July 25, 2017

Karen Oliveto, “Vampire Evangelism,” and Dancing Queens

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.

35 Responses to Karen Oliveto, “Vampire Evangelism,” and Dancing Queens

  1. Andy Hughes says:

    Great message Daniella. Keep the faith as you are strengthened by God.

    • David Boger, elder, Va Conf says:

      Good article – thanks! Keep calling the Church back to faithful Biblical Christionolgy.

  2. Dan says:

    Very nice prayer at the end. Boy did the quote from Cranmer put a hit on the UMC progressives’ practice of elevating experience and reason above scripture.

    If there ever was a prima facie case for not having women ordained as priests/ministers/pastors, sexual proclivities notwithstanding, this is it! In my four decades with the UMC, I never had a female minister that was not heterodox, mentally unstable, or a frustrated social worker who wanted the patina of ordination to justify herself.

    • Gaylan says:

      While I certainly grieve over this display of eisegesis and appeal to emotions, I don’t think the “Women pastors are heterodox, mentally unstable, or a frustrated social worker,” is a vaild reason for denying women ordination. The women pastors that I’ve had association with are devout preachers and teachers of the Scriptures and strive to live exemplary lives in holiness. There are many, many more men who just as wacky or more so. However, if we’re going to make an authoritative argument for or against, it must be an argument based on solid exegesis.

      • Dan says:

        You are correct. I am simply stating my “Gamaliel argument” based on personal experience (hey, it is one of the legs of the Wesleyan quadrilateral, after all 🙂 ). I think the recent work done by the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) in this area offers and example of good exegetical work based on scripture and tradition. Sorry for taking a point of personal privilege here.

        • Edwin Tait says:

          So experience matters if it confirms your prejudices, but not if it doesn’t?

          Of all the bad ways the “quadrilateral” has been invoked, this has to be the worst.

          • John says:

            “Experience” within the quadrilateral is the experience of assurance in our salvation. Think Charles Wesley on Pentecost morning in 1738 or his brother John on Wednesday evening of that same week. To apply the full panoply of human experience to the quadrilateral is to stretch it far beyond anything Outler ever intended it to be.

    • Ned Barnett says:

      While I was living in Ivins Utah a decade ago, I attended an Episcopalian church in St. George – with all the Mormons around, this was like a guerrilla church, an isolated pocket surrounded by what I consider to be a cult. The priest at this church was a woman, and she was a fine priest as well as a god-fearing woman. She had married a retired Presbyterian minister who helped her with the duties of the church, but she was the leader, and an exceptional one.

      There is nothing inherently wrong with women serving as pastors or priests. That some women are not ideal religious leaders is no more shocking than the notion that some men are not ideal religious leaders – and if we look at Christian history, there are many many times as many flawed men in leadership positions than all the women (flawed and unflawed) who’ve ever served the church.

  3. Dean says:

    “lefty lancers”? Like knights on horses fighting with lances? Or does the term have another meaning? Just wondering.

  4. Jim R Tormey says:

    It amazes me how close they actually come to correct theology. But there in lies the problem. Not unlike Satan using scripture to tempt Jesus, those who hold these beliefs have failed to yield to the Spirit and truly understand the truth they claim to espouse. It is sad how many are fooled by the flowery talk of these lefty’s. But we were warned, in scripture that people would look for teachers who would tickle their ears. They have not even listened to the vows the said they would uphold. My heart breaks at their lostness.

  5. Stephanie says:

    Great read, Daniella!

  6. R R says:

    Do you think you could use any more “quotes” in your blog? Or, are you trying to point out something every time you use “quotes” to grab your attention. While reading through the blog, I was almost drawn to the “quotes” instead of what you were trying to suggest. Just a thought when you use too much of one thing.

  7. Duane Anders says:

    Love Bishop Oliveto! ird- no so much.

  8. William says:

    If Karen Oliveto is their point person, then the progressives in the UMC are evolving into a religious cult. Of course, they are already in the initial stages of separation from the UMC by their defiant actions and their new found “theology”. There is no tent in the world large enough to include this. The called 2019 General Confetence certainly needs recognize this and make their separation from the UMC official.

  9. LukeinNE says:

    I’d like to see the author drop the sneering quotation marks around ‘bishop.’ If you don’t feel she’s a legitimate bishop, just refer to her by her name sans the title.

    Ok, that out of the way, I can’t get over the level of delusion in liberal churches these days. I’m a member of a fairly conservative ELCA church, but every conference I go to, the speakers are the same. The decline of Christianity is evangelicals’ fault. Their toxic bigoted theology is turning everyone off. I’m sure this is comforting to them, but it’s so detached from reality, I’m actually embarrassed for them. By far the biggest difference between America and Europe in terms of religion is that we have a robust evangelical tradition and they do not. Take away the evangelicals, and American Christianity looks a lot like Europe: pockets of Catholicism, and a mainline success story here and there, but mainly an endless sea of unchurched people walking past the gorgeous, empty buildings of spiritually dead legacy churches.

  10. Chris says:

    Great article, Daniella thanks for the thoughtful content and insightful analysis!

