From Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Late Friday night the Western Jurisdiction elected Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto to be a bishop. Yesterday nine bishops – seven from the western jurisdiction, one representing the Council of Bishops of the world-wide United Methodist Church, and one from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America – consecrated her by laying hands upon her head. She is assigned to serve the Mountain Sky Area. That means that, come September, I will no longer be your bishop (more on that at another time), and the Mountain Sky Area will welcome the first “out” gay bishop in our Church.
Many people will say many things about this election.
Some will assume that a secular “gay agenda” has taken root within the church, overwhelming Christian, biblical values.
Some will say it defies church law, which declares homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching,” and prohibits “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” from serving as ordained ministers.
Some will say that it undermines the “Way Forward” being led by the Council of Bishops to address the deep theological and ethical divides within our Church – that it will split the church.
Some will say that it’s too little, too late – that the church has betrayed lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer folk for too long and continues to exclude and hurt them day by day.
Some say, I just wish “they” would be discreet and not rub “our” noses in “it.”
Most of those present will describe how God gently led the Church across a threshold into a new and hopeful day.
As you – the laity, clergy and churches of the Mountain Sky Area – receive this historic news and prepare to receive this gifted leader, I want to bear witness to how I experienced the Jurisdictional Conference that elected her.
The Program and Arrangements Committee and local leaders from the host conference, welcomed and led delegates through an orderly, intentional gathering of the church. Extraordinary hospitality, music, preaching and teaching set the stage for the work before delegates. The pace of the work, accessibility of information, technical support, all came together to create a gracious space for the church to do its important work of electing a new episcopal leader.
The Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee designed a measured and thorough process for delegates to get to know candidates, experience their leadership, and ask probing questions. Candidates addressed the conference at the beginning of the process, were available for informal “meet-and-greet” interactions, and met with delegations repeatedly and in depth. Delegates interacted with one another with unfailing respect and collegiality.
The words that keep coming to mind to describe the process by which delegates elected this new leader are: intentional, measured, and deeply faithful.
On the third day of the conference, on the 17th ballot, from an original pool of 9 candidates, 88 of the 100 voting clergy and lay delegates representing their annual conferences voted to elect Bishop Oliveto. The Committee on Episcopacy, comprised of two members from each conference in the jurisdiction, worked through the night and into the early hours of a new day to recommend the assignment of bishops to their areas.
Yesterday we gathered at Paradise Valley United Methodist Church for her consecration in a glorious act of worship. I have faith and every reason to believe that she will lead the people and churches of the Mountain Sky Area ably. As the people of The United Methodist Church that you are, I know that you will welcome her gracefully with the open hearts, open minds and open doors, and go with her into the world to share the transforming love of God in Jesus Christ.
Grace and peace,
Elaine JW Stanovsky