Remarks as prepared by Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky for the press conference following the United Methodist Judicial Council oral arguments on April 25, 2017 in Newark, NJ. Click here to watch the press conference in its entirety.
I’m Elaine Stanovsky, bishop of the Greater Northwest Area, and speaking on behalf of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops today. My colleagues, Robert Hoshibata, Minerva Carcaño and, of course, Karen Oliveto are here today as well.
Friday a gay colleague reminded me that some people are listening for a good word today and may be profoundly discouraged. If you are one of them, hear this affirmation: God “formed [you] in [your] inward parts, knit [you] together in [your] mother’s womb. [You] are fearfully and wonderfully made.” Read Psalm 139. No-one can take that away from you.
Thank you to the Judicial Council for the care with which it has prepared for this day, and for setting an appropriate tone for today’s oral arguments.
Thanks to everyone who came today to support the Western Jurisdiction and Bishop Oliveto as our church continues its journey to live out the Gospel as Jesus intends us to do – by caring for each other, regardless of sexual orientation, as long as we are “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17).
Deep gratitude to Rich Marsh, who so ably argued on behalf of the Western Jurisdiction today, and to Llew Pritchard, his co-counsel. They have represented us well.
As Rich said, we believe the Constitution and the Discipline of our church give the authority to determine eligibility and elect bishops to each jurisdiction and central conference. This exclusive right of jurisdictions has allowed the church to adapt to its ministry context in each region. The variety that results makes it difficult to live together as one church. But it was the key to the healing Methodism’s division over slavery in the 19th century. The autonomy of jurisdictions to elect their own bishops is at the heart of our unity-in-diversity.
Bishop Oliveto – as an elder in good standing – was eligible for election. She was elected on the 17th ballot by 88 out of 100 delegates. We celebrate her election as a gift of the Holy Spirit to the whole Church. Every bishop in the Western Jurisdiction claims Bishop Oliveto as an esteemed colleague. We recognize God at work in her life, in her marriage with Robin, and through her ministry as a bishop.
The Western Jurisdiction is not so different from the rest of The United Methodist Church. We love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. We try to follow Jesus’s commandment to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. This love is breaking down the dividing walls of prejudice, taboo and fear of LGBTQI people. This love has led many in the West to advocate for full inclusion of LGBTQI people in the membership and ordained ministry of the Church. The Western Jurisdiction has not been guided by a spirit of defiance, but by a spirit of obedient love of God and neighbor. Today we are blessed to have followed where love led.
It was a moving moment earlier, when representatives of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops walked into the meeting room with Bishop Karen, her wife, Robin, and her mother, Nellie. Mrs. Oliveto was the one who fed her daughter’s hunger for a relationship with God. She took her and her sisters to church, to Youth Fellowship, and encouraged young Karen when she began to notice God’s presence calling her to ministry.
For 45 years The United Methodist Church has talked about LGBTQI people, while refusing to hear the voices of the very people who could help the church grow in its love of neighbor. The request before the Judicial Council this morning never named Bishop Oliveto. The arguments were about principle, law, and precedent. Nothing about Karen, her love, call, faith, service, sacrifice, mercy. She sat in silence. It wasn’t about her.
And yet, the very stones would cry out, if we did not let her speak.
I’m going to turn the microphone to Bishop Oliveto now, so we can hear her voice.
After she speaks, we’ll answer your questions, but we are not going to get into great detail about the Judicial Council, or speculation over what the Council may or may not do. We are going to respect this process, and continue to pray for God to lead the Council, and our Church, on the path towards justice, reconciliation, and understanding that in our denomination, all should mean all.
Bishop Karen Oliveto, sister in Christ…
Bishop Elaine JW Stanovsky
Greater Northwest Area
The United Methodist Church