Liberal United Methodists, Oliveto Supporters: Here’s Your Chance to Discredit IRD / UM Action!

on January 12, 2018

(See 2/20/2018 update below.)


Is the religion of contested lesbian “bishop” Karen Oliveto really as radical, anti-Jesus, and pro-demon as we have reported on this website?

Well, if not, then her supporters actually have a golden opportunity to prove me wrong!

Over the last couple of years, one of the most widely read articles I have written was this July 2016 piece reporting on some of the more bizarre and extreme spiritual beliefs and teachings liberal caucus folk (associated with groups like the Reconciling Ministries Network, “Uniting” Methodists, and the Methodist Federation for Social Action) apparently have no problem with Dr. Oliveto bringing to the office of bishop. Most notably, this report highlighted how, in a series of teachings at RMN’s 2005 national “Hearts on Fire” convocation, Oliveto

(1) broadly urged her audience to address both “the benefits and flaws” of Scripture;

(2) repudiated the “theology of election and chosenness” which she admitted was deeply embedded in Scripture, particularly taking issue with language portraying God as separating “the sheep” from “the goats” (language that is actually Jesus Christ’s own direct teaching in Matthew 25); and

(3) criticized the Apostle Paul for casting a demon out of a slave girl (as recorded in Acts 16), on the grounds that becoming demon-free allegedly did nothing to improve the girl’s life, and that the incident raises “questions about the imposition of religious values.”

On the night delegates to the 2016 Western Jurisdictional Conference voted to elect the openly lesbian-partnered Oliveto as bishop, in knowing defiance of our denomination’s explicit ban on “self-avowed practicing homosexual clergy,” I was at my own North Central Jurisdictional Conference as a delegate. Recalling some of the out-there things Oliveto had said back at “Hearts on Fire,” I quickly looked through my old files, found an early version of an article I had written at the time on Oliveto’s teachings sessions, and posted it online from my hotel room, after some very slight edits.

Judging by the attention and response given to my posting this as a new article, a lot of other United Methodists also found Oliveto’s (1) criticism of the Bible, (2) rejecting red-letter teachings of Jesus Christ, and (3) defending the alleged benefits of demon possession to also be rather extreme, to put it mildly.

The liberal responses I saw largely fell into the pattern we have often seen with liberal idolization of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), a group strongly supported by Oliveto: When faced some of the most indefensible aspects of your favored cause, neither consider modifying your position nor look silly defending the indefensible, but instead attack the messenger and yell “Liar! Liar!”—even in response to well-documented facts.

Okay, so logically, this gives us a couple possibilities.

If indeed my reporting on Oliveto’s remarks can be shown to be inaccurate, and to have dishonestly misrepresented what she actually said – as some of her supporters have charged – then there is no need for her supporters to substantially respond to concerns about if they really think that in selecting United Methodist bishops, being a lesbian activist is a more important qualification than having beliefs that are a bit less anti-Bible, anti-Jesus, and pro-demon than what I have reported.

If, however, I was not being dishonest, then Oliveto’s record raises some hard but unavoidable questions for her supporters about their priorities and where their activism will ultimately lead.

I could note how it was way back in September 2005 that I first reported on Oliveto’s “Hearts on Fire” remarks, including the three above-listed highlights of her remarks (1) speaking of the “flaws” of Scripture, (2) rejecting Jesus Christ’s teaching about sheep and goats, and (3) defending the alleged benefits of demon possession.

I could note how in the dozen years since then, I have not observed a single individual who was actually there dispute the accuracy of my reporting on Oliveto’s remarks.

I could highlight how a couple weeks after my initial reporting on Oliveto’s strange “Hearts on Fire” remarks, the Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) distributed a blog post taking issue with my reporting on ten key points. I could point out how not one of these ten points identified any actual inaccuracy or directly disputed any of my above-noted reporting on Oliveto’s preaching at this event.

I could recall how when I briefly met Oliveto in person a year or so later, she gave no indication of feeling she had been misrepresented by me.

But there is a much simpler way to get to the bottom of this.

The record shows that RMN took video recordings of Karen Oliveto’s teachings at “Hearts on Fire” and made DVDs available for purchase.

Shortly after Oliveto’s election, I contacted RMN staff to ask if they still had any available for purchase. I was informed, “We no longer have these resources available for distribution.” It could be that they ran out, after all these years. Or perhaps they just did not want to sell such DVDs to me, which I suppose is their right.

