Stonewalling the Process?

After the consecration of the Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto as bishop by the Western Jurisdiction. UMNS photo.

According to a United Methodist News Service article published on August 23, 2016 – more than one year ago – Bishop Grant Hagiya, president of the Western Jurisdiction’s College of Bishops, said then newly-elected Bishop Karen Oliveto, an open lesbian married to a UM Church deaconess, “faces multiple complaints under church law.”

One full year went by and there never was a peep about the complaints or the status of the process. Good News reached out to Bishop Hagiya and asked him about the complaints and if there was an explanation for the unusually long delay regarding resolution.

Hagiya responded as follows: “Due to Judicial Council Ruling 1341 [April 2017], and under advisement of our legal counsel, we dismissed the original complaint without prejudice, and opened up a new complaint submitted in light of 1341 to deal with any issues pertinent to the new ruling.

“A new complaint supervising committee has been formed and will begin working on this new complaint.”

With all due respect, concerned lay persons and clergy view this as an ecclesiastical three-card monte sleight of hand. Yes, we are aware there is a portion of United Methodism that is downright giddy about Oliveto’s election. And we are well aware that the new caucus group “Uniting Methodists” is at least publicly indifferent – neither heartbroken nor celebratory – about Oliveto’s election, consecration, and episcopal leadership. However, there are the vast majority of United Methodists who believe that this process lacks credibility and transparency. For them, it is about the integrity of the process and the heart of accountability within United Methodism.

According to church law, the status of complaints against a bishop must be reported after 120 days. However, if the parties involved in the matter have not reached a resolution they can request an additional 120 days, and, if necessary, another 120 after that. Apparently, Oliveto’s colleagues in the West are attempting to indefinitely postpone any decision for their colleague. They think the church’s sexual ethics, teachings on marriage, and its ordination standards are wrong. While they are certainly entitled to their opinions, their actions – or lack thereof – are raising serious questions about the possibility for church unity and trust.

What comes of a church when some of its bishops cavalierly decide which laws they will and will not enforce? What comes of church unity when some of its leaders are patronizingly dismissive of values held by the vast majority of United Methodists across a global denomination? And what comes of trust when bishops give the appearance they are protecting one of their own when it comes to legitimate complaints?

Lest we forget, several bishops issued statements lamenting Oliveto’s election as a breach of the church’s covenant and its unity. The Council of Bishops’ Executive Committee, citing “the great importance of the matter,” encouraged the Judicial Council to take up the matter as soon as possible. United Methodists rightly expect a just and timely resolution of this case. At this juncture, the Western Jurisdiction bishops’ failure to push for timely action would be indicative of their arrogance and disdain for the wider church.

–Good New Media Service.

Comments

  1. Thomas Luther says:

    if our bishoos continue the. Fail to uphold Church discipline, our only recourse is to withdraw from the UMC. It is taking entirely too long to do what is needed to unify the UMC. That lack of action is a total violation of the vowes of ordination and consecration! I believe the Bishops have lied to the UMC its members and the God we serve and should all be expelled from the UMC. This is totally unexceptable!

    • Mary Rivera says:

      Agree! The leader of the group “A Way Forward” is Ken Carter, Florida’s bishop. VERY progressive. I don’t doubt that he is pushing this small group of Bishops to take the stand of permitting LGBTQ clergy and weddings — in the name of LOVE and NON-DISCRIMINATION. They are trying to identify LGBTQ as a discriminated race of people, rather than a created group with non-Biblical behaviors. Carter will do it all in the name of “brotherly love”. Accept everyone’s differences. These BEHAVIORS are not physical differences. They are a lack of abstinence, pure and simple. How is required abstinance from LGBTQ behavior different from the abstinence from alcoholism (which is genetic), pornography, sex with minors, etc.?? Obey and respect the UMC beliefs and laws.

