I am overjoyed to report the election this weekend of my dear friend Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto to the episcopacy in the United Methodist Church! She was elected in an unanimous vote by the UMC’s Western Jurisdiction on Friday night, on the 17th ballot, in Scottsdale, Arizona.
As she is the first openly-LGBTQI person to be elected bishop in our denomination (in which I am also ordained), I extend on behalf of the Fellowship of Reconciliation a message of congratulatory love to Bishop Karen Oliveto and her wife, Deaconness Robin Ridenour, at this historic achievement!
Bishop Oliveto has served as senior pastor of Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco for the past eight years, breaking the “stained glass ceiling” as the first woman to lead one of the largest 100 congregations in our denomination. Glide is world-renowned for its dynamic ministry of grace and joy-filled music and worship combined with its missional commitment to social change, healing, and restorative justice.
An outstanding preacher and theologian, Bishop Karen Oliveto is uniquely qualified to join the United Methodist Council of Bishops. She has held numerous national positions of leadership in the denomination and has served as a professor and administrator at the Pacific School of Religion (California), Brite Divinity School (Texas), and Drew University (New Jersey).
Two months ago, I wrote to you when 110 other LGBTQI Methodist clergypersons joined me in coming out to our denomination, on the eve of our global quadrennial gathering. Demanding that our gifts to the ministry be fully recognized and received for the first time, we appealed to United Methodists and other people of faith to support us in that historic moment. That action was part of a groundswell movement that has called for full inclusion of LGBTQI persons in the United Methodist Church.
Today we can already celebrate the next step on that journey. There is no question in my mind that Bishop Oliveto’s place at the Council of Bishops will save lives and be a beacon of hope across the globe.
I have been deeply blessed to coordinate support for Bishop Oliveto’s election. The outpouring from around the globe of gratitude, healing, and commitment to stand with her in historic election has been immense. You, the members and friends of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, have been with me in that work.
Send a congratulatory message to Bishop Karen Oliveto on this occasion of her historic election as an episcopal leader in the United Methodist Church. I will gladly deliver your message to her this week!
Grace and peace,
Photos courtesy of Kristin Stoneking: (1) Kristin with Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto at her episcopal consecration on Saturday, July 16; (2) Kristin flanked by Karen Oliveto and her spouse, Robin Ridenour, immediately following the election on Friday, July 15.