United Methodist Jurisdiction Rejects Church's High Court Ruling Against Lesbian Bishop

Karen Oliveto
Bishop Karen Oliveto of the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church commenting in a video posted April 4, 2017, on an upcoming United Methodist Judicial Council case that will determine whether she can remain a bishop. |

The Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church has rejected a ruling from the denomination's highest court calling for an openly lesbian bishop to be removed from office.

Earlier this year, the United Methodist Judicial Council ruled 6–3 that the election of Karen Oliveto as bishop violated Church law, specifically the ban on ordaining non-celibate homosexuals.

In a statement posted on their website Wednesday, the Western Jurisdiction argued that the Judicial Council "exceeded its authority" with their ruling and announced that they petitioned the high court on Monday to "reconsider" their decision.

Karen Oliveto, Robin Ridenour
Newly elected bishop of the United Methodist Church's Western Division, Karen Oliveto (R) hugs her wife Robin Ridenour (L), a deaconess in California-Nevada Conference of the UMC in this undated photo. |

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.

In late April, the United Methodist Judicial Council ruled that the election of Oliveto to the positon of bishop over the Mountain Sky Area violated Church law.

"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."

Regarding the Western Jurisdiction's brief calling for reconsideration, John Lomperis of the Institute on Religion & Democracy wrote that their college of bishops' actions show "what a major victory [the Judicial Council ruling] was for restoring biblical Christian accountability in the UMC."

"The Western Jurisdiction bishops are effectively begging the Judicial Council to roll back the clock and restore to them broad powers several liberal bishops had used and abused for years to protect homosexually active clergy from any accountability," wrote Lomperis.

"And of course, making this request could also provide a convenient excuse for the leadership Western Jurisdiction extending the deadline for their months of needlessly stalling on the formal complaints against Oliveto."

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