Will Large Liberal Congregation Leave UMC?

on July 28, 2018

Glide United Methodist Church in San Francisco, California, may be on the brink of breaking away from the UMC. The church, as a whole, has systematically distanced itself from the governance and theological beliefs long held by the UMC, and yet has still clung to the title of being a United Methodist congregation, according to Bishop Minerva Carcaño.

Bishop Carcaño addressed an open letter to the California-Nevada Conference, outlining issues within Glide that she found to be troubling. She described Glide’s “Sunday Celebrations” as “uplifting concerts,” which “lack the fundamentals of Christian worship.” She went on to write that the congregants don’t want the church to be United Methodist or Christian in its practices. According to her, baptisms are performed “in the name of the people rather than from a Christian understanding of Baptism” and Holy Communion was abandoned for a number of years before being reintroduced last Spring, “with much resistance,” but only outside of the Sunday Celebrations.

Her allegations against Glide do not end there. In the letter, she says that Cecil Williams, a prominent retired pastor who led the congregation from 1963-2000, made “all decisions in the background of Glide.” According to a 2004 profile, Williams and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown “stood together in defense of militant communist Angela Davis, and again, prominently, in defense of the Rev. Jim Jones of the Peoples Temple,” with Glide (under Williams’s leadership) even presented Jones with a humanitarian award in 1977, the year before Jones led a mass suicide of 913 people. Williams later expressed regret for his misjudgment of Jones.

Bishop Carcaño said Williams keeps control through his handpicked selection of individuals serving on the Glide Foundation board. The foundation, running on a $12 million budget, provides social services such as meals, healthcare, support for single mothers, and training for unemployed adults. These are indubitably good things, but these works have eclipsed theological teaching. According to Jenny Strasburg, a writer for SF Gate, the “Glide Foundation runs the church.”

All this apparently happened under the nose of Karen Oliveto, who was senior pastor of Glide from 2008 until 2016, when the Western Jurisdiction provocatively voted to elect her as a bishop for their region of the denomination, despite her being an openly partnered lesbian activist, in open violation of the UMC’s ban on ordaining “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.” The legitimacy of Oliveto’s election and her right to claim the status of bishop remains hotly disputed in the denomination. But her supposed management of this large congregation was widely cited by her supporters as showing she had sufficient skills and experience to be a bishop.

However, Oliveto doesn’t seem to have led the congregation well, as there was major decline in attendance during her eight years as pastor. While claiming a rise in (apparently inflated) membership from nearly 12,000 to over 13,000 during Oliveto’s tenure, actual attendance dropped from 3,000 to 1,899.

Bishop Carcaño also reported, in an opinion article she wrote on June 28, that, she was initiating an assessment of the internal workings of Glide. The reasons stated included “the lack of an appropriate governmental structure and the lack of financial transparency.” For the duration of the assessment, she reassigned the remaining pastors to other churches. This temporary measure has the potential to lead towards reconciliation between the congregation and the annual UMC conference.

Glide’s response to Bishop Carcaño’s letter was to draft one of their own, stating that they “remain open to dialogue with the UMC,” but are determined to continue in its ways with or without the UMC’s support. In order to continue an affiliation with the UMC, Glide’s leadership requires the UMC to “[return] to the attitude of tolerance that [they’ve] enjoyed.”

In its responses, the church has also levied two allegations against Bishop Carcaño. First, they claim she is pushing a “conservative” agenda, even though Carcaño is well known for her outspokenly liberal views. During her time in the UMC, she has consistently urged the church to liberalize its views on sexuality. The second accusation is that it is “her mission to create more ‘Disciples of Christ’.” Glide leadership apparently believes it is a bad thing for a UMC bishop to strive towards helping individuals become followers of Christ.

Other responses given by the Glide community has included holding a rally at city hall, joined by the mayor-elect of San Francisco, London Breed. Meanwhile the national, purely secular, partisan, left-wing political group MoveOn.org has gotten involved, with an online petition demanding that Bishop Carcaño reinstate the pastors.

