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A pastoral letter about the Oliveto election

Rev. Jeff Greenway

Rev. Jeff Greenway

As a pastor in The United Methodist Church, I write to share some happenings in our connectional family that merit a word. One of the great gifts of my life is being the Lead Pastor at Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church. I love our congregation, and it is out of love that I write today. Whether you agree or disagree with what follows, I love you and I hope we can remain friends.

Every four years, regional bodies of representative elected clergy and laity from gather in what is called Jurisdictional Conferences. The primary purpose of the Jurisdictional Conference is for the election and assignment of Bishops in that region. We are a part of the West Ohio Conference which is a part of the North Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church. I just returned from Peoria, Illinois, and the holy task of electing and consecrating four new Bishops for our region. Similar conferences were held at the same time in the North East, South East, South Central and Western U.S.  A total of 15 new Bishops have been elected and consecrated this week.

The Western Jurisdiction — which has been increasingly strident in its rebellion against our United Methodist Book of Discipline in matters related to human sexuality — elected and consecrated the Rev. Karen Oliveto as a Bishop of the United Methodist Church. This election was made with intent and forethought, and was done in defiance of our Book of Discipline. She is an openly gay woman who is married to her partner which by church law should disqualify her from serving as a pastor in The United Methodist Church. By her own admission, she has performed more than 50 ceremonies celebrating homosexual unions — once again a violation of our Book of Discipline. She did not make a secret of this when she stood for election, and was elected by a regional body as an act of defiance against our polity.

United Methodists believe sexual relations are a gift from God — and our sexuality is best expressed in the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage. Any other expression — sex before marriage, adultery, polygamy, etc. — is less than God’s best and created design. The teaching of the church has not changed — even though it may be seen as some to be countercultural in 21st Century America — like it was in 1st Century Corinth. It remains biblically and theologically rooted. Our pastors are not permitted to conduct and our buildings are not permitted to be used for same-sex weddings.

Some might welcome this act of defiance. They see this as a justice issue that once “solved” will help make the church more “relevant” for our day and time. I do not. I wept this morning as my phone blew up with messages from across the United Methodist Church. I was surprised by my tears. The election did not come as a surprise to me, but my heart-brokenness did. I wept for what I see as a blatant disregard for the authority of Scripture and the law of the church. I wept for the pain this act will cause. I wept for the spiritual harm that is being done. I wept for the loss of what once was — the church that I was born and raised in appears to be headed for schism — a divorce over irreconcilable differences. I wept for the persons with sexual brokenness in our congregation who might be further delayed in finding wholeness in Jesus because of the confusion this might cause. I wept.

This decision is about so much more than human sexuality. It is about the nature of salvation — what we are saved from and what we are saved to. It is about the relevance of Jesus in every generation. It is about the role, nature and authority of Scripture. It is about the promises we make and keep when we are ordained, and whether there comes a time when they are to be set aside for another calling. It is about the core of the Gospel message in our Wesleyan, Evangelical, orthodox tradition. It is about balancing grace and truth.

The Rev. Oliveto’s election has been appealed to The United Methodist Church’s Judicial Council (our Supreme Court) who will decide whether it is legal according to our church law, but in the meantime, the whole of the church must wait. I am not a prophet — nor am I the son of a prophet — and I still hope against hope that we might find a faithful way to be united — but the action of the Western Jurisdiction is the latest sign that we are either in or inevitably headed for schism. Which means the church I was baptized, confirmed and ordained in will look dramatically different in the future.

We must pray for what the next right steps are. Our Church Board has been discussing these types of possibilities for the last year or more. I am so impressed by their deep faith and servant leadership. We will continue our conversation and exploration of next right steps for us — as we strive to be faithful Jesus and our congregation while leading though this time. They have given me permission to serve on the design team for the Wesleyan Covenant Association as we explore what the future holds for all of us (www.wesleyancovenant.org).

