On July 15, 2016 the first openly LGBTQ Bishop was elected in the United Methodist Church, Rev Karen Oliveto. Before the ink was dry, opponents filed a 13 page complaint with the ecclesiastical Judicial Council to remove her from office. The usual fallout followed. You can learn more here. As so often happens with strides toward equality, we must interrupt our celebration of her consecration and stand shoulder to shoulder again in the long fight toward justice and equality. We need you to stand with Bishop Karen and her wife Robin – and stand against those that would deny her ministry and leadership. Letters of support are needed to the Mountain Sky Area of the United Methodist Church and for our Facebook Campaign, #ToBishopKOwithLove.
Beginning on February 14, and for the next two months until the Judicial Council meets, we want to send love letters to Karen and to the district. If you would like to send to a letter, please post to the ToBishopKOwithLove Facebook page or email us at ToBishopKOwithLove@gmail.com.
New letters added February 23, 2016; please scroll down!
Letters in Support of Bishop Karen Oliveto
From: Bishop Gene Robinson
To: Mountain Sky Area of The United Methodist Church
“I write to you as a brother in Christ, and a Bishop in the Episcopal Church. I am not a member of your church (although I attended a small Methodist church with my grandmother), so I hope you won’t think me presumptuous if I share a few thoughts with you about the upcoming decisions re: Bishop Karen Oliveto.
As a Bishop, I know well the tension between the stewardship of the church and the call of the Gospel. As a Bishop, it is my solemn calling to receive the 2,000 years of teaching and wisdom of the Church, and to ensure that it is passed on intact to the next generation. A second, implied responsibility is preservation of the institution. In my decade of serving as the Bishop of New Hampshire, I learned and came to believe that in order to be faithful to each of those responsibilities, I had to be true to their meaning and intention, rather than their literal words. Often, I found that in order to follow the command to love my neighbor, I had to take some risks with the institution. Read more
From: Lisa Withrow, Ordained Elder, United Methodist Church, Academic Dean, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
“Bishop Karen Oliveto, one of my sheroes, is a woman whom I know will make the United Methodist Church an inclusive place in all ways possible – that is her heart. The struggle to do so continues to make way for those who live on the margins of a church that historically attended to the margins by its very nature. John Wesley countered the powers-that-be in the Anglican world because they did not pay attention to people who did not have the privileges they enjoyed.
Karen, you are in love with the United Methodist heritage, the church we have inherited, and all the people you meet – even those who say hateful things about and to you. There is something prophetic about a leader who can stand grounded in her faith while others throw rocks. Read more
From: Bishop Daniel Arichea, Jr. (ret), Philippines Central Conference
“When Karen was elected, I had mixed feelings, not unlike the women who went to the tomb – they left with fear and great joy. Great joy because finally someone was elected bishop because the office fitted her, and fear because of the negative effects of such an election. I could not predict in any way what would happen when she would attend her first Council of Bishops meeting.
I should say my mixed feelings are still there. However, I was very much encouraged with what happened at the first attendance of Karen in the meeting of the Council of Bishops. She was received with great warmth by the other bishops, particularly the women bishops. And when she shared her faith journey, I was convinced beyond doubt that she indeed is a bishop, accepted warmly by her colleagues in the Council, and who will indeed play an active role in the total ministry of the United Methodist Church. Finally, I would like to interpret her election as an affirmation of measuring and evaluating people not on the basis of gender identity or gender orientation, but on the basis of more important criteria which I would identify as values of the Kingdom of God. An example of these kingdom values are what the apostle Paul calls the fruits of the spirit in his letter to the Galatians – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self control. I would wish that with Karen’s election, we can move on and apply these kingdom values in our relationship to others and among ourselves.
From: Rev. Dr. Traci C. West, ordained elder in the NYAC and Professor of Christian Social Ethics and African American Studies
“Dear Bishop Oliveto,
I write to express my gratitude for your bodacious, gospel-centered United Methodist leadership. It is a sign of much needed moral hope for our church and all of the hurting, marginalized peoples in our world.
