August 6, 2016

UMC Bishops React to Election of Lesbian Activist Bishop

The election of a lesbian activist as bishop (which is being challenged) by the United Methodist Church’s fast-declining U.S. Western Jurisdiction has provoked many reactions from across our denomination, including from currently active bishops.

Such reactions typically include calls to pray for our denomination, which is always appropriate.  We should be in fervent prayer for our troubled, beloved UMC.

Here is a non-comprehensive listing of excerpts from some of the more notable reactions from individual bishops across our denomination (with emphases added):

Bishop Lindsey Davis of Kentucky:

I awakened this morning [July 16] to the news that the Western Jurisdiction had elected an openly lesbian elder to the episcopacy. 

 The Southeastern Jurisdiction had already concluded so can take no action. However, the South Central Jurisdiction meeting in Kansas was still in session and voted to ask the Judicial Council of our church to render a declaratory decision on the legality of this action as soon as possible.

 I am hopeful that the Judicial Council will declare this action by the Western Jurisdiction null and void.


Bishop Mark Webb of Upper New York:

These conversations [about sexual morality] have never been easy, but now must take place against a backdrop of heightened anxiety and uncertainty. Last week, the Western Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church elected the Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto as a new bishop. Dr. Oliveto is a self-avowed practicing homosexual. In response to her election, the South Central Jurisdictional Conference requested a declaratory decision from the Judicial Council regarding the constitutionality, meaning, application, or effect of her election. The Judicial Council now has this matter properly before them.

 Faithful United Methodists believe our discipline must change in relation to human sexuality and are working in appropriate ways to bring about that change. Other faithful United Methodists believe our discipline must remain the same and are also working in appropriate ways toward that end. I join my colleagues in the Southeastern College of Bishops in viewing the acts of nonconformity as a violation of our covenant and as divisive and disruptive. Nothing in recent days has changed our Book of Discipline – only General Conference has that ability. I grieve over the deep divisions we face.


 I remain committed to the vows I undertook when I was consecrated a bishop in The United Methodist Church and will continue to strive to live by the covenant that binds and upholds us.


Bishop Bob Hayes of Oklahoma:

Last week, United Methodists around the nation gathered in five jurisdictional conferences to elect new episcopal leaders.  The Western Jurisdictional Conference on July 15 elected Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, a married lesbian, to the episcopacy.  Oliveto has been legally married to a woman for more than two years.

The South Central Jurisdictional Conference, which includes the Oklahoma Area, also was in session when the WJC election occurred.  SCJ delegates voted, 109-84, to request a ruling on this election from the Judicial Council, which is the denomination’s supreme court.

The action of the Western Jurisdictional Conference on Friday [July 15] breeches the rules and policies in the Book of Discipline that govern The United Methodist Church. This vote by the bishops and delegates of that region tears at the covenant that connects us as one united Church. Paragraphs to note in the Discipline are 304.3, 2702, and 161F.


 Let us together continue to uphold the Discipline as our anchor in dealing with issues that affect our lives together.


Bishop Gary Mueller of Arkansas:

Sadly, however, the United Methodist Church is in a fragile place.


 Many in our church are working to amend our Book of Discipline’s current position on human sexuality utilizing the processes our polity has in place for making such changes. Many others are working to maintain our Book of Discipline’s current position on human sexuality. This, too, is being done within the context of our polity. But there are others, including Boards of Ordained Ministry, Bishops, Annual Conferences and a Jurisdictional Conference that are intentionally rejecting our church’s stance regarding marriage and ordination. This includes the recent consecration of Karen Oliveto, an openly gay woman married to another woman, as a bishop in the Western Jurisdiction. 

 Our connection as United Methodists is maintained in several ways: 1) through our membership in the Body of Christ; 2) by The Book of Discipline; and 3) in our vows as deacons, elders and bishops. But, ultimately, the thing that holds us together is our willingness to live together as we have promised. When this begins to disappear, as now appears to be the case because acts of nonconformity, it threatens our church’s unity.


 Please enable the commission to do its work through your actions and your prayers. While I expect Arkansan United Methodists to continue to do this, I need to be transparent and let you know that I will continue to address any violations of The Book of Discipline.


Bishop Dindy Taylor of the Holston (eastern Tennesee) Conference:

Many of you are also aware that the Western Jurisdictional Conference elected and consecrated a bishop who is a self-avowed practicing homosexual. When jurisdictions were established eighty years ago, it was acknowledged that regional differences existed in our denomination. The events of last week indicate that differences still exist across the various regions of our church.