Now is not the time for rash action. This is not the time to stop attending, stop giving or withdrawn your membership from Reynoldsburg UMC. We are still the same congregation we were yesterday. Our Mission and Vision are still the same. We will hold to our high view of the Bible and to our commitment to introduce people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. We will still welcome all kinds of folks, and diligently try to show and share Jesus while teaching what it looks like to live God’s best in our lives and community. We will do everything we can do to not become an issue centered congregation while sharing the fullness of the Gospel’s power to forgive sin and transform lives to anyone and everyone who is a part of our community.

I am honored to be your pastor and friend,

Pastor Jeff Greenway

 

Comments

  1. Sonja LeVan says:

    PRAISE GOD!!…I am so tired of the fighting about the truth in God’s Word as to what is a sin and How we are not to be as the world sees right and wrong!…We just need to split and become Methodists again!

  2. Cathy Rich says:

    Thank you for this encouraging article. I am very upset about the blatant disregard for the church’s decision not to mention Gods Holy Word. It’s so hard not to just give up and leave, yet I know there are those who agree with my beliefs and there is hope. Again thank you for your inspirational letter.

  3. Rerired/Rev. George M. Lupton says:

    I retired early, because I do believe the church will be divided. When our clergy, are allowed not to be responsible for theirs vows and action. We might as well throw the Book Of Discipline to be thrown out.. Clergy who took their vow at their ordination. that don’t keep to those vows, should loose their license. Clergy, who are violating the Discipline, should not be consider for higher position, especially Bishop!!!!! The church, will loose members from this action. God help the United Methodist Church.

  4. Bruce says:

    Thank you for your beautiful words of inspiration. Yes, it is a time to weep, but also to stand fast in faith and not be rash. God is in control of this universe. PTL!

    • Bonnie Doebley says:

      While I appreciate your words and sentiment, I am not so sure I can hang in anylonger with the UMC. I served on the Board of Transforming Congegations and have been an active participant in the discussions regarding sexual orientation and faith. Personally, I struggled with same sex attractions for a long time. I was blessed because with much love from our Heavenly Father, prayer, counseling and nurture from loving friends, it is no longer a problem for me. It breaks my heart to see what is going on. I’m tired. I’m frustated, and while I love the UMC, I just don’t know if I want to continue this journey when the end seems an inevitable separation.

  5. Rev. Victor L. Caldwell says:

    Dear Pastor Greenway,
    I admire your commitment to the Scriptures and to the Wesleyan, Evangelical, Orthodox Message and Mission of our Faith. I am amazed that the UMC is violating its own Book of Discipline and Biblical principles in electing this woman to the office of a Bishop. May you have success in getting this “elect” overturned.
    If you grow tired to the constant battles from within you may be interested to knwo that other Conservative Wesleyan Groups do exist such as: The Evangelical Methodist Church, The Free Methodist Church, The Church of the Nazarene, The Wesleyan Church, The Association of Independent Methodist Church, and a host of others who would gladly welcome you and your congregation into their connections.
    It is difficult to tell just when a church body has gone to the point of no return. May God give you the courage and the confidence to follow the leading of His Holy Spirit.
    Prayerfully,

    Pastor Vic Caldwell (Retired)

  6. Ric Hoerz says:

    So I don’t understand. If people in our church body don’t agree with our Bible and our UMC Book of Discipline, why aren’t they leaving and going down their own road? Why are they asking/expecting us to change our beliefs to satisfy their flesh needs?

    • Evelyn says:

      I believe in God. I believe in the Bible. I believe in the Book of Discipline.
      Why is it we have to give up our beliefs? If it is not good enough for these
      questional people, wish them well and pray they will find a church to suit
      their needs instead of trying to change what we have stood for that goes
      back many generations and also in God’s word to say the least.
      .

