UMC High Court Rejects Request for Reconsideration of Ruling Against Lesbian Bishop

(Photo: Charmaine Robledo)Karen Oliveto, the first openly gay bishop in the history of the United Methodist Church, at her consecration service July 16, 2016, at Paradise Valley United Methodist Church in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The United Methodist Church's highest court has rejected a motion to reconsider its ruling that an openly lesbian's election to the position of bishop violated church law.

In an email sent out to the parties involved in the case, Judicial Council Secretary the Rev. Luan-Vu Tran explained that the ruling was going to stand.

"... after careful review and prayerful consideration, the Motion to Reconsider JCD 1341 of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops has been denied," wrote Tran, as reported last Friday by United Methodist News Service.

In late April, the United Methodist Judicial Council ruled 6-3 that the Western Jurisdiction's election of Karen Oliveto to the position of bishop violated the UMC Book of Discipline, which prohibits non-celibate homosexuals from ordination.

"Under the long-standing principle of legality, no individual member or entity may violate, ignore, or negate Church law. It is not lawful for the college of bishops of any jurisdictional or central conference to consecrate a self-avowed practicing homosexual bishop," read the decision.

"Paragraph 310.2(d) requires that all clergy persons make a complete dedication to the highest ideals of the Christian life, including but not limited to, their commitment to abide by and uphold the Church's definition of marriage and stance on homosexuality. An openly homosexual and partnered bishop is in violation of these minimum standards."

Last month, the jurisdiction requested a reconsideration of the ruling. Richard Marsh, counsel to the Western Jurisdiction, said in a statement that the brief was meant to help advance acceptance of the LGBT community within the church.

"The Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops believes it has an obligation to the wider LGBTQ community within the Church and beyond to point out the fundamental errors contained in this decision," stated Marsh.

In the brief, Marsh argued that Oliveto being in a same-sex marriage did not necessarily make her a "self-avowed practicing homosexual," which is the specific group the Book of Discipline says cannot be ordained.

"The Judicial Council is without authority to expand the list of chargeable offenses. Only the General Conference can declare that same gender marriage is a chargeable offense, and it has not done so despite opportunity," argued the brief.

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