All posts in United Methodist

A Different Vehicle: Reflections on the WCA Gathering

It was late in the evening when I arrived in Memphis for the Wesleyan Covenant Association meeting last Thursday. I headed straight to the rental car counter to claim the “economy” car I had reserved, but when I got to the window the agent said, “Sorry, all we have left in economy are those Smart Cars.” She pointed to a vehicle that was clearly smaller than any roller skate I had ever owned—a car so small that I wondered if I would have to strap my small carry-on to the roof to get it and myself to the hotel.

I didn’t respond right away to the agent’s news, choosing instead to alternate between looking incredulously at her and at this “car.” I had that line from Seinfeld pounding in my memory: You know how to TAKE a reservation but you don’t know how to HOLD the reservation; and that’s really the most important part! I was beginning to resign myself to the possibility of rolling up to a meeting with my peers in a car so uncool that a Schwinn bike with a basket and streamers on the handlebars would have been a hipper option.

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A Pastoral Letter Regarding the UMC Judicial Council Decision

Dear Members and Friends of TLUMC,

I am writing to update you on the status of the decision of the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church regarding the Bishop of the Rocky Mountain Conference, Karen Oliveto. The Judicial Council is our denomination’s version of the Supreme Court and rules on matters of church law.

On April 28, the Judicial Council ruled that the Western Jurisdictional Conference’s consecration of Bishop Oliveto, a married lesbian, was contrary to church law. At the same time, however, Bishop Oliveto remains in good standing and retains her office while complaints against her are processed and reviewed according to our Book of Discipline. That process will take some additional time. You can read a news story outlining the decision here.

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The WCA and the Gospel According to Inigo Montoya

Note: This is a post in response to an article written by Rev. Paul Kottke in the Rocky Mountain Conference News concerning his impressions of the Wesleyan Covenant Association. It will be helpful to read his critique before reading my rejoinder.


montoyaThe Princess Bride
is one of my favorite movies of all time. This fairy tale about a beautiful princess, a dashing hero, a giant, an evil prince, and some colorful sidekicks always makes me smile, but one of the best parts about the movie is that it is eminently quotable in a variety of situations. Sending the church staff out at the end of a staff meeting? “Have fun storming the castle!” Got some bad news to deliver? “Chocolate coating makes it go down easier.” Trying to impress a potential mate? “Please consider me as an alternative to suicide.”

Inigo Montoya, the Spanish swordsman, gets a lot of the best lines—most famously his practiced revenge speech for day he meets the six-fingered man who murdered his father: “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” But while that’s the quote everyone loves, there’s another that I find even more useful. When his boss, the nefarious Sicilian named Vizzini, keeps using the word “inconceivable” to describe situations that are, in fact, conceivable, Inigo looks at him thoughtfully and says:

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My Hopes for the WCA

wcaI will be attending the first gathering of the newly formed Wesleyan Covenant Association (WCA) on October 7 in Chicago, along with a “remnant” of orthodox colleagues in the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference. The recent election in the Western Jurisdiction and appointment of an openly lesbian bishop to our annual conference have raised the stakes for those of us who serve in the West and in other jurisdictions and annual conferences that are in open defiance of our Discipline. 

I have been excited to watch the formation of the WCA as a unified voice for orthodox United Methodists. Nearly a thousand have already registered to attend the one-day gathering, but very little has been said about what will actually take place on October 7. There is great anticipation that this meeting could be a watershed moment for United Methodism, but I also sense an equal amount of skepticism that the gathering will simply be a continuation of the strategies of the various orthodox renewal movements that have been part of the UMC for the past several decades. Groups like Good News and the Confessing Movement have done good work holding the line, lobbying for traditional doctrine and discipline in the church, and acting as a voice for orthodoxy in the midst of the denominational leadership’s continuous left turns toward a progressive theological unitarianism. Recent events, however, have indicated that the time for lobbying, politicking, and voting has passed.

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A Pastoral Letter to the People of Tri-Lakes UMC

TLUMC Church Family,

The Western Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church met July 13-16, 2016 in Scottsdale, AZ. The primary purpose of the jurisdictional conference is to elect and assign bishops to annual conferences within the jurisdiction. The jurisdictional conference meets every four years and, this year, there was one opening for a bishop. Bishops are elected by a slate of delegates from each annual conference in the jurisdiction. 

On July 15, the Western Jurisdiction took the unprecedented step of electing a married lesbian, Karen Oliveto, pastor of Glide Memorial UMC in San Francisco, as its new bishop. On July 16, they assigned her as the resident Bishop of the Mountain Sky Area (which includes our Rocky Mountain Conference and the Yellowstone Conference). This election took place despite our denomination’s Book of Discipline and its express prohibitions against “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” serving as clergy in the UMC. Essentially, the Western Jurisdiction decided to set aside the rules established by the UMC General Conference, which sets the Book of Discipline. A request has been submitted to our denominational Judicial Council, the church’s version of the Supreme Court, for a ruling on the validity of this election. That ruling will likely be presented in late October of 2016.

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