An openly lesbian senior pastor of San Francisco’s Glide Memorial Church has been elected a bishop of the United Methodist Church, which raises concerns among the church’s leadership, according to officials with Glide and the United Methodist Council of Bishops.
Rev. Karen Oliveto was elected to the post July 15 at a meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona of the church’s Western Jurisdiction, which consists of eight regions in the western United States.
Glide’s co-founder and Minister of Liberation Rev. Cecil Williams said in a statement:
“This is a major victory for humanity! … Glide has been fighting for unconditional love and acceptance in the church and for the rights of all people regardless of religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status and others in marginalized and poor communities for over 53 years. This is an historic moment and truly the affirmation of love and justice.”
Oliveto is the first United Methodist clergywoman to be a lead pastor of one of the 100 largest United Methodist Churches.
Glide has about 11,000 members, according to Glide officials.
Glide’s Executive Director Rita Shimmin said she believes Glide is about creating a beloved community where everyone is included:
“Her election is a sign we’re closer to realizing that beloved community.”
But Council of Bishops President Bruce Ough said in an address to the church that the election raises concerns and questions about church polity and unity, though church laws exist to resolve even complex issues such as this.
Church officials are forming a commission to help members to navigate the future of the church.
A pastor of a United Methodist Church in Michigan was forced to resign recently when he told church officials he was married to a man.