Two United Methodist clergypersons who came out publicly as LGBT religious leaders in a May letter to General Conference delegates have been endorsed as episcopal candidates from their annual conferences. The Western Jurisdiction will elect one new person to replace Bishop Warner Brown, who is retiring from the California-Nevada conference.
The California-Pacific Annual Conference endorsed the Rev. Frank Wulf, longtime LGBT advocate. Up until his July move to Echo Park United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, Wulf was the pastor of United University Church, a United Methodist and Presbyterian congregation associated with the University of Southern California.
The Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, senior pastor of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, is the episcopal nominee from the California-Nevada Annual Conference. Oliveto has been the chair of the board of Reconciling Ministries Network and recently served as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at Pacific School of Religion where she continues as adjunct professor of United Methodist Studies.
Although not endorsed by his annual conference, the Rev. David Meredith announced his candidacy for the episcopacy from the North Central Jurisdiction. Meredith, pastor of Clifton United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, was married to another man in Broad Street United Methodist Church in Columbus, Ohio, only days before the opening of the 2016 General Conference.
In celebrating the candidacies, Matt Berryman, executive director of the Reconciling Ministries Network, said, “It’s time for The United Methodist Church to move boldly forward into the future and elect its first openly gay bishops to the glory of God and for the unfolding of a new future together.”
Wulf, Oliveto, and Meredith were signers of an open letter from 111 “local pastors, deacons, elders, and candidates for ministry” with the intent to publicly come out to General Conference delegates on the day before the policy-making event took place in Portland.
“We put our credentials on the line,” Oliveto said.
“There is a lot of dissatisfaction on all sides of the theology divide about the state of the church,” Oliveto told CBS News in San Francisco. “While the ‘issue’ is human sexuality, it goes much deeper theologically into how we interpret scripture. It is time the UMC finally has an honest conversation about this.”
Oliveto told CBS that she has been fortunate to be a senior pastor at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco – a well-known progressive megachurch with high-profile attendees and a massive social outreach ministry – where her bishop has been supportive of her as a lesbian clergywoman.
According to a 2012 New York Times article, Oliveto has performed more than 50 “holy unions” for same-sex couples. “My bishop has been very supportive of me and my wife,” Oliveto told CBS, adding that many other ministers in different parts of the country don’t have such support.
The Council of Bishops has been charged by the 2016 General Conference to create a commission to explore the possibility of how the denomination can move forward with seemingly irreconcilable theological differences over interpretation of scripture, marriage, and sexuality. Half a dozen annual conferences in the United States preemptively voted to pass variations on a resolution of non-conformity to the provisions of the Book of Discipline on issues of human sexuality.
“It is regrettable that we have reached the point of such open defiance of the decisions made in good faith by our global United Methodist Church,” said the Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, vice president of Good News. “To elect a self-avowed practicing homosexual as bishop would push many traditionalists over the edge of what they could tolerate, jeopardizing the unity and the funding of the denomination. It is tragic that progressive annual conferences are unwilling to allow the bishops’ commission on the future of the church to do its work. They should not be surprised if their actions lead to the disintegration of The United Methodist Church.”
– Good News Media