The Rev. Karen Oliveto accepts her election by the Western Jurisdiction as a UM bishop. Her wife, the Rev. Robin Ridenour, stands behind her. UMNS photo.

The Rev. Karen Oliveto accepts her election by the Western Jurisdiction as a UM bishop. Her wife, the Rev. Robin Ridenour, stands behind her. UMNS photo.

The Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, senior minister of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco, has been elected as a bishop by the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church. She is the first openly married lesbian to be elected bishop within the denomination. After two other candidates withdrew concluding the 16th ballot, Oliveto’s name was the lone candidate choice on the screen before the delegates.

She was one of three openly gay candidates running for bishop within The United Methodist Church. Gathering in Phoenix, the Western Jurisdiction delegates sent a provocative message to the worldwide 12-million member United Methodist Church – a denomination with over 5 million members in Africa and the Philippines.

Oliveto was a prominent signer of an open letter written by 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. She 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.

“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 in May. “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.”

The Council of Bishops was charged by the 2016 General Conference to create a special commission to explore the possibility of how the denomination can move forward with seemingly irreconciable 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.

The election of an openly gay bishop is not the kind of conversation that moderate and conservative lay and clergy leaders had in mind as the bishops prepare, later this year, to appoint the commission to study the church’s sexual ethics and preserve denominational unity.

“It is deplorable that the Western Jurisdiction, along with many annual conferences, has ignored the Council of Bishop’s proposal, ratified by the General Conference, for a ‘pause for prayer – to step back from attempts at legislative solutions and to intentionally seek God’s will for the future,’” said the Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of Good News, in response to the Western Jurisdiction election.

“Instead, these conferences have moved ahead with legislative enactments pledging non-conformity with the Book of Discipline, culminating in the election of a practicing homosexual as bishop,” said Renfroe. “If the Western Jurisdiction wanted to push the church to the brink of schism, they could not have found a more certain way of doing so.”

In celebrating the candidacies of openly gay individuals, 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.”

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.

The Northeastern Jurisdiction passed a resolution of non-conformity regarding the church’s prohibitions against same-sex weddings and the ordination of openly gay clergy. The jurisdiction also called on annual conference financial officers to state that there are no funds available to investigate complaints or conduct trials for clergy who violate the church’s teachings.

“In light of the Western and Northeastern Jurisdiction’s actions effectively renouncing their connection to the rest of global United Methodism, evangelicals and traditionalists within the church will be conferring in the next few days to agree upon responses that will acknowledge this grave breach of unity,” said the Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, vice president of Good News. “If our covenant is no longer in force, we will be forced to live into a new reality in our denomination.”

– Good News Media


  1. At this moment in time, I am somewhat speechless about what has just happened. Oliveto should never have even been on the ballot. It was her very blatant disregard for the covenant she entered, along with the additional breaking of covenant by her DS, Bishop and delegates that facilitated this day and the sad events that culminated tonight.
    My prayer and hope is that we no longer wait. We no longer remain silent. If this is allowed to stand without a rebuke from the CoB or the Judicial Council, the move must be swift and sure. Just as our BoD clearly states that homosexuality is not compatible with the teachings of God, neither is a church that is now clearly divided by those that believe in the sanctity of scripture and the covenant to uphold the UMC BoD. Silent no more. Lets get something right out of this.

  2. Well that does it !!! Apparently all the talk of letting the Bishops Council form a committee to Study The BOD’s stance on Human sexuality was a lot of smoke and mirrors. This is the most egregious act of schism yet. The only name in front of the body for nomination was Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, really how disingenuous can a jurisdiction get! Looks like my fourth year in Course of Study will be my last! I will stand with God and be judged by the United Methodist Church, I will not stand by the United Methodist Church and be judged by God!
    Let’s see what the Council of Bishop’s does now, I fear it will not be anything at all as they are more concerned with worldly approval than God’s approval.

  3. Let the churches of the Western Conference and the Northern Conference form their own “Church.” They violate the World Wide Covenant, and should not be allowed to use the UMC name, Logo or anything related to the UMC. They are more than welcome to go their separate way. And they should be encouraged do so.

    Whatever legal steps that need to be taken to separate them from the UMC absolutely MUST be taken.

  4. This election is an abomination before God, a mockery to the UMC Book of Discipline and a focus of shame upon the entire United Methodist Church. Progressives in the UMC may believe that they are proving their love to all men and women via inclusion; however, what they are truly doing is capitulating to the corrosive influence of society and allowing God to be redefined by man’s sinful nature. No matter what the future holds, the UMC will be held accountable before a holy God for this cheapening of His Word!

  5. It is time to settle this in our Church!!!!!!!

  6. The Western Jurisdiction leaped across the line in the sand with this action. . Conferences that are declaring ther independence from the UMC should be granted that independence. The rest of the church must now demand their exit. Or, demand a special General Conference to resolve this schism. Unless the progressives can change the BOD at a called General Conference with an up or down vote (no more commissions), then they should exit the church voluntarily or involuntarily.

  7. Can you explain what body is responsible for and the process by which the election of a Bishop is ratified? Is there much hope that this bishop’s election will be overturned regardless of any action by the Judicial Council?

    If this election stands, the fallout will be great since it will constitute de facto endorsement of homosexual sin at the highest levels of the UMC bureaucracy effectively negating General Conference and Book of Discipline.

  8. First, I left the Episcopal Church for this reason. Now, I am conflicted about continuing as a Methodist. I am a fundamentalist, and it looks like most denominations are drifting away from God’s Word. I can’t be a supporter of this disobedience.