    • Richard Bell says:

      In the article’s first sentence, there is a hot link to a video of the sermon (or, as Daniella prefers, “sermon”). Click there, watch, and especially listen. Unless you are strongly prejudiced against the bishop (or, as Daniella prefers, “bishop”), you will rue praising Daniella for giving us thoughtful content and insightful analysis.

      • Ned Barnett says:

        Your theology is baffling, sir. This lesbian Bishop is twisting theology to justify acts and lifestyles that the Bible is clear on – they are sinful. Yes, we all sin, but there is a difference between trying to lead a Godly life and failing, and embracing a sinful life and trying to justify it by an unusual take on God and Scripture.

  11. William says:

    Absurdly to a whole new level. Embarrassing for the church. This sort of thing makes the UMC look so bad and inept:

  12. Edwin Tait says:

    Thanks for excerpting what sounds like a powerful and challenging sermon, fairly enough that its beauty came across through your sneers of disapproval!

    And FWIW, I’m entirely in agreement with the theological substance of what you say later too.

    Both you and Bishop Oliveto appear to be sincere, thoughtful, godly Christians. Too bad you can’t see this about your sister in Christ.

  13. Tom Fuller says:

    Have you noticed that the farther liberals drift from orthodoxy, they fancier they dress? It’s as if they depend on their holy clothes to divert attention–perhaps mainly in their minds–away from the fact that they are disobedient heretics. They substitute symbolism for sacrifice. Jesus said these people would be here, doing this, and for His followers to avoid them, who flaunt their holy clothes–robes and tassels–and who simultaneously disobey the weightier matters of The Law. I guess it has always been that way. The far left is tolerant of everybody…except everybody to their right. Almost everybody. They are acting out The Script the Lord wrote aeons ago. They’re playing the roles of the bad guys. Even they, in their disobedience, are proving the Bible true.

  14. Milton Grenfell says:

    Yes, in my waning years in the ECUSA pews ALL the priestesses were heretical. A goodly number of the younger priests, to be fair. And yes, “frustrated social workers” are precisely what they seemed to me at the time. I’ve since crossed the Tiber, and have left all those troubles behind.

  15. Jon Burk says:

    Great concluding paragraph to the article, Daniella! That is my prayer, that the scales will come off and the truth will be seen, by us all! But especially for the salvation of Oliveta and the others who have created a god in their own image. At present, Oliveto is of a different religion within the denomination. Thus she uses Christian terms to which she has assigned different meanings. This is not unusual for the unbelieving who are of other faiths, but it is ultimately sad that Christ has died for them, but they know Him not…yet.

  16. Ned Barnett says:

    There is a constant (error) that these revisionist Christians seem to make. While it is true that all of us are sinful and fall far short of the Glory of God, we are called by Christ to reject that sin whenever it manifests itself, to beg forgiveness and to return to the fold. Christ forgives sin, but doesn’t condone repeated sin.

    However, those who embrace and codify a sinful lifestyle do not reject that sin – instead, they demand that God forgive it, not once, not twice, but constantly. I do not believe that is how God works. I could be wrong (which is why I said “I believe” instead of “I know”), but in this case, I don’t think I’m completely off-base.

    So those who choose to live in sin are courting God’s displeasure/wrath. We have all done so, and will do so again, but few of us are (this isn’t a pun) “wedded” to that sin, which becomes a core element of our day-to-day life.

    Those who embrace and glorify a sinful life-choice are really off-base. Their feeble and solipsistic self-focused belief is going to be hard to defend come judgment day.

    We should pray for sinners, but our prayers should be to return them to righteous belief and action, rather than to ask God to justify their sinfulness.

  17. Jeff Swan says:

    I’m a conservative fan of IRD, but as I was reading the article, I kept waiting to find the bad parts of the sermon from Oliveto. I actually agree with a lot of her points. It’s true that a lot of churches suck the life out of people.

    The problem of Oliveto is not really what she said in the sermon, per se. The problem is she implies that gay people are included in the category of the oppressed, and thus, she rips orthodox churches for not embracing what she defines as a persecuted oppressed minority, and she seems to imply this lack of inclusion is what’s causing the mainline meltdown. The fact she’s been ordained despite open unconfessed sin is another problem (we all have some unconfessed sins lurking inside us – but we don’t all publicly declare that our sin isn’t a sin.)

    I suggest if a straight male conservative minister gave the same sermon, from which we wouldn’t deduce he was telling us that gay people were oppressed and thus, that we needed to stop oppressing them – if the sermon wasn’t delivered by an ordained lesbian bishop, it would have been un-noticed. Yes, there were probably other things in the sermon that didn’t square precisely with Scripture, but we hear those types of sermons every week.

  18. James Lung says:

    Re: Thomas Cranmer. Somewhere I think I read that St. Augustine wrote to this effect: We always choose according to our strongest desire. Human freedom consists in our ability to ask God to order our desires.

    Great article.

  19. John Smith says:

    When sin is your life and the church tries to take out the sin then perhaps “Vampire Evangelism” is an accurate term?

  20. Debbie says:


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