church who are lgbtqi whose lives bear the fruits of the Spirit that enrich the community of faith. In this way, we are bringing gay and straight together to build up the body of Christ in a way we have never experienced before.

I believe this is what John Wesley meant when he said, “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” He wove into the very fabric of the Methodist movement a vigorous tension of difference that enlivens unity, not detracts from it.

This is what I know to be true: the Holy Spirit will continue to move in the lives of lgbtqi United Methodists. Some will be called to ordained ministry. Boards of Ordained Ministry will find them to possess the gifts and graces for ministry. And there will be those to whom God calls into the episcopacy. I am not the first gay bishop, and I won’t be the last.

May we let go of fear of an unknown future, and live into love’s demands.

Bishop Karen P. Oliveto
Resident Bishop of the Mountain Sky Area
April 25, 2017

26 comments:

  1. My collegues in Ministry that I have spoken with from the Montana Area. - Greatly appreciate your leadership. My feeling along the same lines. As If there is a Wall built along the Borders - Please tell me what about those that are on the otherside?

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  2. You inspire me and I'm praying that this discrimination does not really exist in the community I've grown to love! My prayers are with you that they will look at your work and commitment! You are a beacon to the lgbtqi community of the Methodist Church.....

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  3. Beautifully written words--inspiring and encouraging your congregants (is that the right word) as you, I am sure, are in need of inspiration and encouragement. Thank you for your gifts and graces. May God continue to be with you and your family and those working on your (our) behalf. Roberta Hamilton-Griggs

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  4. There has to be a way that all of us can agree to disagree, but still enable those with such extraordinary talents to use them to grow the community of faith to include all and not those who appear different in blind eyes! Prayers continue to God for all that are affected by this closed mindedness. Marty Callies 4-25-17 7:55 p.m.

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  5. Your words, your heart, your actions are all infused with depth, kindness & loving acceptance. The world is a better place because you are who you are.

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  6. Beautifully spoken. Karen's spirit and fire and guiding words have always been inspiring. She spoke at our church in South Bend, Indiana many years ago, to a mostly lgtbq or open and affirming UMC congregation and you could feel the fire of the Holy Spirit come upon the room and ignite within each one of us the love and acceptance of God, for we are all "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139). She is chosen by God to lead and shepherd and nurture and heal--gifts that don't come often with such passion to fulfill God's calling. Offering up my fervent prayers.
    Richard Nyers

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  7. Thank you, Bishop Karen, for your witness.

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  8. Profound! Magnificent! And may hearts be strangely warmed!

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  10. Yes. This. Holding you and all in the Light.
    Lisa Withrow

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  11. Dear Bishop Oliveto, Thank you for sharing your reflections with the many of us prayerfully watching from afar. From everything I've learned about your ministry, you represent the best of the UMC and its potential to be more than it has been. You, and the people and congregations of the UMC, remain in my prayers.
    In solidarity and in faith,
    Rev. Erika Sanborne, United Church of Christ, raised in the UMC which remains in my heart

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  12. My prayers are with you; the way forward is the way through.

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  14. Thank you Bishop Oliveto. God has apparently not only called you to a wonderful ministry, but has called you to be the face of the Spirit's movement. Thank you for answering that call with such grace, poise, humility, and love. You are truly an inspiration for Methodists of any sexuality or gender.

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  15. Thank you Bishop Oliveto. God has apparently not only called you to a wonderful ministry, but has called you to be the face of the Spirit's movement. Thank you for answering that call with such grace, poise, humility, and love. You are truly an inspiration for Methodists of any sexuality or gender.

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  16. The humble, patient, persistent and spiritually profound sentiments you express here could not be more inspired by God's grace.
    Jesus is definitely watching.

    I pray on this occasion especially that LOVE wins.
    Thank you for carrying that torch for my faith. You help keep that flame alive by living it, not only preaching it.

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  17. Frank Treadway-ReddingCA As a baptized Methodist and an LGBT person myself, I feel your confusion and pain over something that we hold as natural. Was in Portland for the UMCGC and witnessed the mounds of LGBT loving persons and supporters. This reconciliation will happen within our lifetime, be patient and don't become weary.

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  18. As J. W. Preached, "If thy heart is as my heart, give me thine hand." Thanks Karen.

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  19. Crossed fingers and folded hands that Judicial Council's discernment yields yields an inclusion that more closely follows the example of Christ than it currently does. Doesn't God know the number of hairs on the head of each and all of his children? And are we not, each and every one of us, with absolutely no exceptions, fiercely and fervently cherished and loved by that same Triune God? Why, then, do we persist in stumbling over the same barriers that we alone are solely responsible for placing in our way? Did not our Christ mandate us to, "Love as I have loved"?
    May each and all of us continue growing God-ward, both individually and as one holy catholic Church, Universal and Apostolic.

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  20. Dear Bishop Oliveto,
    I read your remarks with enthusiasm as an ally of the LGTBQ community. It is a continual wonder to me that at a time when Christian churches struggle to be "fishers of men (humans)" that we would turn away anyone wanting to serve for the common good. How incredible it is for some to act as if we just discovered the concept of being gay? Really? As you so correctly pointed out, there have always been gay clergy but it was quiet and held private in a way that left all too many feeling a sense of shame they didn't deserve. United Methodists need to lead on this issue. God's people are His people and if called to serve they should be allowed and in fact encouraged to do so. Keeping you in my prayers especially now. A shout out from Poughkeepsie United Methodist Church in your home state!

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  21. Canadian clergy person here serving jointly in the United Church of Canada and the Presbyterian Church in Canada. I'm holding you, your family and your friends in prayer.

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  22. I am conscious of how much you must be hurting at this time. May the God of Peace in Jesus Christ be yours, and with all whom you love, and all who love you. From a Methodist living in the U.K.

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  23. The grace and poise of your words--at a time that must surely be one of great stress and pain--testifies to your gifts for ministry and the episcopacy. As I put it in a recent post, "When Christ tells His parable of the talents, He concludes it by chastising the servant who chooses to bury the talent given him by his master. But Rev. Karen Oliveto chose to use her talents, not to bury them. She chose to use them on behalf of the UMC. The Western Jurisdiction chose to let her do so. If the UMC as a whole forces her out of the episcopacy--and the recent ruling is a clear step in that direction--then it is the UMC that is burying Oliveto's talents, and hence the UMC that must face Christ's censure." Perhaps a bit sharper than your words (I doubt I have the gifts for the episcopacy that you do), but I think they are true.

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  24. Repent....
    Go and sin no more

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