In any case, by now, there are surely a number of RMN supporters who have purchased DVDs of Oliveto’s “Hearts on Fire” teaching sessions. And the folk at RMN’s headquarters surely have access to these recordings, even if they are out of copies “for distribution.”

And the people in both categories are not exactly the sort one would expect to want to hide any information they could use to damage the reputation of myself, the UM Action program I direct, and/or IRD more broadly.

So I respectfully extend a public invitation to anyone with access to these recordings to help set the record straight. After all, I am enthusiastically in favor of holding folk to rigorous standards of accuracy and accountability, including myself.

Liberal United Methodists, if you can show that for all these years, I’ve been dishonestly misrepresenting the truth about what Oliveto said at this event, you would strike a HUGE blow to cripple my/IRD’s reputation (beyond just activist liberal circles), defend Karen Oliveto, and help the “Reconciling” cause more generally!

All you have to do is dig out your old copy of the DVD, check to confirm that it shows that Oliveto said absolutely nothing in any of her several sessions along the lines of the key points I’ve reported, make it available (without hiding any key sections) somewhere easily accessible like YouTube, and then contact me directly or else let us all know about it in the comments!

I’ll update this blog post in a month to see if any RMN staff or supporters have been able to respond to this challenge!

Of course, assuming that we can all agree that a United Methodist clergyperson, let alone a bishop, teaching such extreme things about Scripture, the words of Jesus, and Paul’s exorcism are very serious matters, then if this challenge is not met, that would raise the big question of why no one in RMN’s network is willing to come forward and show how the video recording disproved my reporting on Oliveto saying such radical things. Unless, of course, it actually confirms the accuracy of what I’ve reported all along.

Ball’s in your court, Oliveto supporters.


2/20/2018 UPDATE: Over one month after this article was first published online and shared widely on social media, including in forums in which many liberal United Methodists participate, not one RMN activist or other Oliveto supporter has come forward to share the DVD of Karen Oliveto’s remarks at “Hearts on Fire” about Scripture and demons. Out of all the current RMN board members and staff who could access the caucus’s originals of this recording, and out of all the “Reconciling” activists who previously purchased a copy, no one has left a comment here or otherwise attempted to contact me to say, “The full recording actually shows that Oliveto said no such things at the ‘Hearts on Fire’ event.”  Despite my broad and repeated public invitations. 

If the recording had actually exonerated Dr. Oliveto and shown that I had misrepresented what she actually said, then this would be an irresistible opportunity for all of the many RMN activists with potential access to this recording to discredit IRD/UMAction and to clear the name of their idolized Oliveto. 

So then why would not one of the many people with potential access to the recording come forward in all these weeks, and why has no one who was present at “Hearts on Fire” ever disputed my first reporting in 2005 about Oliveto’s remarks there – unless Karen Oliveto’s official, recorded remarks really did defend the alleged benefits of demon possession, talk about the “flaws” of Scripture, and repudiate the red-letter teachings of Jesus Christ, as I originally reported?

  1. Comment by Maria Dixon Hall on January 12, 2018 at 1:25 pm


    Is there just a brief moment when rather than constantly beating the drum on the issue of sexuality and its debate in our denomination–you and the IRD can speak as forcefully about the evangelical silence on issues of race and gender discrimination? It might give you something to do while waiting for Karen’s supporters to write you back.

  2. Comment by John Lomperis on January 12, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    Wow, that is quite the subject change!

    FWIW, I have strongly condemned white supremacy in the USA, such as here:
    I have repeatedly spoken out against and worked to change the systematic marginalization by my UMC denomination against most of its black members.

    You also bring up sexuality, while the above article instead focuses on Oliveto’s pro-demon, anti-Jesus theology – something your comment completely avoids. It is interesting to see how desperate liberal United Methodists are to change the subject and try to deflect attention away from these matters.

  3. Comment by Steven Vornov on January 13, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    A person as brilliant as Professor Hall certainly understands a “red herring fallacy.” The issue is simple Bishop Oliveto and her apologists have called Mr. Lomperis a liar. However, they refuse to prove their charge when they have the means at their hands.

    I have resigned my orders in the UMC and united with the Catholic church. Bishop Oliveto represents the UMC’s future and the IRD the past. John Lomperis and Mark Tooley are sincere and godly people but can’t change the UMC’s direction.

