July 18, 2016

Dear sisters and brothers of the Western Jurisdiction Conference,

“Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Isaiah 43:19

I stand amazed at this new thing God has done, and give thanks to you, my dear sisters and brothers, at the careful and prayerful way we responded to the Holy Spirit and allowed our fears to fall away so we could joyously cross the threshold of this new thing together. I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of love I have received from around the world—it is more than my heart can hold.

To my dear California-Nevada friends and colleagues: thank you for all you taught me. I thought my sojourn in California was going to be a short one when I arrived in 1989 to be a campus minister at San Francisco State, but you drew in this New Yorker from Babylon, informing my ministry and helping me grow as a pastor and a person. I am forever grateful.

To the episcopal candidates: thank you for the grace-filled way we walked together over the course of the conference, for the unique gifts and graces we each possess, which we were willing to offer the WJ. May God continue to work in you and through you, and richly bless you and your ministries.

To the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops: I am so very grateful for the way you warmly welcomed me to the table, and look forward to the work God is calling us collectively to do.

To the Mountain Sky Area: You opened your arms as wide as the Montana sky to welcome and embrace Robin and me. We have already fallen in love and cannot wait to meet the rest of the family!

To the delegates of the WJ Conference: we listened so deeply to the Holy Spirit. We worshipped and prayed and wept and then danced in joyous response to the Spirit’s call. I am moved by the response of the entire jurisdiction to support the Mountain Sky Area family as we enter into ministry together. Isn’t this the vision God has put on our hearts over the course of several quadrenniums: to reach across conference lines to bring our very best to building Christ’s Church? Here we go!

I know there are many who are lamenting my election. Our task is to love deeply, which means standing before those who are angry, anxious, or fearful and be a witness to all they are feeling, and to remain in relationship through the power of Christ’s love. The best of our United Methodist tradition is when we can hold the tension of our differences for the sake of our mission: To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. God has called us for such a time as this. Can we do it? “Lord, we are able!”

With much love,

Bishop Karen Oliveto


  1. Welcome to your new role among us, Bishop Oliveto. The West has a long and distinguished tradition of firsts. Blessings as you move into this new role, and prayers for us all as we navigate what is joy for some and lament for others. Let us be kind to one another in our theological diversity, as well as the many other dimensions of diversity in our ministry contexts. Thank you, bishop, for your sensitive letter.

  2. I have never been a part of a worship service with such powerful involvement of the whole body of Christ in litanies and singing. I don’t remember if there were rafters in that building, but the sound was enough to expand whatever was there. It was an honor to be present on a historical occasion. I am too young to have been at Wittenberg when Martin Luther did his thing and saddened when I made a pilgrimage there to learn that the doors had been replaced. (500 years is a long time) But I remember the impact of Martin Luther King’s letter from a Birmingham jail, so in a sense I was there. But to be physically present when history is made is a special gift. Scottsdale and Paradise Valley United Methodist Church can enter the list of the site of historical events. Jails and churches – the list is long.

  3. As a former ordained clergy of The United Methodist Church, who left the ministry I loved, I pray your choice as bishop will soon allow LGBT persons truly to answer God’s call in their lives.

  4. God bless you, Bishop Oliveto! My husband and I pray for your ministry and your well being. You are an inspiration to me and pave the way demonstrating the inclusive love of Jesus! 🙂

  5. Love is Love. I’m a lesbian church attendee (not a member) in Western Pa. Your election is a joy for me.
    It was not presented in that way by our new pastor. He will grow in tolerance, I believe.
    God is inclusive.
    Best to you, Bishop Oliveto from Trinity United Methodist Church, Brackenridge , Pa.
    Jan Lee CH, RN

    • How was it presented in your church? A failure to follow church law rather than a fresh wind of the Spirit blowing through the church? Change only happens when some one is willing to risk challenging unjust or unfair rules. Reading the Discipline at the turn of two centuries ago brings a smile to one’s face, but getting those rules changed meant that some one had to challenge them, whether it was the prohibition against playing cards or dancing or dealing with booze. And that wipes the smile away. For the legalists often crushed those who brought the challenge.

  6. Bishop Oliveto – your very presence among us brings joy…please visit us in the Seven Rivers District one day. You will be received in love!

  7. Bishop Oliverto – Thank you for your bravery. Every effort to embrace those of society that are different has met resistance and often hostility. I pray your courage will bring a more loving and open church.

  8. I have the pleasure of watching Rev., now Bishop, Oliveto, pastor Bethany UMC in San Francisco, and participate in many clergy – lay events. The 2016 General Conference vote 428-405 (or something like that) was a seminal vote. It also signaled the wide divide that remains. There are many ways this may be done. Electing a Bishop, and have a Bishop in waiting to be elected is certainly one way. Just as the outpouring of love in marriage at the San Francisco City Hall culminating in the Supreme Court Decision is another. May God Bless.

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