Sunday, August 14, 2016
What is wrong with Methodism. . .
The Western Jurisdiction (which encompasses all U.S. states west of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arizona) -- in a terminal death spiral and having lost well more than half its membership and worship attendance over the last half century -- is not even self-supporting (financially). It is the most liberal wing of a generally liberal denomination. So one might think that they would spend some time back to basics, as it were. Instead, they have destroyed their bridges behind them and chosen to elect a new bishop who is even more on the so-called cutting edge of theology and practice. Their choice? The pastor of Glide United Methodist Church in San Francisco, the Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto. Among other noteworthy accomplishments, Dr. Oliveto now is the Gene Robinson of the UMC; she is its first lesbian bishop.
A slight problem is that the UMC has barred sexually active gays (Oliveto is “married”) from ordination as ministers (much less bishops!). The College of Bishops only just persuaded the General Conference to leave things alone in the Methodist Book of Discipline (worrying that it would strengthen the prohibition on the heels of yet another study commission).
A larger problem is theology. Oliveto has defended Muslims and second guessed Scripture, suggesting that St. Paul did no favor for casting a demon out of the slave girl in Acts 16:16-18. The kind of liberation Oliveto encourages is apparently not one from darkness and its demons. Oliveto did not believe that St. Paul had the godly motivation of the girl's salvation but some other sinister purpose at work. Worse, she postulated that St. Paul did not improve the girl's life but made it worse by casting out the demon in her.
Strangely, Oliveto was publicly supportive of the Bishop’s Way Forward (General Conference 2016 legislative plan) -- but apparantly this support stops short of turning aside her election as bishop. Oliveto said: “I believe that what this commission will discover is that while matters of human sexuality are the symptom, the dis-ease within our denomination is cultural and theological and it is impacting our ability to create disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Unfortunately, LGBTQ persons have paid a harsh price for our neglect in speaking the truth about our denomination.”
Apparently the UMC is not your grandfather's church anymore either. It remains to be seen if their actions will stem the flow of those leaving or offer anymore than a convenient distraction to a church body with too many problems to face all at once.