  4. Comment by Edward Rodarmel on January 17, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    The core issue to this alleged misrepresentation is an issue of right doctrine and scriptural obedience, which is why I am puzzled at your denominational change…

  5. Comment by John Lomperis on March 2, 2018 at 1:20 am

    We are sorry to see you go, Brother Steve. A previous comment in response to yours has been deleted, since it was less about substantive debate than ad hominem personal abuse.

  6. Comment by Mike Shugart on March 31, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    The Pope and Catholicism seem to be cut from the same ‘progressive ‘ cloth as the liberal social justice arm of the UMC.
    I think Oliveto’s most damning statements were those from her August 19th weekly missive stating Jesus was a racist sinner and basically worked His way to holiness like regular people.

  7. Comment by John Smith on January 16, 2018 at 6:56 am

    Is there any disagreement within the UMC on this matter? No. Thus it tends not to be a matter of discussion in the arguments about what divides the UMC. As for the debate of the moment it is not about sexuality but the authority of scripture.

  8. Comment by Edward Rodarmel on January 17, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    John, I agree. We have been doped into discussing these things in terms of sexual identity and orientation when that simply is the Trojan horse that has brought us outright unchecked disobedience to our governing doc, the BOD, and an obvious deviance away from sound orthodox scriptural interpretation and application. The sexual issue will not necessarily divide the church but open disobedience certainly will. It’s all about the discipline…

  9. Comment by andreas kjernald on January 12, 2018 at 3:06 pm

    Although I understand that need for a “thrown glove” I also wonder if it matters at this point. Why waste time and energy on matters that you know will not change?

    The situation is such that even if the entire denomination heard Oliveto speak at the next General Conference and say these exact things little would change. We are beyond logic and reason and need a change.

  10. Comment by Steven Vornov on January 13, 2018 at 12:10 pm

    You are correct. The council of Bishops and the heads of our boards, agencies and seminaries understand the Bishop’s beliefs and lifestyle. Even if her words were broadcast on every media platform on earth, her position as bishop and the direction of the UMC won’t change.

  11. Comment by Earl Schroeder on January 12, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    I is amazing to me that there are those that not only want to ingnore Jesus teachings but to make the Bible what they want it to be. Keep up the good work IRD.

  12. Comment by carrie on January 12, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    The previous article, also by John Lomperis, shows clearly that evangelical believers ARE speaking out (and marching) forcefully on issues of race and gender discrimination! The greatest discrimination currently happening in our world to anyone, is through abortion. Anyone who truly cares about these issues of discrimination ought to be actively involved in stopping abortion because abortion doesn’t only discriminate – it kills.

  13. Comment by Gerald on January 12, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    After the world-wide (especially from the global south) condemnations of the Episcopal church (U.S.) –for much of the same reasons as the Oliveto stream–the Episcopal church was sanctioned by the primates meeting a couple of years ago. Despite the Episcopal church thumbing their nose at the sanctions (after agreeing to abide by them), it did have positive results. The Canadian Anglican church–after affirming that they would approve same sex marriage–cowarded, and did not pass it because (despite the majority of bishops approving of it) they did not want to go through (the fury of) what the Episcopal had to go through. This is to say, please, keep the fire of orthodoxy burning. I am not a Methodist but I am a Christian and I am affected by all of this heterodoxyy that has a name: sin. And sin in the body of Christ affects us all.

  14. Comment by Andrew Hughes on January 13, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    Good words John. Surely you will touch some hearts that are struggling with liberal theology.

  15. Comment by William on January 14, 2018 at 5:30 pm

    For all these 45+ years in the UMC, liberals have yet to point to a single Scripture that approves of homosexual sexual relations or same-sex marriage. Of course they can’t because none exist. So, the only thing that they have been able to come up with is to discredit, reinterpret, discard, or simply ignore the Scriptures prohibiting and condemning these sins. They have devised some of the most elaborately deceptive schemes in all of human scheming to carry forth their work, while yelling the loudest — fooling far too many along the way, including a number of UMC Bishops.

  16. Comment by John Smith on January 16, 2018 at 6:53 am

    For now everyone awaits whatever compromise will be made at the called GC, (on these and other points) knowing very few will be happy and wondering if anyone has planned beyond this. The liberals and the conservatives will never agree with each other and the moderate position, “can’t we all just get along”, is not tenable. Either a split or major fading seems inevitable. If it weren’t for the trust clause and GC funds and properties it probably would have happened already.

