Dean Moore’s Response to United Methodist Judicial Council Ruling on Bishop Karen Oliveto

in Alumni/ae News, Media, News
May 8th, 2017

Concern for Covenant and Courage: Sharing from my heart 

Dear Beloved Community,

How can a church body give public witness again and again to the “illegality” of LGBTQ persons? People can disagree in their perspectives on homosexuality and gender identity without focusing the church’s energies on upholding one view of biblical interpretation and holiness, and doing so in ways that violate human lives and silently feed violence in the larger society. That is what a covenantal community is: a community held by God, seeking to love one another in all of our differences and seeking to love the world together.

No one is beloved if all are not beloved. Love cannot be stingy! The witness of the Christian Church, and the witness of any religious tradition, cannot be less than full love for every person and every being in God’s creation. Why then can the United Methodist Church (my beloved church!) persist in naming one group of people as violators of church law, thus shaping social attitudes that can quickly turn against people in the LGBTQ community, and against immigrants, persons of color, and any other community who have been subject to generations of discrimination?

The United Methodist Judicial Council ruling of April 28, 2017, can be debated legally and the consequences are still in the hands of due process.[1] The Judicial Council’s decision was to declare the consecration of Bishop Karen Oliveto against Church law, though Bishop Oliveto remains in good standing in the United Methodist Church until such time that due process might conclude otherwise. This is more than a legal decision, however. It is a symbolic public witness. Such witness places judgment in the limelight, rather than commitment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31a). Ironically, the decision is made as the UMC Commission on a Way Forward seeks a path of unity that can embrace all people, while also recognizing that people hold conflicting and sincerely-held perspectives.

In the aftershock of this ruling, I think of our BU School of Theology community. As a people, we are diverse in every way, including gender identity and sexual orientation, faith tradition, race, country of origin, abilities, social class, immigration status, and theological and social perspectives. What does it mean to be in covenant with such a community – to love and live well with all? Similarly, what does it mean for United Methodist to be in covenant with a large, global denomination? One thing it does not and cannot mean is that everyone in the community looks and thinks alike, that the community is bound by agreement. In Christian perspective, covenant is a gift of God, and it binds all people and creatures to God and one another.

Bishop Oliveto understands this herself. She wrote on Facebook after the decision was rendered: “There is much more to say but for now remember these words from Ephesians 4:2 “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Let our love for each other (which is a good and holy thing) and the love of God (which never fails us) be our guide in these days.[2] May we all have courage to live in such a Spirit-led, covenantal way!

With deep compassion for all of you,
Mary Elizabeth Moore

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[1] See  http://www.umc.org/decisions/71953 for a digest of the Judicial Council decision. Key elements include: “Paragraph 304.3 prohibits the consecration as bishop of a self-avowed practicing homosexual … Under the long-standing principle of legality, no individual member or entity may violate, ignore, or negate Church law. It is not lawful for the college of bishops of any jurisdictional or central conference to consecrate a self-avowed practicing homosexual bishop. Paragraph 310.2(d) requires that all clergy persons make a complete dedication to the highest ideals of the Christian life, including but not limited to, their commitment to abide by and uphold the Church’s definition of marriage and stance on homosexuality. An openly homosexual and partnered bishop is in violation of these minimum standards.”

[2] Quoted with permission.