The United Methodist Church (UMC) leadership has done something that surprised many in their own flock – they recently ignored their own rules and elected an openly gay bishop.
The UMC elected Karen Oliveto, the senior pastor at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco, to be the new bishop of the church’s Western Division this past week. Glide had been running against another longtime pastor, Sisofina Hingano, but Hingano withdrew his name from consideration to ensure Oliveto’s election. Hingano’s son, Wesley Hingano, is a homosexual, and his father hopes that Oliveto’s election will allow people like him to “walk through the doors to freedom in the church.”
Oliveto herself seems to believe that this is an important and positive moment for the Christian church. “I think at this moment I have a glimpse of the realm of God. Today we took a step closer to embody beloved community and while we may be moving there, we are not there yet. We are moving on to perfection.”
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Sadly, what none of the leaders at the UMC who have endorsed open homosexuality among their members can seem to explain is how they can square the embrace of sin with the character of a Just and Holy God. In fact, the UMC Book of Discipline, which is the very foundation of denominations polity, specifically denounces the possible candidacy, ordination, or service of openly gay (and practicing) homosexuals.
¶ 304.3 Qualifications for Ordination
While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals1 are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.
1. “Self-avowed practicing homosexual” is understood to mean that a person openly acknowledges to a bishop, district superintendent, district committee of ordained ministry, board of ordained ministry, or clergy session that the person is a practicing homosexual. See Judicial Council Decisions 702, 708, 722, 725, 764, 844, 984, 1020
Rob Renfroe, president of a UMC organization called the Good News responded to the election and other pro-gay actions by the annual conference by calling the move divisive and likely to drive the UMC to schism. The election and other actions by annual conference this summer ignored the Council of Bishops’ proposal for a commission to examine all church law dealing with human sexuality. Renfroe said that proposal called for a “pause for prayer to step back from attempts at legislative solutions and to intentionally seek God’s will for the future.”
“Instead, these conferences have moved ahead with legislative enactments pledging non-conformity with the Book of Discipline, culminating in the election of a practicing homosexual as bishop,” said Renfroe. “If the Western Jurisdiction wanted to push the church to the brink of schism, they could not have found a more certain way of doing so.”
This issue is not over, and in my estimation the UMC’s stand on homosexuality and abortion continue to eat at the very foundation of their denomination. Like the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), and the American Episcopal Church, these anti-Biblical policies, along with other defiantly anti-Christian stands, will continue to eat away at the support these “churches” enjoy across America. All three mainline Protestant churches have seen their numbers dwindling in recent years, and with each step further to the left that they take… the more assured their eventual end becomes.