      There has been so little discipline applied, the matter has become commonplace throughout the church. It’s so bad that they don’t blink, they simply cover it up, like they did at Plantation United Methodist Church, in one of Bishop Carter’s Florida districts. The pastor who hired the LGBTQ was aware of her LGBTQ lifestyle and partner. The partner had attended services. He hired the LGBTQ, and stated HE had no problem with her lifestyle, just simply told her NOT TO TELL anyone. Making your own rules shows a lot of disrespect for the Church’s rules. Yet, Bishop Carter transfered the Pastor who hired her and did not apply any discipline. The LGBTQ “retired” at the time the Senior pastor was transferred. Anyone who has enough arrogance to think that they know better than the UMC, the rules, or its beliefs needs to start their own church.

  2. Update:

    Does anyone , anywhere know the status of this as we near the end of 2017?

    Will NOTHING be done to carry out the directive of the Judicial Council?

    Will this inaction be brought back before the Judicial Council?

    Can the General Conference do anything about this lawless act?

  3. Steve Babcock says:

    I live in the Yellowstone Conference and as a result of this Bishop we have about 20 -30 attending services

    • Mary Rivera says:

      Steve Babcock, I don’t doubt that if the word gets out that the United Methodist Church is not prosecuting the behavior, then there will be plenty of LGBTQ drawn to attendance. They will feel that the church has accepted their lifestyle. Our church has always accepted every lifestyle, but has never condoned and promoted the sin. The church does not know the meaning of repent any longer. When a larger number starts attending, the congregation will be blindsided, and those who are steadfast Methodist will leave. So either way, the church will not be kept ignorant of this problem, because they have eyes and ears and can tell when the congregation around them is changing. They will simply seek a different church. That is happening already, and our church is melting around us. It is going to be detrimental to have such “divorce”, and split all assets. The church will dissolve if they keep up what they’re doing. It is all very sad that they have let it get this far, because they tabled it for over 50 YEARS. At the last General Conference, the protest made them realize they must deal with this. Now, they do not know what to do, and are stalling. The Way Forward is ineffective.

  4. Stephen Burkhart says:

    Local churches are pulling Conference support as the only avenue left to respond to the inability of the Bishops in accountability – as a last resort before pulling out all together as a local church.

  5. Pastor Mark Shettler says:

    No one has a backbone that is in power to take a stand. Example MY DS told me in my one on one he would rather have to much grace then not enough? I was told I would never be asked to go to any big meetings either unless I would play the game. really play the game with the people I love and teach and mess with their salvation? I don’t think so. The Bible tells us to walk away from sin. Why do I stay? To make sure the congregation remains in line with what God tells us and not what these guys are trying to do.

    It’s a shame, maybe we should just break off and say you do your thing and we will pray for you. Not about rules in the book of discipline that they are breaking bothers me. But the laws of God and what he says to be true are being over looked here.

    Be Blessed
    Mark

    • Dear Mark,
      Remember that your Boss is Christ who called you to the ministry. The lure of “attending the big meeting” is easily distracting. Do what is right – you’ll always be on solid ground!! The power of the world will use leverage like power and authority.

    • Mary Rivera says:

      Mark, wouldn’t it be great if there were the same amount of CONSERVATIVE protesters at the next General Conference, as there were LGBTQ on the steps of the last General Conference? I’ve never seen protesting like that before at Conference!!! Why weren’t they arrested for interfering with a religious gathering? It was the biggest religious gathering of the United Methodist Church, it only takes place every four years, and was extremely disrupted.

  6. Intentional disregard of our standing rules and orders can be interpreted as a total lack of integrity. It also seems apparent that the council of bishops has very little power to enforce our standing church law. Disregard for the law only results in chaos and chaotic is certainly one way to describe our beloved UMC. No action is an action. But who will hold these bishops accountable? Certainly not themselves.

  7. I support Bishop Oliveto. She is a great leader in the church.

    • Pastor Mark Shettler says:

      I am sure she is. Pushing the agenda for evil maybe. Now if she would repent and change her ways then so be it. But if not then she needs to step down. the Bible is clear. I feel bad and will pray not only for her and the people she comes in contact with but also your congregation that they will realize the truth. And the truth is in the Bible. I am not against any LGBTQ coming to my church, or joining us in things we do. BUT will not allow them to teach or preach falsely. I am not here to win an argument but to stand up for my Lord and Savior and what he has taught. Well will pray for you to see the truth.