As I stated in my Episcopal Address during the Holston Annual Conference, I am committed to upholding and following The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church. Every person before they are ordained answers John Wesley’s historic questions which conclude with “And do not mend our rules, but keep them; not for wrath, but for conscience’ sake”. I understand that there are those in our connection who are not in agreement with our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality. However, we will keep our rules as stated in The Book of Discipline until the General Conference changes them. If we do not do that, we will have chaos.


 I bid you pray that we will find a way through this current season of unrest and unwillingness of some within the United Methodist Church to keep the covenant that we have promised to keep.

 Let me ask that you keep the promises you have made and be faithful to your local church. Continue to uphold it by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness.


Bishop Jeremiah Park of the Susquehanna (Central Pennsylvania) Conference:

The recent developments in our denominational church intensify the uncertainty that The United Methodist Church is facing. Its future is most likely to unfold in an unpredictable or even unprecedented way. All kinds of thoughts and scenarios about the future of our denomination may be being played out in the minds of many people. The unity of the church is at stake. But God’s people, it’s not over until it’s over.

 Please, pray, pray, pray, and pray. …

 Please know that the Cabinet and I are committed to uphold the covenant of the Discipline of our church. Please also know that, as far as human sexuality is concerned, nothing has changed in the current Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church. The action of one annual conference is not binding on other annual conference, nor are the actions of the Jurisdictional Conference binding. General Conference is the only place that can change the church laws.


 I understand that our church is like a boat in the midst of a fierce storm. But Jesus is in the boat.


 Knowing the magnitude of the task and that its impact will be of historic proportion, please give time to wait on the Commission [on sexuality now being appointed by the Council of Bishops] even if others in the Church are not doing so.


In his sermon for consecrating new bishops at the close of the North Central Jurisdictional Conference, Bishop Mike Coyner of Indiana, my own bishop, warned against “the temptation to be relevant” to the surrounding culture, which provokes some church leaders to forget that “the gospel is always relevant” and instead try “to tweak it and change it,” or even take “the latest fad” and “call it a movement of God.” He also recalled that after the horrific Orlando nightclub shootings, some United Methodist bishops had received e-mails telling them, “you are the co-murderers, because you didn’t change the Book of Discipline.”

Then beginning around the 48:00 mark of this video, Bishop Coyner received some applause for saying the following, in apparent reference to the Western Jurisdiction’s election of Dr. Oliveto the previous evening: “Don’t let anybody else’s lack of faithfulness keep you from being faithful and supportive of your leaders.  Don’t let the Western Jurisdiction become your excuse not to be a faithful United Methodist who loves and cares about your church and its leaders.”

Still other bishops, such as Bishop Larry Goodpaster of Western North Carolina, Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett of North Alabama, Bishop Jonathan Holston of South Carolina, have issued statements committing to do their part to hold uphold our denomination’s governing Discipline, exhorting us to trust in the Lord, and notably using such words to describe our denomination’s current situation as saying that the UMC stands at a “crossroads,” “ It is a tumultuous time in our denomination,” and that our denomination is in need of prayer “at this critical time” as we “move into an uncertain future.” Bishop Holston’s statement also identified Oliveto as “a self-avowed, practicing homosexual.”

Before Oliveto’s election, Bishop Bruce Ough of the Dakotas-Minnesota Area, President of the UMC Council of Bishops characterized the General Conference action referring sexuality-related petitions to a special commission now being appointed as “hit[ting] the pause button.” Bishop Ough told United Methodist News Service, “Personally, I would like to see people and conferences honor that,” in apparent reference to the potential election of an openly homosexually partnered bishop. Bishop Ough’s statement after Oliveto’s election was widely distributed and commented on elsewhere.

Unsurprisingly, a couple of the Western Jurisdiction bishops were more positive about Oliveto’s election.

Bishop Grant Hagiya of Seattle claimed that the Holy Spirit had led Western Jurisdiction delegates to make this choice, and further said, “We understand there may be some political implications, but in our mind this was the best person. It was not a question of (sexual) orientation, it was a question of who was the best spiritual leader. The body spoke and said ‘Yes, this is the one.’”

Bishop Elaine Stanovsky of Denver, whose episcopal area Oliveto was assigned to take over, urged United Methodists in that area to “welcome the first ‘out’ gay bishop in our Church,” characterized the election as being led by God, and seemed to adopt a mockingly dismissive tone in summarizing the reactions of others:

Many people will say many things about this election.

