Dear Brothers, Sisters, and Siblings in Christ:
Later this month, the United Methodist Judicial Council will gather to consider a question related to last July’s election of Bishop Karen Oliveto, who was assigned by our Western Jurisdiction to serve the Mountain Sky Area. The conferences of that Area are holding a prayer vigil between April 23 and 30 and we are writing you today, that you might consider adding your prayers to theirs.
The Western Jurisdiction’s election of the church’s first openly lesbian bishop has created a sense of uncertainty for some people across our United Methodist connection. The apostle Paul addresses such feelings in his letter to the emerging early church at Phillipi, writing in the fourth chapter:
“Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.” – CEB
It is with this attitude of prayer that the jurisdiction’s delegates undertook the election of Bishop Oliveto. Should we not continue to pray with the same perspective trusting that God hears us, loves us, and heals our wounds?
Western Jurisdiction delegates believe something sacred took place in Scottsdale, Ariz., as they responded to the movement of the Holy Spirit and elected Bishop Karen Oliveto. The video that accompanies this letter (LINK) shares the thoughts of several. They understand the burden of their decision within the church they love, and pray for God to lead us into a unity that includes all of our Lord’s children.
The core questions before the Judicial Council focus on the actions of the delegates and the bishops that laid hands on Bishop Oliveto to consecrate her. The Western Jurisdiction’s response, grounded in church law and precedence, strongly affirms the vote and the bishop’s consecration.
The Judicial Council will conduct their oral hearing on the election of Bishop Oliveto on Tuesday, April 25 starting at 6:00 a.m. Pacific, lasting approximately three hours. The hearing will be open to the public but no live broadcasts or recordings will be allowed. Attendees will be prohibited from posting to social media or text during the hearing. While some reporting might be expected later that day, a decision is not expected until the full meeting of the Judicial Council concludes at noon (9:00 a.m. Pacific) on Friday, April 28.
Our Bishop, Elaine Stanovsky, will be present at the Judicial Council on April 25, to support Bishop Oliveto and as a member the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops.
We share these details with you as they provide a good time of focus for our prayer. The following Prayer Template from the Mountain Sky Vigil is being offered to people across the Jurisdiction as one possible way to construct prayer time. Feel free to adapt it for yourself, your local congregation, or group.
- 5 minutes of centering prayer and opening to the movement of the Spirit.
- 15 minutes of prayer for the persons directly involved in the proceedings, the Judicial Council members, those representing the South Central Jurisdiction that filed the case, those representing the Western Jurisdiction, including the College of Bishops and its counsels, and Bishop Karen Oliveto and her spouse, Robin Ridenour.
- 15 minutes of prayer for those who will be immediately affected by whatever decision comes from the Judicial Council.
- 15 minutes of prayer for the people and churches of the Mountain Sky Area and the Western Jurisdiction as we work to discern how we will move forward, no matter what the decision may be.
- 10 minutes of prayers of thanksgiving for the work God has done and continues to do in The United Methodist Church as we seek a place of unity.
Since her assignment starting last September, Bishop Oliveto has exhibited a leadership style and Christ-focused vision for the people of the Mountain Sky Area. Many there would like to continue to see what her leadership will foster. Please hold the people and churches of this area in your prayers as well and reach out to offer your prayerful support during this time of uncertainty.
In gratitude for every opportunity to be in ministry with you across this Greater Northwest Area,
Rev. Carlo Rapanut
Rev. Lowell Greathouse
Mission and Ministry Coordinator
Rev. David Valera
Director of Connectional Ministries
Pacific Northwest Conference