Today, I and others received official notification that our denomination’s supreme court, the Judicial Council, had unanimously decided to reject the request from the Western Jurisdiction bishops to reverse their April ruling against the attempt by this increasingly schismatic, numerically tiny region of the United Methodist Church to elevate an openly partnered lesbian activist to be bishop.
We have earlier reported on how the Judicial Council’s complex ruling ultimately took away any foundation in UMC church law for Dr. Karen Oliveto of San Francisco to indefinitely remain a bishop in good standing, and how more broadly, this ruling fundamentally reshaped our church law to remove what had previously been major barriers to defrocking clergy unwilling to abide by our denomination’s biblical standards for sexual self-control.
I also posted online the “friend of the court” legal briefs I submitted to the Judicial Council ahead of their ruling on this case.
Dr. Oliveto is on-record as embracing a bizarrely non-Christian worldview that draws on New Age inspiration and includes directly rebuking Jesus Christ’s own red-letter teachings while defending the supposed benefits of being possessed by demons. Her choice to not immediately resign has significantly hurt congregations in her assigned area and the regional headquarters, with one of her own conference offices publicly declaring a “FINANCIAL CRISIS.” In her short time acting as a “bishop,” Oliveto has used her office to launch a totalitarian intimidation tour of seeking out and taking names of any remaining orthodox congregations in the Mountain Sky Area of UMC and subsequently denouncing those she actually called “the bad churches.”
Yet none of this appears to matter to the bishops and other leaders of the Western Jurisdiction or to anyone of whom I am aware in liberal-caucus circles. It seems they are absolutely determined to stand behind their efforts to elevate Oliveto no matter how deeply and widely she and they hurt the church, because her being a partnered lesbian evidently trumps every other consideration.
I also reported on how every active and retired bishop in the UMC’s Western Jurisdiction jointly submitted a formal request last month for the Judicial Council to reconsider (i.e., overturn) their landmark ruling disallowing openly partnered homosexual bishops. Their five-page request was later posted online. But it did not really bring a stronger legal argument than this region’s bishops not liking how the ruling could limit the legal games they have been playing for years to avoid enforcing our denomination’s official rules against homosexually active clergy.
Today, the Judicial Council issued a formal notification that its nine members unanimously rejected the Western bishops’ request. This message was sent via email to the Western Jurisdiction bishops’ attorney, Richard Marsh, with copies sent to me and apparently every other individual the Judicial Council had listed as an interested party or a friend of the court for its previous ruling.
This means the Judicial Council’s landmark ruling to restore accountability stands as binding church law throughout our global denomination.
The key part of the Judicial Council’s statement is as follows:
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ!
I am writing to inform you that, after careful review and prayerful consideration, the Motion to Reconsider JCD 1341 of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops has been denied. Though usually not disclosed to the requesting party, the vote of the Judicial Council was unanimous. Consequently, your request for reconsideration will not be placed on the fall docket pursuant to Art. IX.C RPP.
The denial will be reported as a Memorandum at our October meeting.