  9. Well said. As a life-long United Methodist I am heart broken at what is happening in our world and our church. The fact that this woman made it this far is a sad indictment of where our church leadership has fallen to. There are rules to follow. Their disregard of these rules basically brings the church to a place of anarchy and chaos. When the rules are not followed there is no order. As stated in a letter from the South Eastern Jurisdictional Bishops, there is an order in place for taking care of matters like these set in our polity. I’d like to see that order that is in our Book of Discipline followed. Until the rules are changed through due process they are STILL the rules. Vows have been broken. Trust has been broken. I believe Jesus is crying indeed.

  10. If the people who are so unhappy with the direction of the UMC had gotten involved in the political workings of the church decades ago rather than putting their heads in the sand, we would not be here. Willful ignorance married to local ministry has resulted in the loss of ground for that ministry. It is ugly and unpleasant to deal with the progressives in these matters, but it has been necessary. If people really want to save this denomination, they will have to get out of their pews and put feet to their desires. Let your voice be heard publicly, not just behind closed doors. Yes, you will be spoken denigrated, but as the earlier commentator said, It is better to be judged by man than judged by God. Let us please God, not the world.

  11. Pudentiana. You nailed it. In Hosea 4:6 the prophet says “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”. Ordinary people in the UMC do not pay attention to what is going on. They set in their pews and rarely voice their disapproval. Pastors have been reluctant to preach the true Word of God for fear of offending a member. This has gotten the Methodist Church and this nation to the point we are at. Its time to stand and fight. Its time that Pastors begin to tell the truth. But you nailed it. Shame on those who have let it get this far.

  12. The real irony in this situation is that those in the US who most support the current Discipline are mainly located in the geographic regions our church who were responsible for jurisdictions and their primary role in the election and the assignment of bishops. The seeds of the possibility of this election and consecration of a gay bishop were sown when The Methodist Church was formed in 1939 and the jurisdictional system was set up including the segregation of the African-American church in the Central Jurisdiction. As I understand it, it was the Methodist Episcopal Church, South who wanted to have their own authority to elect their own bishops so as to preserve their “way of life” and was a condition of the union of the three denominations. So in reality, the chickens have come home to roost as this distribution of power in our polity have resulted in this present outcome that so many decry. So maybe the idea of unity was a myth all along as we continued to regionalize our leadership in the way we elect our bishops. Yes, we have repented as a church of this wrong action, but the consequences of our actions remain.

  13. As a life long United Methodist…born in a Methodist parsonage…served as a Methodist missionary in Japan for over 30 years…I am confident that God has His plan for our Church and our world. This is not a political issue,,,it is a justice issue.
    What would Jesus do? That is the lense I try to see each person and each issue through.
    Let’s take a deep breath, slow down here and let God be God.

  14. Membership and donations will suffer. I for one am gone. cancel my membership. Robert Lux 12000 N.90th St. Unit 2096 Scottsdale Az. 85260

  15. Dear Mr. McGowen,
    What do you mean about the Northern Conference forming their own Church. As far as our Bishop in the Northern District, she is encouraging us to not be alarmed and hang in there, that this is not the belief of the Northern District in West Virginia. Can you enlighten me on this. Thank you very much.
    I am so very disappointed that our UMC has been subjected to this Bishop being appointed. I welcome Gay, Lesbian into the church if they so choose, but not in the role of Leadership. It is against God’s teachings.
    Some say, he world is changing, and we should be able to change as well. Please read Matthew ??book on God and the Homosexual. It makes me sick. He is actually rewriting the Bible. We must do something to stop this. All the world and other denominations are watching what we are going to do. My heart is deeply troubled. If it moves to the Northern District in WV, i will have to take my membership out of the church.
    Thank you for any information you can give me, especially if we need to protest, or whatever. I do not hate gays, lesbians, whatever, but our American Family is having a hard enough time with identity crisis, please, lets not add to the issue. Barbara Hopkins , Paden City, WV

  16. I am in prayer that God leads us to follow His teachings from His word. It is time to voice your opinion fellow Christians. We have the power of Almighty God behind His word that we “must”follow or He will truly say ” I never knew you.

  17. During the time of the apostles, it was common knowledge that the gospel were meant for the Jews only. Peter had a vision (dream) that there were unclean meat set before him and he was commanded to partake. Peter, acknowledged that he cannot partake of any unclean things. He was told, whatever God has made clean are good to eat.. This was a revelation to Peter, to mean that the Gospel is now open to the Gentiles. Homesexuality is clearly forbidden in the scriptures and its not even a question to discuss. We cannot defy what God has set for us as commandments. Only God can change his law.. No man can.. These are trying times.. At the last days, right will be called wrong, wrong will be called right… Just my 2 cents…

    malo ‘aupito..

    Concern christian..

  18. I am a member of a church in the conference that elected Bishop Karen Oliveto, most of the church learned of this after it happened. Knowing what a contraversial issue this is it seems strange we were not informed so we could convey our feelings to the delegates that would be voting on our behalf. In the past pre-conference hearing were held to inform people what would be coming up. Even without a hearing information could have come from the newsletter or the pulpit. How our church leaders could defy the Book of Discjpline (what the majority of UM’s adopted) is beyond comprehension. What happened to theirvows and integrity.

  19. It is neither a political issue or a justice issue. It’s an egregious act against the Holy Spirit and Jesus. It is absolutely a doctrine issue. What would Jesus do? He would turn over the tables as he did in the temple courts. He would teach and correct, tell us to repent and sin no more. People really don’t like what Jesus teaches, not then and certainly not now. “The stone which the builders reject has become the chief cornerstone,” “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.”


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