The United Methodist Church elected its first openly gay bishop on Friday, the church reports:
Oliveto, 58, was elected July 15 at the jurisdiction’s quadrennial meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona. She was elected on the 17th ballot with 88 votes after the Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank and the Rev. Walter “Skip” Strickland withdrew from the election. The Rev. Frank Wulf, another openly gay candidate, had withdrawn earlier.
“I think at this moment I have a glimpse of the realm of God. I want to thank the candidates who I have journeyed with these past few days, for the grace with which we walked with each other. And know I stand before you because of the work and prayers of so many, especially those saints who yearned to live for this day, who blazed a trail where there was none, who are no longer with us, and yet whose shoulders I stand on,” Oliveto said after her election.
She especially thanked the delegates of the Western Jurisdiction “who dared to live into this Kairos moment. Today we took a step closer to embody beloved community and while we may be moving there, we are not there yet. We are moving on to perfection,” Oliveto said.
She said as along as people “walk by our churches and wonder” if they belong, because of race, sexuality orientation, ethnicity, social class or immigration status, then “we have work to do.”
“Are we able? Yes. Amen,” Oliveto said.
The church continues to have a ban on same-sex marriage.
And objections to Oliveto’s election rose immediately, the UMC adds:
On the heels of Oliveto’s election, members of the South Central Jurisdiction voted late on July 15 to ask the Judicial Council for a declaratory decision regarding same-sex church leaders.
There was some immediate negative reaction to Oliveto’s election.
The Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of Good News, an evangelical United Methodist organization that upholds the church’s current stance on homosexuality issues, said the election and other actions by annual conference this summer ignored the Council of Bishops’ proposal for a commission to examine all church law dealing with human sexuality. Renfroe said that proposal called for a “pause for prayer to step back from attempts at legislative solutions and to intentionally seek God’s will for the future.”
“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.”
But the reaction at the Western Jurisdiction was a celebration.
“We just blew the socks off the denomination,” said Lynn Magnuson, laity from the Pacific Northwest Conference.
(photo via Twitter)