In our local communities there are so many children, youth, older and younger adults who are: grieving, suffering with physical and mental illness, politically persecuted and disenfranchised, bullied and suicidal, terrified in state prisons or immigrant detention centers, and just plain spiritually hungry. To me, it is deeply shameful that the United Methodist Church’s moral example in the current context of our needy communities continues to be a dogged focus on maintaining rules to ensure that heterosexual church leaders are treated as innately superior to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender church leaders. Your election counters this embedded institutional discrimination and blasphemous understanding of how God created God’s precious human creation. Read more
From: Rev. Dr. Joretta L Marshall, Executive Vice President and Dean, Professor of Pastoral Theology, Care, and Counseling, Elder, Rocky Mountain Conference
“To fall in love with God’s vision of justice-making work, and to imagine that vision compelling an institutional church grounded in Wesleyan theology to wrestle and take a stand for inclusion and wholeness, comes with its perils and its genuine joys. These are not journeys for the faint of heart, or for those whose spiritual needs require a leave-taking which is to be honored. To be steadfast on that journey requires, at times, a spirit of commitment, grace abundant, and a willingness to open one’s heart and mind to the Spirit of God that is both fully emotional and fully rational. On the journey, one is blessed to find colleagues and friends who pray with you and for you, who put their faith and bodies on the line for the justice-work of God, and who consistently persist to name truths in the face of challenge.
Bishop Karen Oliveto and Deaconess Robin Ridenour exemplify such steadfast commitment, presence, and love. Read more
From: Rev. Candy Holmes, Program Officer, Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC)
Dear Bishop Karen Oliveto,
As a faith leader who has worked with colleagues and friends in the United Methodist Church (UMC), I continue to celebrate the historic moment of your election to the episcopacy of the Western Jurisdiction. Your election sends an inspiring message of hope that with every step toward equality and inclusion we are indeed living into God’s beloved community. I applaud the wisdom and spiritual leadership that is leading the UMC into a fuller understanding of holy scripture that church life includes all God’s people; including gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) persons.
In all that you have accomplished and the many ways you have faithfully served, more apparent than anything is your love and passion around creating community where all God’s people can be at home. As a lesbian clergy person of color who has experienced exclusion, the mere fact that you and your ministry exist is inspiring. In this day and climate, your leadership, faith, courage, and humility is so needed. Read more
From: Brian D. McLaren
Dear Bishop Karen,
I read with interest and gratitude the good news that the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church elected you as their bishop. Congratulations to you and to Robin.
I know it took courage for the people of your region to make this choice, and I know it is taking courage for you to respond with grace and clarity to those who don’t understand the why’s behind this momentous step. My prayer for you is that when criticism grows colder and misunderstandings grow hotter, your light will shine brighter and stronger with grace, humility, and Christ-like meekness.
And I pray that millions of LGBTQ people, their families, and their friends will know that even though many churches still close their doors and say, “Not welcome here,” more and more congregations and denominations are opening minds, opening hearts, and opening doors. Read more
From: Cynthia Winton-Henry
Dear Mountain Sky Area Leaders:
Karen is the kind of leader who knows all sides of the dance of life. A spiritually grounded woman with outrageous levels of training, she is a testament to all who have loved her into being. I sometimes wonder if we forget that our pioneers are the outflow of community support. Each step of the way for instance, a bishop is recognized and directed to become the leader they are. I am thinking of all the communities who are part of Karen’s service. Her giftedness as a leader is also an outflow of the Divine. There is no privilege in this. Leadership is a challenge and a revelation, even to oneself. Leaders must come to love the most difficult of realities. This includes being hated.
As another one of PSR’s ‘distinguished alumni” I am grateful for the PSR community’s ability to recognize prophetic witnesses to God’s love. “Well done good and faithful servant: is the highest honor given to someone called by God. Many will never hear this from other people. But in the case of Karen Oliveto we can at least shout it from the mountaintops shoulder to shoulder for it is what we have seen!
From: Rev. Dr. Thomas V. Wolfe, President & CEO, Henry White Warren Professor of Ministry and Leadership Praxis, Iliff School of Theology
Dear Bishop Oliveto:
I am so grateful for your presence among us in the Rocky Mountain Conference. I already feel your energy and love for our students at Iliff who are preparing for a host of transformational ministries. Since that one year we overlapped in seminary, I have had a strong sense of your call to social justice. You have lived this call in your appointments both in academia and in the challenges of urban ministry. You embody what I hope all of our Iliff students will find within themselves.
So Bishop (Our Bishop), allow me to speak directly to you and may all who read this be witness…
The authenticity of your call to the role of bishop is clear. It has been affirmed in rich community. It is evidenced by your capacity to love, your compassionate grace, your joy of life, your courage, and your inspired insight. Read more
Look for more letters coming soon!