The United Methodist Church’s (UMC) decided to rescind the appointment of openly lesbian Bishop Karen Oliveto after the church’s decision was challenged by South Central Jurisdiction of the Church.
At the May 2016 General Conference, the gathering of UMC’s top policy-making body, the Council of Bishops established the Commission on a Way Forward. The purpose of the Commission is to develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph regarding human sexuality in the Book of Discipline, the formal collection of United Methodist doctrine, beliefs and policies that outline the roles and responsibilities of local churches. The Council of Bishops charged the Commission with addressing LGBTQ issues and exploring options to maintain and strengthen the Church as a whole. According to its mission, the Commission’s work is intended to “inform deliberation across the whole church and to help the Council of Bishops in their service to the next General Conference,” which will take place during a special session in early 2018.
In the interim, the South Central Jurisdiction of the Church asked the church’s high court to review Oliveto’s elevation. It alleges Oliveto’s election violates the Book of Discipline. This review is one of seven similar cases went before the church court from April 25-28, in direct conflict with church’s previous position that such LGBTQ-related deliberations would be held in abeyance until the 2018 special session.
“LGBTQ religious leaders deserve the recognition of their peers, and the opportunity to lead the faithful in the same way non-LGBTQ leaders do,” said Ashland Johnson, HRC Director of Public Education and Research. “The Western Jurisdiction of the Church saw fit to recognize, elevate and celebrate Bishop Oliveto. We are disappointed that the UMC did not honor their congregants’ decision.”