When individuals flaunt lifestyles contrary to Scriptural teaching, it opens the door for endless misunderstandings of biblical texts. Glide Church is a clear example of what a Christian community looks like when that happens. Under Oliveto’s oversight, it appears that this congregation was hardly recognizable as United Methodist and was only loosely tethered to Christianity.

Until Glide is willing to come under the leadership of the UMC’s most basic doctrinal and structural standards, it should not be attached to the UMC name.

  1. Comment by Mike on July 28, 2018 at 11:01 am

    When a church accuses a known liberal of pushing a “conservative” agenda, that church has lost all connection with Christianity. But, we are talking about California.

  2. Comment by Daniel on July 28, 2018 at 5:20 pm

    The apportionment is not worth keeping this church in the UMC. This isn’t a Christian Church, it’s pagan new age garbage.

  3. Comment by Dan W on July 28, 2018 at 5:43 pm

    Jayda, thank you for another excellent article! Bishop Carcano is doing what she must. I feel the U.M.C. has failed a lot of people associated with Glide Memorial. We were not good witnesses to Glide members, who may have been seeking a relationship with Christ. Hopefully, creating disciples for Christ will always be the top priority for Methodists.

  4. Comment by William on July 29, 2018 at 8:08 pm

    I strongly suspect that this tolerant, inclusive, diverse Glide Methodist “church” would have outright rejected the worship service that I attended today at a rural UMC. Most likely, most of the Glide congregation would have been greatly offended at the prayers prayed, the hymns sung, the Scripture read, and most certainly the Gospel preached by this young United Methodist local pastor.

  5. Comment by Dan W on July 29, 2018 at 10:13 pm

    I suspect you are correct. If U.M.C. leadership had stepped in years ago, this congregation could have been a strong witness for Christ in an otherwise lost community.

  6. Comment by William on July 30, 2018 at 8:40 am

    Dan W,
    Amen. Our leadership has so egregiously failed us at almost every level for the past 50+ years that the UMC is but a shell of its Wesleyan roots, with the exception of independent minded congregations like this rural congregation described. If the 2019 Special General Conference votes for the Traditional Model with Enforcements, the next major challenge will be replacing the current leadership with real Wesleyan Christians while putting in place a plan to actually reform the seminaries and disassociate with those unwilling.

    This Glide “church” is the poster child of what liberals in our denomination envision for the entire denomination. Their end goal is to transform the UMC to the world with this Glide model as a blueprint. Having the Methodist name on such outfits as Glide and the overall perception created for the entire church is a big reason for our North American decline and the increase of the non-denomination movement of recent decades, especially among young seekers of Christ.

  7. Comment by April user on July 30, 2018 at 12:24 am

    I suspect that the UM Women’s organization where Linda Saraour was a keynote speaker in May is a lot like Glide. Glide left the historic faith decades ago and are now lost. The UMC’s leadership is implicit in that church’s straying; who is responsible for the lost-ness of the UMW’s?

  8. Comment by Joyce Baughman on July 30, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    Although there are many sincere, God loving, people who are covered by the umbrella of the UMC, it’s image to a lost world has been tainted
    because people in leadership positions have failed to enforce the Biblical based Discipline of the faith and have betrayed the confidence of the true believers. The so called “Progressive Christians” can hardly be recognized as Christians at all. They have distorted the scripture to try to make it compatible with their lifestyle instead of changing their lifestyle to walk with God. This is not the church that once nourished my soul and is not the church that I could invite lost people to with a prayer that it would minister to their needs. The UMC needs to quit straddling the fence and stand for what is scriptural. This is the only way to separate the true from the false.

  9. Comment by Murray on July 30, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    Judgemental much?

  10. Comment by Dave Gingrich on August 2, 2018 at 9:38 am

    Thank you for your truthful response, Joyce Baughmann.

  11. Comment by Terresa Hobbs on March 29, 2019 at 11:06 am

    Bishop Carcano and Bishop Oliveto are both, and have been for years, progressive activists using scriptural phrases to each further their respective social justice causes. It should come as no surprise to either that this is the result of throwing God-breathed Scripture under the bus of secular social justice. As bishops they’re in positions of authority to appoint like-minded pastors within their conferences and have been doing so for years, so now we’re reaping what they have sown. As for Glide, Mt. 5:29-30.