      Be Blessed
      Mark

    • A Congregant says:

      Great leaders do not take oaths that they are knowingly defying. Mrs. Oliveto has broken a sacred trust and shown herself to be without integrity.

    • Steve Babcock says:

      Name one accomplishment

  8. Time to start the jagged, bloody split to begin. Get a bunch of lawyers in the same room and hammer out a plan for separation……Conservatives and progressives will never be able to work together…..Water and oil don’t mix. Time to split and then move on…..Let God judge who is right and who is wrong…..

  9. Concerend Clergy says:

    I submit the BOD is DOA! Those Jurisdictions and Annual Conferences who have openly and flagrantly IGNORED the BOD have exercised de facto power over the BOD. Their actions, by remaining unchallenged, have gutted the BOD. De facto means, “exercising power as if legally constituted.” Courts regularly recognize de facto actions IF left unchallenged. For many years several Jurisdictions and Annual Conferences have openly, flagrantly, and gleefully not only IGNORED the BOD, they have passed resolutions in open rebellion to the BOD. While some actions have been overturned by the Judicial Council, the open rebellion has not abated (ordaining Karen Oliveto a Bishop and ordaining other openly gay clergy).

    I would submit that a good attorney would prevail on behalf of any local UMC congregation wanting to leave the church with “everything”; NO Conference would have the resources to defend a flood of suits contesting the “trust clause.” The trust clause is a result of the “merger” and part of the BOD. After the merger of 1968 and the Special Conference of 1970, the UMC spent years and lots of money forcing former EUB and Methodist churches to submit to the “trust clause” (these churches did not want to be a part of the merger or agree with the “trust clause”). I have pastored several former EUB churches that are still bitter over what they consider a “forced merger” and the “trust clause.” Therefore, IF the BOD’s sexuality rules are null and void the “trust clause” is null and void as well—de facto! No court would allow cherry-picking the BOD.

    The “Good News” has published several good articles highlighting that we (the UMC) are irreparably split. We are beyond Humpty Dumpty. It is like the calm before the storm. We are in the eye of a hurricane and the second act is about to fall. I have studiously read the draft proposals coming out of the “Way Forward;” I have read may articles on the left, right and middle of this issue. What I am hearing from fellow clergy and lay members is nearly unanimous—DO NOT CHANGE THE BOD!

    I submit no amount of arm twisting, pleading, call to prayer, dialoging, conferencing, singing, touchy-feely-hold hands while we sing kumbaya around the campfire-is going to change the BOD. Our BOD cannot be changed by simple majority. The reason the BOD is NOT going to be changed is the bar is set too high.

    ALL IT TAKES IS JUST 1/3+1 of the delegates voting NO to preserve the BOD in its present form. Put another way: there are approximately 864 delegates slated to attend the Special General Conference in 2019 (same delegates that attended the 2016 GC). To change the BOD requires 2/3rds or 576 votes. OR JUST 289 votes preserve the BOD! The “bar” NOT to change the BOD is more easily reached than 2/3rds! Then it takes 2/3rds votes in every Annual Conference and then 2/3rds vote of all Annual Conferences worldwide. This is a herculean task and a bar (under the present circumstances) out of reach.

    Additionally, the same voting delegates that attended the 2016 General Conference will be the same delegates at the 2019 Special Conference. NO proposal dealing with sexual orientation passed in 2016! Furthermore, 48% of the delegates at the 2016 GC did not want a Commission on a Way Forward (428 yes to 405 no). This is a clear indication that nearly 50% of UMC delegates do not want to change the BOD sexual language.

