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Methodists Elect 1st Openly Gay Bishop in Defiance of Ban

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She is the first openly gay bishop in the 12.7 million-member denomination.

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SCOTTSDALE, Arizona (TheBlaze/AP) — The Western district of the Methodist church has elected an openly gay bishop despite the denomination's ban on same-sex relationships.

The Rev. Karen Oliveto was elected late Friday night at a meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona, of the church's Western Jurisdiction. Oliveto is pastor of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco. She is the first openly gay bishop in the 12.7 million-member denomination.

“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, according to a UMC press release.

The United Methodist Church is deeply divided over LGBT rights. Church law says same-gender relationships are "incompatible with Christian teaching." But several regional districts are openly defying the prohibition by appointing gay clergy and allowing same-sex weddings in churches. Some instances have led to trials under the church legal system.

In a statement released following Oliveto’s election, Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, said, “This election raises significant concerns and questions of church polity and unity.”

Ough noted, however, that the Council of Bishops does not have constitutional authority to intervene in the election, but “is monitoring this situation very closely.”

He acknowledged that while some UMC members will see Oliveto's election as a violation of church law that divides congregants, others will consider it a mark of inclusivity.

“Our differences are real and cannot be glossed over, but they are also reconcilable,” Ough said. “We are confident God is with us, especially in uncharted times and places.”

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