In its April 2017 meeting, the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church ruled that the consecration of an openly gay Bishop is against church law. The ruling comes in response to a Petition for Declaratory Decision from the South Central Jurisdictional Conference following the 2017 consecration of Bishop Karen Oliveto, an openly gay clergyperson, in the Western Jurisdiction. (UMNS)
However, in the same ruling, the top court stated that Bishop Oliveto remains a Bishop in The United Methodist Church:
At all times, the bishop’s constitutional right to fair and due process must be protected. Until the completion of the administrative and/or judicial process, [Bishop Karen Oliveto] remains in good standing. (Decision No. 1431)
After Bishop Bruce R. Ough, President of the Council of Bishops, expressed appreciation for the Judicial Council’s work and hope for the future (Statement), the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops, represented by Bishop Elaine Stanovsky, shared the following Spirit-led response:
The Judicial Council ruled today on challenges to the election of an out gay bishop in The United Methodist Church. The ruling is long and complicated, reinforcing the reality that the church is not of one mind about inclusion of LGBTQI people and sexual practices outside heterosexual marriage. We thank the Judicial Council for allowing the Commission on A Way Forward to do its work. We have said from the beginning that we trust the commission to find new ways for United Methodists of varying perspective to live and serve God together.
Karen Oliveto, is still a bishop of The United Methodist Church, assigned to the Mountain Sky Area, with all the rights, privileges, responsibilities and protections that every clergy person enjoys. The decision refuted the claim that bishops have the right and responsibility to declare a candidate for election as a bishop ineligible without due process.
On the other hand, the Judicial Council expanded the definition of “self-avowed practicing homosexual,” making it clear that the church is still not open to full LGBTQI inclusion.
While the Judicial Council ordered a review of Bishop Oliveto’s qualifications for ministry, the Western Jurisdiction is already in the process of responding to complaints that were filed after her election. This process will continue according to the provisions of our Book of Discipline.
We will have more to say about this ruling as the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops gathers this week during the Council of Bishops meeting. We will be in prayer, conversation, and consultation with leaders of the Western Jurisdiction and the Council of Bishops.
By James J. Kang
Director of Communications