  12. Comment by Airedale on July 30, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    As a Methodist Church the building a d all their property and assets including endowments does not belong to Glide rather it belongs to the Cal-Pac Conference of the UMC. If they decide to leave the Methodist Denomination they either buy everything from assets that are entirely independent of the UMC or walk away with nothing. Depending on how the separate foundation was set up and originally funded it to could belong to Cal-Pac.

    That said Cal-Pac is extremely liberal and has been flirting with splitting from the UMC for years.

  13. Comment by William on July 31, 2018 at 7:57 am

    They are parasites, using the financial benefits of the UMCwhile not seeing that there would be no financial assets left if their way should prevail. It is accurate to stereotype liberals — as having a brain dysfunction when it come to using deductive reasoning, analysing facts, and contemplating consequences. No wonder so called liberal Christians cannot understand or contemplate the good news of Jesus Christ.

  14. Comment by Tom on July 31, 2018 at 8:28 pm

    Small correction: Glide Memorial UMC is in the California/Nevada Conference not CAL-PAC. Bishop Carcano is Bishop of the California/Nevada Conference formally of CAL-PAC.

  15. Comment by Bob on August 8, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    It’s California-Nevada AC

  16. Comment by Tom Meyer on July 30, 2018 at 5:29 pm

    And now the Council of Bishops is “stuck” with Karen Oliveto. It seems her credentials, the integrity behind those credentials have room for additional serious inquiries to be leveled against her qualifications to hold the Bishop’s Miter, Episcopal Office.

    A ‘pagan’ bishop in the Mountain Sky Conference. It sounds like some serious people got seriously played in 2016 WJC.

    Question is … Do the Council of Bishops have what it takes to have these conversations among themselves and then act?

  17. Comment by William on August 2, 2018 at 5:25 pm

    The majority of them have welcomed her with enthusiasm. Since they are idol worshipers themselves, they see her as the shining star of this new religion that they have invented. This “one church plan” that has been concocted is step one of moving the UMC into this newly concocted religion (idol). How can anyone believe that the progressives will be appeased once again by this plan? As for Karen Oliveto, the Judicial Council says that her election was unlawful. Transpose that over to civil society — it would be like the Supreme Court ruling that Vladimir Putin could not run for political office in this country for all the obvious reasons, yet stays on the ballot and nobody in authority does one thing about it.

  18. Comment by Bob on July 30, 2018 at 6:18 pm

    The social services will continue. The bishop is in a no-win situation thanks to her colleague Karen. A church with no admin/church council or SPRC or Finance or Trustee committees? Clergy appointments rejected by a secular indecently incorporated Foundation? 3600 in worship the tear before Oliveto took over and 1899 the year she left? Claiming 30,000 constituent members, more than 41 conference claim? The sacraments of communion and baptism stripped or disfigured? A website that mentions actress Sharon stone more often than Jesus (1 to nothing)? The bishop can’t win, for Glide has become a living museum to Cecil’s ego, and it almost certainly will be lost officially, as it has spiritually for years. Cecil is a demigod in the Bay Area but good on Carcaño for at least trying to undo the damage and, very unlike Oliveto, refusing to enable this theological disaster.

  19. Comment by Bob on August 8, 2018 at 9:23 pm

    We’ve known for some time that their statistics have been cooked. They’ve been taking 300-400 new members a year with few deaths and transfers out. No one moves away? Their sanctuary is not big enough to hold all those people at worship. Perhaps they count people passing by on the street. The Foundation money does not count for apportionments, only the small Sunday morning offerings.

  20. Comment by Susan West on July 30, 2018 at 8:48 pm

    Lord, Have mercy on their souls.
    Somehow, Satan has snatched these people away from the Truth.

  21. Comment by John Smith on July 31, 2018 at 6:58 am

    The cynical part of me says this is being pushed as a runup to the called GC to show that it is the liberal churches being pressured while the conservative ones get a pass. Thus since both sides perceive they are treated poorly the only choice is to vote the COB preferred plan.