 Some will assume that a secular ‘gay agenda’ has taken root within the church, overwhelming Christian, biblical values.

 Some will say it defies church law, which declares homosexuality ‘incompatible with Christian teaching,’ and prohibits ‘self-avowed practicing homosexuals’ from serving as ordained ministers.

 Some will say that it undermines the ‘Way Forward’ being led by the Council of Bishops to address the deep theological and ethical divides within our Church – that it will split the church.

 Some will say that it’s too little, too late – that the church has betrayed lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer folk for too long and continues to exclude and hurt them day by day.

 Some say, I just wish ‘they’ would be discreet and not rub ‘our’ noses in ‘it.’”

UPDATE: United Methodist News Service reached across the world to quote Bishop Eduard Khegay of Moscow as saying that “I do not see this election in accordance with the Book of Discipline,” and that it would be “impossible” for him to accept Oliveto as a colleague bishop.  He also said, “This reminds me of the communist time in Soviet Union when we had ‘selective justice,’ which means the law is applied selectively: Some people should follow the law, but others at the top can ignore it.”

(Note: We are at that time in the life of our denomination in which many U.S. bishops are in the process of playing “musical chairs,” trading their locations within their respective jurisdictions. To minimize confusion, I have identified bishops by the areas they currently are assigned to lead, which do not officially change until September 1.)

20 Responses to UMC Bishops React to Election of Lesbian Activist Bishop

  1. Duane Anders says:

    I celebrate the Holy Spirit unanimous vote that Elected Bishop Karen.

    • Scott says:

      No, not hagiou pneumatos (Holy Spirit), but rather pneumati akatharto (literally “unclean spirit,” but most versions render it “evil spirit”).

      Huge difference. Two entirely different religions. One of them, thankfully, is dying. Good riddance.

      • Duane Anders says:

        God keeps drawing the circle wide.

        • Scott says:

          So wide that it looks like shrinkage.

          1960: 3.2 million
          2014: 1.8 million

          United Church of Christ
          1960: 2,056,000
          2014: 979,000

          United Methodist
          1960: 11.0 million
          2014: 7.2 million

          “We welcome sexual deviates” does not appear to be a winning strategy.

          • Bob Johnson says:

            UCC current membership is now 914,871 -64,368 since 2014

          • Scott says:

            Thanks for the update.
            If you’d said the membership had increased, I would have been very suspicious.

          • Railroad Lover61 says:

            The United Methodist Church was not “United” in 1960 but rather 1968. Just the same however it WAS a better Church in 1960.

          • Scott says:

            Yes, it was, but the merger didn’t cause their apostasy. In fact, I know people in the EUB who predicted (correctly) that uniting with the Methodists was a theological disaster. The “bump” in number sdue to the merger was only temporary, as there was a quick decline in numbers.

        • David Goudie says:

          Referring to the song from Gordon Light from the United Church I assume? I find the hymns from Charles Wesley to be more grounded in scripture and depth of understanding
 ‘I want a principle within’; Depth of mercy; And Can It be that I should gain; How Can We Sinners Know….

      • Duane Anders says:

        You will find “my dying” church on this list.

  2. Dan Greenie says:

    WHY is anyone still remaining in this apostate denomination? Jezebel is running and howling mad through the sanctuary and you talk piously about praying for the denomination? Where is your Biblical indignation and firm rod of discipline? Oh, that’s right, saying “No” to the miscreants is seen as narrow minded. My faith is in a righteous God who will not have His word mocked. Rev. 22 is going to be quoted to the apostates and those who seek to bend God’s word to accommodate them.

    • Pudentiana says:

      I doubt that you have been in the meetings where godly people have stood up for the Gospel and against this heretical stance. This is a spiritual battle. Some choose to stay and fight it.

  3. David Goudie says:

    While I’m encouraged by some of the Bishops statements, I thought the best statement and reaction came from our African bothers and sisters

    From Dr. Jerry Kulah, leader in the global ‪#‎umc‬ from Africa:
    5th August 2016
    Over the past weeks we have been following the events and activities of the five jurisdictions of The United Methodist Church with mixed emotions and serious concerns about the future of our beloved church. We have read of actions taken by some in gross disobedience to the Bible and our Book of Discipline, and of others who have written to express their disagreements. We are deeply concerned. However, we are praying for God’s intervention as we discern God’s plans for the future of our church.