    I have a sense that behind closed doors the Bishops are praying and hoping against hope for a miracle– that deep down they know is not happening. As soon as the Bishops announce the final proposal(s) being submitted to the Special General Conference slated for 2019 (no later than July 8th, 2018) the implosion begins. The next wave begins after the Special General Conference in February (23-26) of 2019. That will push the final free-for-all to the General Conference of 2020! Recently my DS said they will probably spend the rest of their term as DS helping churches leave the UMC. I believe many DSs sense the only “Way Forward” out of this mess is to allow the UMC to split and pick up the pieces.

    I have only focused on what I see and perceive as being “reality,” or a reasonable appraisal of what I see and hear in the UMC. In my opinion the “gay issue” shares similarity to the “abortion issue.” First, both issues are moral issues. Secondly, both issues are religious; Thirdly, both issues polarize people; there is very little middle ground to be found. Fourthly, because of #1 & #2, people will break fellowship over this issue. Because of #s 1,2 and 3 we become deadlocked. As Americans we have been deadlocked over the abortion issue for over 40 years.

    Although the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled abortion legal, Americans are still sharply divided on this issue because of #s1 and 2. The “gay issue” is no different. Although the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled “gay” people can marry and so on we are still sharply divided and will remain so forever. The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that courts should not adjudicate morality. Furthermore, he believed courts have no jurisdiction in these matters because courts adjudicate law not morality. Morality is defined by a people’s culture, faith, beliefs and so on.

    Finally, after all the hand wringing, vote tallying, threatening, church splits, money and time wasted has subsided somewhere in all of this is the Holy Spirit and Christ. Regardless of the outcome Jesus is going to have a church. Historically the church has survived the “Great Schism” between the East and West churches (1054). The church survived all the schisms and ism of the Roman Catholic Church (such as the 14th Century “Babylonian Captivity of the Church”) prior to the Protestant Reformation. The church survived the Protestant Reformation. The church has emerged from every schism and scandal and will continue to do so until the Lord returns.

    I am mindful of 2Co 4:7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. Jesus left the church in the hands of human and frail apostles. Through the power of God and the Holy Spirit we will continue until the Lord’s return.

    • Dear Concerned Clergy,

      Thank you!

      Progressives have a plan. Progressives are confidently working their plan. De facto is certainly part of that plan. So far, they are being successful with that. Another part of their plan is a clever passive aggressive maneuver. By refusing to exit the church with which they disagree, they vow to remain and be seen as victims of the stubborn, bigoted traditionalists in hopes of forcing their agenda on the entire church. If the church is destroyed in the process, so be it.

  10. Mary Rivera says:

    Thank you, Concerned Clergy. Your explanation and statistics are comforting. I am still unsettled, however.

    I can’t figure out why my pastor doesn’t want the matter discussed on his FB page. He asked me not to post articles with questions on his page. I believe that NOT discussing this with the congregation is deceiving the ignorant, should the changes ever take place. What if there were a division, because they changed the BOD to allow each pastor to operate their individual church as they see fit? Would a vote be required of members within the individual church(s) to determine how they will operate? Would the pastor make the decision? In either case, there is nothing “United” about such change. .

  11. Creed Pogue says:

    There is only one occupant of an episcopal office in the United States who is subsidized by members outside of their jurisdiction. That is Dr. Oliveto.

    The Western Jurisdiction does not pay for their own bishops much less make a contribution toward the retirees (including Bishop Talbert) or our connectional obligation to the central conference bishops. This is simply unsustainable.

  12. I have corresponded here before and I am purely a lay person who has decided to leave the church until it can take a stand. Then it dawned on me this morning that if a split is inevitable why have those who believe in the book of discipline not just left and started UMC2? The existing church will never push the issues because the core issues for them are not doctrine but financial. They know a split church cannot support the human and physical infrastructure of the UMC. So for them the core issue is to drag it out and continue to collect apportionments for salaries, retirement pay, and maintenance of existing facilities. A smaller church made up of purely progressives cannot generate the cash needed to run the UMC. Only by actually exiting the church can we force a decision by the bishops as the church approaches insolvency. It is a sad situation but patience and inaction on the part of conservatives when they know a split in inevitable only prolongs the problems. It is a bit like having cancer and deciding to delay treatment hoping that it will just go away if I ignore it.

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