July 15, 2016

Peoria, Ill.:  Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, issued the following statement regarding the results of today’s Episcopal election at the Western Jurisdictional Conference of The United Methodist Church, meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The Western Jurisdiction has elected the Rev. Karen Oliveto of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco to serve as a bishop of The United Methodist Church. Rev. Oliveto has been described as “an openly lesbian clergyperson.” This election raises significant concerns and questions of church polity and unity. 

Our Book of Discipline has clearly delineated processes in place for resolving issues even as complex and unprecedented as this election. 

The authority to elect bishops is constitutionally reserved to the jurisdictional and central conferences. Any elder in good standing is eligible for election as a bishop of the church. An elder under an unresolved complaint is still considered to be in good standing. Being a self-avowed, practicing homosexual is a chargeable offense for any clergyperson in The United Methodist Church, if indeed this is the case.

The Council of Bishops is monitoring this situation very closely. The Council does not have constitutional authority to intervene in the election or supervisory processes at either the annual conference, jurisdictional or central conference levels. And, we are careful to not jeopardize any clergy or lay person’s due process by ill-advised comments.

However, we clearly understand the Church appropriately expects the Council to provide spiritual leadership and for bishops to uphold our consecration vows. In May, prior to General Conference, the Council again affirmed to keep the promises made at our consecrations, including, among others:

  • Shepherding all persons committed to our care;
  • Leading the church in mission, witness and service;
  • Ordering the church including administering processes for handling complaints;
  • Seeking unity in Christ, including the work the Council proposed to the General Conference in “An Offering for a Way Forward.”

There are those in the church who will view this election as a violation of church law and a significant step toward a split, while there are others who will celebrate the election as a milestone toward being a more inclusive church. Others will no doubt have questions as we find ourselves in a place where we have never been. Still, others will likely see this election as disrupting or even rendering moot the purpose and work of the Commission currently being formed by the Council.

The Council continues to place our hope in Jesus Christ. Though conflicted and fragile, The United Methodist Church remains a strong witness to the transforming love of God and the saving grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ. We affirm that our witness is defined, not by an absence of conflict, but how we act in our disagreements. We affirm that our unity is not defined by our uniformity, but by our compassionate and Spirit-led faithfulness to our covenant with God, Christ’s Church and one another.

As a Council, we continue to maintain that the proposal for a way forward and the formation of the Commission is the best path. An endless cycle of actions, reactions and counter-reactions is not a viable path and tears at the very fabric of our Connection. The current and incoming COB Executive Committees recently met by conference call to initiate the implementation of our Offering for a Way Forward and the formation of the Commission called for in the proposal. We will resume this work at our regularly scheduled meeting on July 19-20 following the Jurisdictional Conferences. A progress report will be released shortly after the meeting.

Our differences are real and cannot be glossed over, but they are also reconcilable. We are confident God is with us, especially in uncharted times and places. There is a future with hope. We invite your constant and ardent prayers for the witness and unity of The United Methodist Church. May God guide us as we seek to maintain unity in the bond of peace. 

Bishop Bruce R. Ough, President
Council of Bishops

The Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church encompasses the eight westernmost regional conferences of the United States: the Alaska Conference, the California-Nevada Conference, the California-Pacific Conference, the Desert Southwest Conference, the Oregon-Idaho Conference, the Pacific Northwest Conference, the Rocky Mountain Conference and the Yellowstone Conference.



  1. Dear Bishop Ough & Council of Bishops,

    With all due respect, the hole in your boat just got too big to bail out! This election of a self-confessed gay minister to the position of bishop renders any and all reconciliation efforts moot. The COB must prepare the way for a fair and financially equitable division of the church. We must be allowed to serve God and take His word into a needy world without the impediment of those who hold that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle for members, ministers and bishops. Should the COB delay or find some excuse by which to table this division, you will be allowing a needy world to perish without hearing the Good News. Be very careful and prayerful about your next decision!

  2. Failure to call for action to nullify this illegal and immoral election is to condone it.
    Were I a member of a Church in that Conference I would consider the new lesbian Bishop to be an interloper and and ecclesiastical leadership null and void. Were I a leader in a church in that Conference I would ask for my church to be assigned to a different Conference or halt paying any monies to the Conference. Perhaps we need a new “Conferene in Exile” for churches that object to this dramatic shift to the left in clear violation of the BOD and a stiff-necked in-your-face response to GC and the COB.

  3. What a sad state of affairs for the United Methodist Church!! I see no alternative but to split!!

    IN THE HOLY BIBLE THAT CONDEMNS ANY FORM OF HOMOSEXUALITY. I QUOTE “We affirm that our unity is not defined by our uniformity, but by our compassionate and Spirit-led faithfulness to our covenant with God, Christ’s Church and one another,” SAID BISHOP OUGH. IT SEEMS TO ME

  5. As someone who joined the UMC in 2008, I’m disappointed in the leadership that allows people to blatantly defy the Word of God and the Book of Discipline. I’m currently attending a very liberal seminary on my way to ordination, but I’m starting to question if this is the denomination for me. What complicates matters is that my wife is an ordained elder in the UMC with 20 years under her belt. We will not be able to leave the denomination as a family. I’m torn between fulfilling the calling God has placed on my life and being able to serve in a denomination I feel is slapping God in the face.

  6. Is it the Word of God, or is it sexual orientation that has precedence in our denomination? This election is clearly in violation of our principles in the Book of Discipline. This election should be declared noninviod .

