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.
In May, the UMC General Conference requested that the Council of Bishops lead a process to determine a way forward for our deeply divided denomination. The Council is creating a commission, consisting of people from various sides, to explore whether there is a way to remain together as one United Methodist Church, or to explore a plan for separation. That commission will begin its work in the coming months and present its findings to a specially called General Conference in 2018 for debate and vote.
As we await the unfolding of this process, I want to assure you that nothing has changed for TLUMC. This hit the national news last week and I have heard from several in our congregation via text, email, or in person. Some have questions, some are angry, and some are rejoicing. We need to be mindful and respectful of varying opinions within our church. I want to state clearly, however, that it is my intention as your pastor to continue to uphold my ordination vows and our denominational doctrine and Discipline regardless of the actions of the Western Jurisdictional Conference or the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference.
These are tense times in the United Methodist Church but, no matter what happens at the denominational level, we will continue to work together on TLUMC’s mission of building followers of Jesus Christ who love and serve God and neighbor. Please feel free to contact me with your questions and concerns, and please be in prayer for our denomination, our bishops, and our church.
Pastor Bob Kaylor