  7. I fully agree and hope they will decide to with draw her appointment. This is the begging of the end to the UMC.

  8. Lisa Landrum says:

    Thank you for your words! It saddens me that we have largely chosen to disregard the Bible for the sake of progress or ” growing with the times” or whatever we call it. I call it sin. I love the sinner and hate the sin. We all sin and are not asking the church to make exceptions for thieves or liars or anyone who sins. We shouldn’t allow special consideration here. It grieves my heart and more importantly, it grieves the Heart of God. I am a covert to the Methodist church. I chose it! As hard as it will be, if this spiral continues, I will choose again. I pray for our denomination!

  9. Heather Clark says:

    Does anyone in the western confrence read the Book of Dicipline

    • julie says:

      I assure you that the recent election does not represent the entire western conference. There are faithful churches here who would appreciate your prayers and support.

  10. Sandra Turner says:

    Three years ago in September I left the Congregational Church after 30 years as a very active member. It was exactly the same situation as the gay bishop. They hired a women gay and married, also with a baby. Many people left the church. We were looking for a church that followed the Bible and not just every trend that came down the road. After attending the Methodist church and speaking personally to the minister and learning about your book of rules we decided this is the church that follows the rules set up by Jesus. I will hang in there until a decision is made. If the church splits I will follow the way that Jesus wants us to live.

  11. Jan Chastain says:

    I don’t understand why the western conference., and who ever else doesn’t want to live by the Methodist doctrine , should leave and take their Bishop with them !

  12. Jill Ann Ladrick says:

    The turmoil that is occurring in the Methodist Church is appalling to say the least. My grandmother used to say that our tags with our church affiliation will either fly off on our way to heaven or burn off in he’ll. The most important thing to remember is that we are first followers of Christ and God’s word in the Bible above all. Secondly we should find a church family where we can learn God’s word and support one another. I have found my church home at Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church under the leadership of Pastor Jeff Greenway. We are blessed to have his leadership and knowledge of how the church can move forward remaining true to God’s word. Remember God is in control.

  13. Kathryn Garrett says:

    I do not want to be connected to a Methodist church that does not obey God or His Word. How can a person who claims to know God, hurt the Lord or disappoint our Saviour? He gave His life to save us from our sins and the penalty of sin which is death and separation from God .How can any believer in Jesus be united with those who commit open sin and continue in it?
    I will follow Jesus even if none go with me.

  14. tim lusk says:

    As a former UM pastor and a gay man of deep faith I sincerely pray for the LGBT folks in your community. It cant be easy living among people who view them as less than. The suicide of LGBT youth is high and highest in communitues like yours. G-d have mercy on us all and may G-d’s love and grace prevail.
    Thank you for allowing me to express a different Christian view point and a reminder that some of G-d’s precious children’s lives are at risk.

    • Betsy says:

      There is a very simple solution to this: You take the initiative to protect these children. If you truly believe our beliefs are harmful then do not expose these children to our way of thinking! America is about freedom of religion, aka freedom of conscience which means you are free to believe as you see fit and I am free to believe as I see fit. If you do not see things that way, then we do have a problem.

  15. Betty Smith says:

    Hello,
    My name is Betty Smith. I am the parent of an openly gay son. He and his partner are raising my beautiful little granddaughter. She is the light, love and joy in their lives. By driving people, like my son and his family away from the church, it seems you may be committing a sin of your own. Do you recall the story of the Good Samaritan? He helped a man that others wouldn’t deign to speak to, even though this man was terribly in need of help. If you are doing things to separate these kind, loving, intelligent, funny and spiritual people from God, then perhaps a bit of self-examination is in order. Jesus spoke to the Woman at the Well, Lazarus, and those who society thought were outcasts.

