The United Methodist Church’s Judicial Council has been asked by the South Central Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church to determine the constitutionality of the election of Rev. Karen Oliveto as a bishop by the Western Jurisdictional Conference. The deep and diverse opinions expressed throughout our nation regarding sexuality are also presently reflected within our denomination. Since Bishop Oliveto is married to a spouse of the same sex, the validity of her election and consecration as a Bishop of The United Methodist Church has been called into question.
Now that the Judicial Council has made a response and rationale to the request (read here), I wanted to make the following observations:
- While persons will react in different ways to this decision, some positively, some negatively, some neutrally, the mission of the local church by the guidance of the Holy Spirit is to help others “accept and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and to live their daily lives in light of their relationship with God” (¶ 202).
- The ministry of our local churches will not change. The context of our communities will continue to be places which call for ongoing responses to the needs for God’s Grace. The Presence of the Resurrected Christ will invite others to find their protection, freedom, and direction in Jesus alone. “The angel of God, who had been leading, now moved and went around behind them” (Ex 14:19). May we truly speak of the ways in which Jesus shields us and leads us to eternal freedom, regardless of the storms and controversies surrounding us. This has been our Easter message!
- The Judicial Council has the authority to address specific requests related to the constitutionality of our discipline but does not have the authority to change The Book of Disicipline.
- The General Conference requested that the Council of Bishops create the Commission on A Way Forward “to examine the paragraphs of The Book of Discipline concerning human sexuality and explore options that help to maintain and strengthen the unity of the church.”
- The Commission on A Way Forward continues to meet and will share its work at a special called session of General Conference, February 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis, Missouri. It is our General Conference that will determine the next steps forward in regard to this divisive, dispute.
- Like all families, we have family members who do not express themselves as we would wish. In such moments we look for the things that genuinely unite us, that make us family. It is my hope that we can identify these uniting attributes, those elements that hold us together and help us find a Way Forward as those who “accept and confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and live their lives in light of their relationship with God.”
- I also encourage you to read the statement offered by our Council of Bishops in response to the Judicial Council.
I pray for those who have the responsibility of serving on the Commission on A Way Forward. I invite you to join me in praying for them as well.
Finally, I would encourage you to be a non-anxious presence, trusting in the Providence of God, as you pray for the ministries within our annual conference related to our local churches, districts, youth, retirement homes, colleges, universities, and new places of worship. These Christian ministries are deeply dependent on how we live our “daily lives in light of our relationship with God.”