This week in the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church (UMC), delegates voted Rev. Karen Oliveto, pastor of Glide Memorial UMC in San Francisco, CA into the office of Bishop. Rev. Oliveto will lead the church as the denomination’s first openly gay bishop despite the ongoing policies forbidding ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.”
On the heels of General Conference where the global denomination voted to defer the current anti-LGBTQ policies of the church to a special commission, electing Rev. Karen Oliveto is one of many actions United Methodists have taken to move the church forward despite the lack of policy change. Individuals, churches, and conferences are declaring and practicing non-conformity with the discriminatory aspects of church teaching, refusing to keep qualified LGBTQ candidates from becoming ministers and opening church doors to same-sex weddings.
Matthew Berryman, executive director of Reconciling Ministries Network, sees today’s historic step forward as a confirmation of inevitable change in The UMC.
“A 40 year movement to end codified discrimination against LGBTQ persons is reaching a tipping point that hardly any rational-minded observer can deny,” Berryman said. “Since LGBTQ people have long been denied access to public spaces, homes, and churches, today’s news represents the breaking down of a long- standing barrier that has prevented queer people access to the fullness of Christian vocation on the grounds that they are ‘incompatible with Christian teaching.’”
Rev. Karen Oliveto will step into the office as bishop with a wealth of diverse experience. She has served as the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the Pacific School of Religion, pastored numerous churches including the famous Glide Memorial in San Francisco for the last eight years, and she is known for her commitment to seeking and modeling social justice throughout her ministry. Her leadership in The UMC will be an invaluable witness to the church’s queer members who will finally see themselves represented in all aspects of church leadership, but her qualifications extend well beyond her identity. Rev Oliveto will lead the church forward with grace, courage, and intelligence ensuring this historic day is good news for the whole church.
For more information about Reconciling Ministries Network and the work for full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer people in The UMC, visit rmnetwork.org.