    How many of you know any gay families? Any? Oftentimes, that’s the case. Let me tell you about my son and his family. Timothy was different from the time he was very young. I recognized that, but didn’t quite know what to make of it till he came to me one day and told me that he is gay. As a mother and a nurse, I was sad and a bit frightened for him. Our family had very little money. When Tim went away to Chicago for college, I’d hoped he’d found his vocation. He wanted to be a priest. It turns out that he is meant to be a “Daddy” instead. He was just finishing his PhD in Education, working on his dissertation when the call he and Ravi had been praying for came. Their little girl was on the way! I imagine Ravi probably drove. He’s an MD and knows the way to the hospitals. They were able to take their daughter home, and held their collective breath for the 3-day period in which the birthmom can change her mind. But, it seems, she had come to know these two wonderful young men and trusts them to raise her daughter when she could not. Anjalie, which in Ravis’ families language means “gift” is very much their light and job. They never forget that she is their gift. She is a sweet, well-adjusted, happy and intelligent child. Just like her Daddy and Papa. She is the light of my life, along with my grandson. Tim, who was once studying to become a priest, is still reading parenting books and doing the very best job he can to be the best Daddy there is. Most people who work at his school like him very much. His goal is to provide an inclusive atmosphere, no matter what a teacher or students’ sexuality might be. He’s a good man. A VERY good man. Yet,, he would not be welcomed in your church. I find that very sad. I’ve read the Bible all my life. My understanding is that we are received in Heaven through a relationship iwth the one we call “Father.” If my sons’ efforts at being the best father he can be to his sweet little daughter and to his students, when necessary, are reviewed by God, I don’t honestly believe He’ll find him lacking. Please consider whether this is really something to be upset about. All the divisive, ugly news of late has caused immeasurable stress for some./ I would simply recommend that if you do have friends who are gay, support them.. St. Francis had some wonderful advice. “Preach, Loudly! And when you absolutely must, use words!

    • Betty Jett says:

      Words from someone that has experienced the true Love of God! Jesus died on the cross for everyone, not just the chosen few that judge on a daily basis.

      • Carla says:

        Kudos and many thanks to both Bettys, Betty Jett and Betty Smith. My husband and I now attend a UCC church in our area, as they are “Open and Affirming,” a designation equal to “Reconciling Congregations.”
        Jesus told us to LOVE, not to hate nor did he want us to discriminate.
        Thank you both for your wise words.

  16. Pastor Karl says:

    Thank you for your comments. Let me add that, as you know, the UMC or just the Methodist Church, was once a fervent, evangelical voice for the need to reach the lost, see lives changed and delivered and continuing on to become disciples of Jesus Christ and His Church.May God grant your organization, all who long for His appearing, on outpouring of His Spirit to empower each of us to be world changers where we live and serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

  17. Steve Babcock says:

    I live in Montana and will be served by the new Bishop all you need to know about her is at https://juicyecumenism.com. She says she is a Muslim. She goes on to say how she despises Franklin Graham, who has been in the trenches and has probably done more for Christians than anyone in this century, for his stand on homosexuality. She identifies with Muslims who kill homosexuals. This woman is confused. I wish an IQ test was mandatory

    • Carla says:

      Karen Oliveto does not hate people of the Islamic faith, or Muslims. Neither do I disparage other faiths, nor does any intelligent, thinking person.
      I have neighbors who are Muslim, they are loving, are raising four polite, and well behaved children, and are good, kind people. Are there Muslims who “kill Christians?” Yes, just as there are Christians who bomb abortion clinics, and discriminate against anyone who does not believe as they do.
      If you have studied comparative religion, you would realize that all religions, at their core, advocate love, compassion and acceptance.

  18. Taye Moody says:

    Rev Jeff Greenway could you say more or give a fuller meaning about your statement ” It’s about the nature of salvation-what we are saved from and what we are saved to.” Thank you.

  19. Steve Babcock says:

    I am living in the Yellowstone Conference who will be under the jurisdiction of the new Bishop. I ask for your help. If everyone in the US would go to their Church treasurer and tell them , I will not give any more money until our church will not pay apportionments. My church has already agreed to this. I will start giving again to the local church when the new Bishop is gone.

    The liberals are depended on the generosity of us with the traditional values. We are the majority and statistics bare out we are the most generous. If we don’t accept tyranny from the minority, refuse to give to them

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