  22. Comment by Rick Durham on August 7, 2018 at 9:15 am

    Read Revelation…Chapter 2. Sounds a lot like the Church at Pergamos…with the same embracing of the Nicolaitans. …which Jesus is quoted as “hating”. Look it up….an evil hierarchy that dictates what we “understand” the Bible is saying and what it means. As for me, a UMC conservative…watch out. I would not want to be judged according to this….and found wanting.

  23. Comment by Rick Durham on August 7, 2018 at 10:32 am

    After my comment was “being reviewed for moderation”….why was it removed? It was my opinion…Biblically based….and non-offensive.

  24. Comment by Rick Durham on August 7, 2018 at 10:36 am

    I beg your pardon….it was NOT removed. I looked a few minutes earlier, and it was not there….but now it has appeared.
    My apologies….

  25. Comment by Jeffrey Walton on August 7, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    Hello Mr. Durham, we hold all comments until they can be reviewed. We receive many spam comments that have nothing to do with the content of the blog entries, so this is a necessary step in order to ensure that real comments — like yours — are not drowned out. Our comment policy is fairly broad, and as long as people avoid personal attacks and profanity, we gladly approve comments regardless of the positions taken. Thank you for engaging with our blog’s content!

  26. Comment by Ronald Greilich on August 8, 2018 at 7:09 pm

    I probably missed it, but there a number of legal entanglements that will stir the “pot” because of the issues in the founding documents of Glide.

  27. Comment by Joseph Mancino Jr. on August 14, 2018 at 1:01 am

    I grew up in a Methodist Church where every Sunday we dutifully said the Apostle’s Creed, sang the Gloria Patri, and prayed the Lord’s Prayer. These were the highlights of the most boring hour of the week as the tired choir tried their best to finish an anthem and even the minister would yawn through his sermons – which all were the same. There was no life. Consequently this church is now on life support. Glide offers the exact opposite…with more love and concern for the world than most churches ever have.

    And which do you think Jesus would choose?

  28. Comment by John Smith on August 15, 2018 at 6:32 am

    The one that teaches the truth? God? Christ crucified?

    “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,”

    Obviously neither but presenting a false dilemma as the only possible choice is a popular and often successful tactic. You should expand your view and your horizons.

  29. Comment by david vaughan on August 30, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    i attended service last sunday at glide because it was located next to my hotel.

    it was a crowded, lively, raucous, assembly with gospel-style music and choir. people of all races enthusiastically stood and sang. a rabbi stood and spoke about the need for love and compassion for all people. he quoted the psalms. throughout the service, pictures of muslims, buddhists and jews worshipping were projected onto the front wall.

    missing from that service: a total absence of any mention or reference to/of of jesus, the cross, sin or the need for salvation

    in the past 2000 years, people have rejected christ and his claim to be god’s lamb who takes away the sin of the world and they continue to reject him today. but i was shocked to see people do it in such a passive- aggressive manner in a building with the word “church” outside

  30. Comment by Donald F Guest on September 2, 2018 at 7:21 pm

    Your article carries enough nuanced inaccuracies to sound like truth but it is not. I served as Senior Pastor of Glide from 2006-2011. I am a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and United Tgeologicsl Seminary (Dayton) among other places. Dr Oliveto was Co-pastor from 2008-2011 and “Lead Pastor” thereafter. The majority of the membership is decidedly Christian. Karen Oliveto reinstated Holy Communion as copastor in 2009. Prior to that it was offered at Wednesday Bible Study. Glide never celebrated Hoky Communion on Sunday’s. Rev Julian McPheeters (founding president of Asbury) established a special Friday communion service because Lizzie Glide in the foundation charter, did not want nonChristians to feel slenated at the Sunday celebrations which have always been designed to be evangelistic in nature.. She had the cornerstone created to read in1929 (it’s still there) “My house shall be a house of prayer for all nations.” The devout disciples of Christ at Glide, many of them evangelicals (including Bishop Oliveto) deserve better than your slander and misrepresentation. Shame on you.

The work of IRD is made possible by your generous contributions.

Receive expert analysis in your inbox.