    The left wants 1) the imprimatur of approval by the largest pro abortion denomination 2) the means to carry on its mission to enlighten the ignorant masses and the right doesn’t want to 1) lose the battle 2) lose its assets to those who would use them in ways they oppose.

    Whatever is left after one side declares victory that structure needs to forswear the trust clause so that those congregations that feel they can no longer abide the denomination can leave in peace instead of being compelled to remain and fester in place.

  17. Comment by Scott on January 16, 2018 at 9:24 am

    John, I have to agree with you completely. I don’t see any one group getting enough votes to actually do anything. The only real solution is to get rid of the trust clause and let nature take its course. Those that want out for whatever reason can leave. Those that are left can determine what the remnants of the denomination look like. The only other alternative is for get into a dirty nasty fight that will make all of us look like pigs and waste millions of the Lord’s money as the Episcopalians have.

  18. Comment by BPatMann on January 16, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    The UMC has to realize that, while conference delegates vote with their ballots, parishioners vote with their feet.

  19. Comment by William on January 16, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    However, liberals did not have the votes to even get any of their proposals out of committee at the 2016 General Conference. Those same delegates will be in St Louis in Feb, 2019. I would appear that the votes are not there to liberalize the BOD. Isn’t it time for this special General Conference to do one of two things. One, vote in Option #1 with financial enforcement and force a decision by the liberals to abide or depart. Or two, set up a Commission on Division to bring forth a plan of division for the 2020 General Conference if there is not enough courage to attempt Option #1 first.

  20. Comment by Earl H. Foote on January 16, 2018 at 5:12 pm

    Sadly, this parallels the heretical statements made by Bishop Spong about the divinity of Jesus Christ. While I believe in gay rights, I totally reject the statements attributed to Karen Oliveto. In fact, I’m puzzled at her rejection of the “sheep and goats” passage, since it refers to how we treat poor people and others who need our help. If any one ethical statement from the Bible should be retained and applauded, this surely is it. Her rejection of God’s championing of goodness and condemnation of evil is quite disconcerting. By the way, a former co-worker of mine got ordained as a Methodist minister. No, she isn’t gay, but she told me that “everyone knows that there was no physical resurrection of Jesus.” Either her seminary teachers knew her views and ordained her anyway, or the seminary didn’t care enough to ask her. Either way, not good news.

  21. Comment by Kathy McP on January 16, 2018 at 8:26 pm

    We obviously are in the last Church era described in Revelation chapter 4, Laodicea. When the church becomes completely apostate, teaching members to sin and despise God’s Word, God will have no further use of the church. That will align with God having brought in the fulness of the church, then Jesus will Rapture His Church, gather his bride as scripture describes. Meanwhile, please keep these apostate church leaders from populating hell.

  22. Comment by Skipper on January 17, 2018 at 11:24 am

    The whole Oliveto affair shows how easily humanity can be fooled into deep sin. From the election of a person known to be openly living in an immoral relationship of sexual perversion, to the church officials in the west who refuse to remove her as required by church law. Those calling themselves “Progressives” favor lifestyles that even pagans find offensive. I know a pagan who describes same-sex relations as “nasty”. Yet so many refuse to accept what God says is good and evil. Jesus told of a road that is wide and easy and leads to destruction. Why do so many choose to “live for the moment” when they should know “the Day of the Lord” is coming?

  23. Comment by Kelsey Van Every on January 18, 2018 at 4:07 am

    The Methodist Church will survive only if it starts to bless Israel, not curse Her. The overturn of Resolution 6111, which curses Israel, should be the first order of business at the next conference, if not sooner. Genesis 12:3 explicitly says God will curse those who curse Israel, and bless those who bless Israel. Having attended the Methodist Church about 70 years and having been a member 57 of those years (I praise God that it was while a member of the UMC I first put my faith in Yeshua Ha’Mashiach, Jesus the Messiah and made Him my Lord and Savior) I now have left the Methodist Church due to Resolution 6111. When this resolution is overturned, I will consider returning to the UMC. Things will go much smoother in the homosexual issue with God’s blessing.

  24. Comment by Rev Dawn Blundell on March 12, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    It is fascinating that Lomperis will write this piece daring people to prove his dishonesty, and then refuse to approve those comments that do so.

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