    It is shockingly amazing that in the communication of “Love Prevails” to the Council of Bishops there was no mention of a specific reference to any passage of the Holy Scripture, our primary authority for doctrine, faith, and Christian living as the Church of Jesus Christ, to support any of its claims, arguments, and demands and justifications for the actions it has taken in recent times. This attitude and behavior has the propensity to embarrass, ridicule, and blur the message of the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ, which alone has the power to save and transform society.

    In light of the commitment we (African delegates to the 2016 General Conference) made to the request of the Council of Bishops by our support to have them set up a special Commission to inquire into all human sexuality issues contained in our Book of Discipline, many of us are deeply saddened by the actions of some of our brothers and sisters to attempt to derail the unity of global Methodism. Their actions to grossly disrespect our Bishops and disobey our global decision at the recent 2016 General Conference are incompatible with fostering unity within global Methodism.

    Furthermore, their actions seem to confirm the fears of our founding father, John Wesley. About five years before his demise, John Wesley had expressed his fears about the future of our church in regards to its continued commitment and submission to the Scripture and discipline that govern us. He said, “I am not afraid that the people called Methodist should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America [in Africa and the rest of the world]. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both to the doctrine, spirit and discipline with which they first set out”. When we abandon the clear teaching of Scripture in favor of some philosophies and ideologies of contemporary society, we cease to exist within God’s parameter of grace.

    We are left to wonder, why are we not identified as Muslims, Buddhist, Hindus, etc., but Christians? It is because every religious faith has a doctrine and a religious code of conduct that distinguishes it from all other religion. In the case of Christianity, it is the Bible, the Holy Word of God, as the Quran is for the Muslims. One’s religious identity is not found in the most appealing cultural or political system of the day, for that is fleeting. Loyalty, obedience, and submission to the teachings of these “divine writings” of the faith to which one belongs defines, distinguishes, and truly identifies adherents. One cannot claim to truly be a member of any of the world’s religions and live in gross disobedience to its teachings. (John14:15; Psalm 119:9-11,105; 19:7-11). Let the church be the church; and let not the culture of the day define the global Christian community called United Methodist, but the Bible (Joshua 1:8; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
    The Christian Church, bought and birthed with the blood of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 53:1-13; Matthew 27: 32-61; John 10:10-11; Hebrews 10:1-39) is not and cannot be a social club; it cannot be directed by any form of political activism that contradicts the teachings of Scripture. And it is not a social or political system based on humanism or secular ideologies and philosophies (2 John 2;15-16; Colossians 2: 8-15;1 Samuel 8) that seeks endorsement for a kind of “human rights” to the detriment of human existence as God our Creator has designed it. Instead, the Church of Jesus Christ is a global community redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, who lives in loving relationship with their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They are a people called out from the world and yet sent into the world (John 16:7-11; Acts 1:8; Genesis 6:5-9; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; 28; Judges 2:10-13; 17:6) to share the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit in order that persons might come to faith in Christ and become disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We cannot in any way be “bad news” by our decisions, actions, and attitudes, and yet attempt to proclaim the good news.

    It is time to return to the faith of our fathers and mothers (the Holy Scriptures) and be the church. In spite all that is going on, there is hope for the continued growth and development of the Church of Jesus Christ because Jesus is still the LORD of His Church. We will remain committed and determined to live in loyalty and obedience to the teachings of the Holy Scriptures, and to our Book of Discipline. We will also remain supportive of the unity of the global United Methodist Community as long as the Bible remains our primary authority for faith and Christian living. We shall remain loving of members of the UM Church who have chosen to tread the cultural path of contemporary society that is inimical to the teaching of Scripture, in the hope that we will reconcile our differences and submit to the Lordship of Christ. They are our brothers and sisters for whom Christ also gave his life. However, we shall not compromise our Christian faith on the altar of what seems to the minds of some to be “socially acceptable and politically correct” cultures and practices of contemporary society.
    We are confident that God is in sovereign control of His Church. He promises to continually build it until He returns to receive us unto Himself, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18b). We need to only be still, yet vigorously prayerful and discerning in such a time as this, and we will see the deliverance of the Lord.

    We must admit that global United Methodist Church is at the crossroads (Jeremiah 6:16). We have choices to make. On one hand, we can choose to obey God and His word, and thereby repent of the sin of gross disobedience and abandon the quest to be like the rest of the world. On the other hand, we can choose to continue in pursuit of what the cultural practices of the day dictate that denies God’s sovereignty over God’s creation and accepts what feels good, what seems politically acceptable to society, etc. The choice is ours.