  7. The Council of Bishops handling of this defiant act of the Western Juurisdiction is anemic. It almost sounds like they agree with the Western Jursidiction, but because the rest of the church feels contrary to that stance. So the ol” razzmatazz comes out with comments that sound like crocodile tears. Why can’t we at least be honest and call it what it is. If this election stands unchallenged then there is no Discipline. It says to the people of the church that their combined prayed for thought through response to a hard situation, that their decision is null because some progressives believe they are above the rules. So some can obey the rules, while the self important don’t believe they have to obey church law. It mirrors what is happening in our country and our government. A few self important people believe the rules don’t apply to them. They are special so it’s okay. Rules exist to block anarchy and for society to get along. Anarchy in church is open rebellion against the wisdom of God in Jesus Christ. I for one do not want to be a part of that! Just So you know rule breakers and anti-nomians in the church, you do not speak for me! Actually you speak your own destruction. As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

  8. Why doesn’t the UMC do away with the Methodist Book of Discipline if clear cut violations to it arnt going to be acted upon and dismiss those that violate it. I’ve never know a law to be written just to put words on paper. Please everyone be upfront and truthful with the members of this denomination and stand up for what the book of discipline has written in it. If not stop waisting the millions of dollars and everyone’s times have a national conference and when you leave do the opposite of what the majority voted on. This is a sad time in the Methodist Church and will soon divide and destroy it. And NO God is not looking down on this with favor!

  9. Whatever consecration vows Bishops may make, they certainly do not override our ORDINATION VOWS. What church are we trying to hold together, if the Vows and Polity of our current official Discipline are null and void? I urge the Council of Bishops to put first things first, and provide solid leadership that UPHOLDS their Ordination vows to Word, ORDER and Sacrament. Fulfilling that responsibility may direct many future priorities. There is no honor and very little Holy Spirit in a church changed by rebellious disorder.

  10. The liberal/progressives who have kept stirring the pot re homosexuality and all the other types of sexual expressions/identities have been very clear as to what they think of those that disagree with them; they have openly and blatantly described them as evil and black-hearted and bigoted. That makes this statement from Bishop Ough as being out of touch with reality:

    “We affirm that our unity is not defined by our uniformity, but by our compassionate and Spirit-led faithfulness to our covenant with God, Christ’s Church and one another,”

    Ever since I first delved into the sexuality debate as it related to The United Methodist Church, the question has not disturbed me near as much as the verbiage and methods of operation of those pushing for an immediate answer; I can not fathom being in a local church with them when they got a burr under their saddle.

  11. Having read the Bishop’s statement, I can only say that Ive never heard such mealy mouth rhetoric from a person in authority. Consider the great men of the Bible, they all had a common trait, a backbone! You fear the reaction of the membership, you should.Our first loyalty is to God not a denomination, especially one that has left its first love.

  12. Bishop Ough states that, “there are those in the church who will view this election as a violation of church law and a significant step toward a split, while there are others who will celebrate the election as a milestone toward a more inclusive church”. Please note the careful wording here. Meaning — there are those who want to split the church over “church law” in order to block the “milestone” toward becoming a more “inclusive church”

    Did all the Council of Bishops sign off on your statement, Bishop Ough? And, have you noticed that you are still bound by “church law” as you are the head Bishop in ordering the church? Has it occurred to you that your job is to DEFEND the church and “church law” as specified in the BOD?

  13. At a time when strong leadership from the Council of Bishops is absolutely necessary.. We find instead the usual wishy-washy, mealy-mouthed obfuscation.. The Disipline is clear, our ordination vows more than mere suggestions, and our denominational identity hangs by a thread .. We expect better.

  14. This is a very sad day for the United Methodist Church. The future is uncertain, except we know that Jesus is Lord and right will prevail in the end. How could it be just a viewpoint that this is a violation of Church law? It very clearly violates law. We have compassion for all people, or should have, but yielding to sinful desires and promoting gay marriage are not permissible in a bishop. We say this with sorrow, not condemnation.

  15. I am so sad at the state of the United Methodist Church. The law and Disipline must be upheld. What is wrong with the Council of Bishops that they can not uphold the law of the church? It looks like a split is the only way out of this mess with those that want the law upheld.

  16. Let prayer guide all decisions in this situation. Let prayer personally guide Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto. John Wesley once said something to the effect of “We may not think alike, but may we love alike.” Among my own prayers, I pray that a split not happen, because I believe in “One In Christ.” I also feel that the situation is not good when The Book Of Discipline does not coincide with actual practice. There is the analogy of how many motorists exceed the speed limit on our highways.

  17. The Law of The Church is the inerrant word of GOD, The Bible, and all that other stuff is Garbage and it and the people that adheres to it should be set aside and Prayed for. Lets have a vote for or against by our membership and go from there! GOD has already decided and left a record of HIS Decision all thru the Scriptures! So Read Before You Vote, if there’s any Doubt!

  18. Well———–The Decision was Wrong! And there’s
    nothing we can say or do to make it any way!

  19. Shame. We expect more from our “leaders” than weak words to mollify. You are ‘leading us to a sure split.

  20. I am so sorry for your situation. I will pray for you and your wife and our church.

  21. Get off your butts and do the RIGHT thing. Honor God and praise His word.


  1. UMC's Western Jurisdiction Elects Openly Married Lesbian as Bishop - The Layman Online - […] Council of Bishops President addresses Oliveto election results […]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join Our Mailing List!

Click here to sign up to our email lists:

•Perspective Newsletter (weekly)
• Transforming Congregations Newsletter (monthly)
• Renew Newsletter (monthly)

Make a Gift

Global Methodist Church

Is God Calling You For More?


Latest Articles: