Lesbian “Bishop” Karen Oliveto delivered the sermon at the Ordination and Commissioning Service during the 2017 Rocky Mountain Annual Conference that centered on the ramifications of the Church rejecting the heart of God. We, as a body, “muse proudly at our own accomplishments,” “Photoshop God out of the picture,” and “close our hearts to the Holy Spirit.” Oliveto cited Micah 6:3, where God asks, “Dear people, where have I done you wrong?” In other words, what has God done to make us sick of Him? She describes God in this moment as “more like a brokenhearted lover than a righteous Almighty.” We have apparently forgotten the loving character of the Lord.
The “bishop” next described the demographics of the Rocky Mountain region, where the largest growing religious category is that of religious “nones,” people who have no religious identity. The Church is largely responsible for this, Oliveto argued, because of what she grievingly terms “vampire evangelism.” Churches suck the life out of people. Christians’ alleged hypocrisy and hyper-doctrinaire fixations have put the focus “on maintenance, rather than religion.” While God is crying out “like a heartsick lover,” most churches fail people by offering “a very church lady response.” We command participation in rituals and operate our services as transactions, as if “God can be bought off.”
Without providing any historical, sociological, or Biblical evidence, Karen Oliveto lambasted the church’s alleged modus operandi by challenging the Christian community to stand with the oppressed and to acknowledge that it has “been complicit in oppression.” She grounded her interpretation of God’s vision for his people in Micah 6:8. We are called to “do justice, love kindness, walk humbly with your God.” Loving kindness means standing with the marginalized and committing to “a vow of radicle discipleship.” Through this lifestyle, injustice will come crumbling down and every member will be treated with dignity. In this world, “service is the most honorable act and humility is the rule.” Christians living out God’s love are “called to honor the many forms that love takes” and to believe that “caring for the earth we inhabit is indeed an act of stewardship.”
Finally, she commanded the Church to “have our heart beat with God’s heart. Can you feel the beat of God’s heart? Can your soul dance to its rhythm?” We are convicted by Jesus to keep these beats of love, justice, and mercy perpetually beating in our hearts and in our communities, according to Oliveto. The “sermon” concluded with a “spirit-led” dance party on the conference floor to the tune of “You Can’t Stop the Beat” (which followed another “Dancing Queen” party during an extended celebration of her ministry on the previous day).
In the midst of these bizarre misconceptions of both the Church’s mission and God’s character, it is easy to dismiss Karen Oliveto and her fellow lefty dancers as delusional individuals with even wackier ideas. They are creating their own gods. But in many pockets of our country and Church, this worldview is championed. The cultural and societal normalization of sexual sin that continues to enthrall American churches is most definitely a cause for dismay. We must continue to destabilize these views by, in the words of IRD President Mark Tooley, advocating for “a transcendent reality that is rooted in marriage and family as part of divine creation.” The flaws of the religious left’s arguments must be exposed. However, this trend is only a symptom of a deeper problem evident throughout this “sermon.” Equating a sovereign God to a tolerant friend leads many to a “pick-and-choose” eisegesis of selective truth. The hijacking of Biblical language to serve the purposes of these ideologies is even more troubling. The most sacred words of “Christ,” “love,” and “justice” have become hollow havens of feel-good spirituality.
The reality of sin is that we all construct alternate realities. In the words of the Anglican reformer and martyr Thomas Cranmer, “What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies.” All of our hearts desire evil, and to some extent, choose to reject God. Thus, while we should never gloss over this revisionist theology, let’s not forget that these propensities are present in all of us. After all, Karen Oliveto carries the imago dei. We need to take her concerns seriously and ground our rebukes in Christ-like compassion. All too often, absurdity desensitizes sincerity.
So, pray for Karen Oliveto and for like-minded church-goers. Pray against their lefty lullabies of false teaching. Pray that their outbursts of exuberant dancing will one day parallel convictions of authentic joy. Most importantly, pray that they will be rebuked by the Spirit of God and that their hearts, wills, and minds would all experience transformative renewals in Jesus Christ. May God lead them into actual synchronization with His heartbeat.