An outspoken theologically progressive bishop of the United Methodist Church has been found not guilty of multiple accusations, which had led to her suspension early last year.
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño of the UMC California-Nevada Conference was found not guilty by a jury of 13 clergy on the charges of disobedience to the discipline of the denomination, undermining the ministry of another pastor, harassment and fiscal misconduct.
Deliberation in the case lasted more than five hours, reported UM News, with retired Bishop Alfred W. Gwinn, the presiding officer in the case, announcing the decision last Friday.
Carcaño said in a statement released after the proceedings ended that she was “grateful for the jury for the time and faithfulness they have displayed in their task.”
“Now I am eager to return to the work of ministry in the California-Nevada Conference and The United Methodist Church and the process of healing for all and the ministry of the church,” she added.
The UMC Western Jurisdiction released an announcement last Friday noting that, now that she has been found not guilty, Carcaño’s suspension has been ended and she will retire to her duties.
Bishop Carlo A. Rapanut, secretary for the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops who was present for the trial, was quoted in the announcement as saying that the UMC was entering a time of healing.
“Now the healing begins, and I recognize that it’s not going to be an easy path, but we must try. I commit myself to this hard work of healing and restoration,” stated Rapanut. “May this serve as an opportunity to provide a witness to the world as we live out our Christian values of grace, forgiveness, justice and love.”
In March 2022, it was announced that Carcaño was placed on leave from her episcopal duties due to two complaints, with some taking issue with the process.
Earlier this year, the group Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic/Latino Americans, which is the UMC's Hispanic caucus, denounced the length of Carcaño's suspension and argued that she should be reinstated.
"By prohibiting Bishop Minerva Carcaño from attending meetings and being in contact with persons affiliated with the organization at any level, is in our view, punitive and judgmental. This action has hurt and continues to hurt our ethnic ministries and missions," said MARCHA in a statement.
"The issue is that the prolonged suspension has damaged the reputation of Bishop Minerva Carcaño and has discredited her faithful years of services and contributions to the California-Nevada Annual Conference."
In May, the Western Jurisdiction announced that a committee found reasonable grounds to bring the charges against the bishop to a trial. Specifically, the committee identified five charges per Paragraph 2702.1 of the Book of Discipline.
The Jurisdiction’s Committee on Episcopacy had voted to continue Carcaño’s suspension based on the recommendation of the regional body’s Committee on Investigation.
Carcaño is known for her advocacy for progressive causes, including immigration reform, gun control, and having the UMC change its official stance against the blessing of same-sex unions.
In 2014, for example, when UMC Pastor Frank Schaefer of Pennsylvania had his clergy credentials reinstated after being defrocked for officiating his son’s same-sex wedding, Carcaño gave him a position leading a student ministry in California.
"Rev. Schaefer will be responsible for leading the administrative work of this congregation and reaching out to the large college community that lives, studies, and works at the doorsteps of this church," stated Carcaño back in 2014.
"Schaefer has much to teach us about what it means to love the children God gives us who happen to be gay. I pray that we will make space for him and his family in our lives and in our hearts as he comes to labor among us," she added.