Beloved of God,
Grace and peace to you in Jesus Christ, our Rock and our Redeemer. On Friday, April 28, the Judicial Council (the Council) responded to a petition requesting a declaratory decision concerning the nomination, election, consecration, and assignment of Bishop Karen Oliveto. Bishop Oliveto was elected by the Western Jurisdiction and assigned to serve the Mountain Sky Area. The South Central Jurisdiction filed the petition.
The ruling by the Council was limited to the consecration of Bishop Oliveto. They articulated that they do not have jurisdiction to review the additional elements of the petition. As to that one issue, the Council ruled that the consecration of a gay bishop violated church law. However, they further stated that they do not have the authority to nullify her consecration; therefore, she remains a bishop in good standing. The Council referred the matter back to the Western Jurisdiction for further review.
As I have stated previously, we are not of one mind on this matter. Some are deeply wounded by this decision, while others see it as a vindication of church law. However, our founder John Wesley posed a critical question that is appropriate for us today: "Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion?" He went on to answer that question with assurance: "Without a doubt, we may."
I resonate with Wesley's statement, and believe that whatever our differences, we are still called by God to be the body of Christ to the world. God does not show favoritism, and when we gather at table to receive the bread and share the cup, we gather as equals before a loving God. Above all else, I hope that we take great care to do no harm to one another.
I once again invite the members of the Baltimore-Washington Conference into deep and abiding prayer. Pray as we digest this decision and consider what it means to the people called United Methodist. Pray as we look with hope toward how the Holy Spirit will work through the Commission on A Way Forward. And pray as we prepare to gather at the special session of General Conference on February 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis, Missouri.
May Paul's words to the Ephesians guide us at this time: "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." (Ephesians 4:2 NIV)
Your Servant in Christ,
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling