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.
The bottom line of this decision is that it is a mixed bag and it indicates the deep divide in the United Methodist Church over issues of biblical authority and human sexuality. That divide is so deep that at General Conference in 2016 the Council of Bishops created the “Commission on a Way Forward” as a way of bridging the divide or, failing that, presenting a plan of separation for the denomination. That Commission will present its proposal for debate and voting at a special called General Conference in February of 2019. I anticipate that to be the defining moment for the future of the United Methodist Church.
As with the Bishop’s election last summer, I expect that some will be happy and some will be angry with the Judicial Council decision. I am grateful for those who have expressed their commitment to TLUMC regardless of events at the denominational level. I also hear and appreciate the concerns of those who think it might be time to leave the denomination behind or send a message through withholding their giving. I understand the temptation to want to react quickly and decisively to events as they unfold.
But I would like to present another alternative to which I think God calls us, and that is patience. Interestingly, this week’s upcoming lesson from the book of Acts reveals that when Jesus commissioned his disciples right before his ascension, the first thing he told them to do was to “wait”–to wait for the Holy Spirit and power from on high (Acts 1:4) . We are generally not good at waiting (I know I am not!) but Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit came upon the gathered disciples at Pentecost only after they had engaged in a period of waiting, watching, and prayer. When the Spirit came, a new church was born.
I believe that we are on the cusp of a new Methodist movement that will be created and sent by the Spirit. If we act too quickly by charging off in a particular direction or giving in to anger and frustration, we may miss the greater future the Spirit has in store for us. A little less than two years from now the United Methodist Church will likely look very different than it does today, and we can be part of shaping that new future as it unfolds. In the meantime, however, we have to wait on the Spirit and, like the disciples gathered at Pentecost, we need to remain “all together in one place” (Acts 2:1). I urge you to stay at the table and continue your faithful discipleship through your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. It may seem like a hard thing to do, but Jesus never calls us to do the easy thing. The Enemy would like nothing more than to scatter us like sheep, but Jesus the Good Shepherd calls us to stay together and follow him.
As I wrote to you in July when the Bishop was elected, nothing has changed in the way we do things here at TLUMC. We will continue to uphold our church’s doctrine and Discipline, and we will continue to welcome all people and build them as followers of Jesus Christ who love and serve God and neighbor.
For those who have additional questions and concerns, we will hold an information session on Wednesday, May 10 at 6:30pm at TLUMC. I will give you a more thorough overview of both the Judicial Council decision and the work of the Commission on a Way Forward as well as answer your questions. I hope you will join me for that conversation.
There is a way forward and we will walk it together!
Rev. Dr. Bob Kaylor
Lead Pastor, Tri-Lakes UMC