    But as Joshua, at the close of his ministry in Shechem, said to all of the Israelites, and by implication to all United Methodist at the crossroads today, we wish to challenge all born-again believers in Jesus Christ (John 3:3-5), in the words of this great general of God’s people, “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness…But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household (the UM Community in Africa, in particular, and all faithful Christians everywhere who are committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the undiluted Word of God for belief and practice), we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:14-15). Together, we shall make it for God’s glory (Joshua 2:17-18; 2 Samuel 10:9-12). God has wonderful plans for the prosperity of His Church on earth (Jeremiah 29:11). Let us be firmed and very courageous in prayer and in discerning God’s will for the future of our church, always abounding in the Word of the Lord; for we know our labor in the Lord is not in vain (Joshua 1:4-6; 1 Corinthians 15:58). May God bless the people called United Methodist.

    For His Glory,

    Rev. Dr. Jerry P. Kulah, Central Conference Coordinator, UMC Africa Initiative
    On behalf of the UMC Africa Initiative

  4. Joan Watson says:

    The #3 stupid thing of all this brouhaha is that the Western Jurisdiction, who is the poster child of failure when it comes to enticing others to become United Methodists,is trying to force the church to follow their lead. The #2 stupid part of this is that since 1972 the progressives have shared their message at every General Conference, every General Conference came back with the same answer which speaks the truth–Christianity is incompatible with 2000 years of Christian teaching and if you delve into our Jewish roots, the timeline goes even farther back. But here we are in chaos and all the President of the Council of Bishops–the closest thing we have to an overall leader–can say is that personally he wished people would respect the hold put on the sexuality issue at General Conference. And stupid #1 is that people that totally disregard the decision of multiple General Conferences are viewed as having equal footing as those who are willing to abide by it and even believe it is the correct answer! For a connectional church our structure is very disconnectional; there does not seem to be any effective and efficient way to deal with renegades–maybe the true lesson in all this is we need more accountability across the denomination so that different groups can not wander off and come up with their own understanding of what it means to be a United Methodist! We are in existence because of a specific message and method that worked together to enable any person who chose to do so to live a life centered in God 24/7 regardless of their circumstances or background–and there was a framework of understanding of what that life looked like!

  5. Skipper says:

    It shouldn’t take too long to have her election declared null and void, since she is living immorally by her own admission.
    This is not your ordinary sexually confused person in need of healing. Here is a woman who thinks she has taken a wife, and yet has graduated from a seminary. Considering the False Gospels being taught in many seminaries today, perhaps it is understandable. You must be diligent in selecting a seminary these days.
    She knows enough about the bible to know that this is very sinful. She should know that “you will reap what you sow.” She should know that God will forgive when we earnestly repent and turn from our sins. She should know that this action is required on her part. She should know that Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, cannot approve of a life of debauchery and must call on her to turn back while she still can. She should know that God is waiting on her to respond. And she should know that we can’t do it for her. She should know she doesn’t need us to excuse her, but rather God to forgive her.

    • John S. says:

      Ahh such optimism. The JC has already said this is too important to rush to a decision, that there are too many issues. Don’t expect to see a clearcut decision on this one.

      • Skipper says:

        Having rejected God’s protection, believing the lies of Satan, she suppresses the Truth about God. This is not Left vs. Right, it’s right vs. wrong. It’s good vs. evil. It’s following Christ or scattering His sheep.

        The Judicial Council should take this up immediately. How long does Satan need to prepare his case? Don’t give him extra time to fool God’s people! It is so clear cut – settle it now.

  6. Railroad Lover61 says:

    I am waiting to see if the Wesleyan Covenant Association goes through with their plans to start a new denomination. It is pretty clear to many of us that UMC is unwilling or unable to enforce its rules in the BOD. More importantly however is the absence of scripture reference from both the Old Testament as well as the New Testament as the final authority of how the UMC should proceed in its quest to uphold the laws of our God.

  7. John S. says:

    “Don’t let anybody else’s lack of faithfulness keep you from being faithful and supportive of your leaders. Don’t let the Western Jurisdiction become your excuse not to be a faithful United Methodist who loves and cares about your church and its leaders.”

    Translation: We still need the money. Those who are calling for apportionments to be withheld pending action by the UMC are having an effect on our bottom line.

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