Belong Church is a part of the United Methodist Church. (Some folks wonder why we don’t have the cross and flame logo on our sign or “United Methodist” in our name. This is a great question for another day/essay.) We are Methodists in our processes and connection and Wesleyan in our theology. We are connected and supported by churches and clergy all over the world. We are overseen by a Bishop, Dr. Karen Oliveto. I have only known her for a short time, but in my time with her I’ve found her to be an inspired leader, an example of Christian charity and love, and a more than capable Bishop.

Bishop Oliveto serves Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana. She has a Ph.D and has taught seminary. She loves Jesus, encourages discipleship, and equips all kinds of ministry. She was the pastor of an 11,000 member church in San Francisco.  She is a drummer and an amateur magician. 

There are some people who are objecting to her qualifications to be our bishop. Not because of any of the things I just mentioned. No, they object because she is a lesbian, and she is married to a wonderful woman named Robin. Because of these objections and challenges, a hearing will occur this week in which some people will try to have her election nullified.

When we first dreamed of what Belong Church might be, we dreamed of a community that was intentionally diverse, welcoming and inclusive of our LGBTQ family, and justice-loving. \

The idea of the Kingdom of God is the heart of our mission. We hope, pray, and work for a reality where God’s mercy, grace, and love prevail. We also recognize that we are caught in the tension between how things are now and how they will be when God’s love and grace prevail over all creation. We are not yet there, and the road between here and there is filled with Holy work. 

The United Methodist Church is experiencing this same tension between how things are and how they will be. There are some who cling to homophobic and heterosexist ideas and actively do harm. There are others who are well-meaning, Jesus-loving siblings in Christ who have a different way of reading and understanding scripture than we do. There are also many of us who are fighting for change inside this structure, praying for a day when we better reflect the love of Christ. 

Yet, we find ourselves in a position where the tension threatens to tear something apart. It is my prayer that this is not so. Rather, that the tension will give way to strength, that fear will succumb to love, and that animosity will be transformed into beloved community through the power and strength of the Holy Spirit. 

You are invited to pray for Bishop Karen. The Belong community has committed to spending an hour in prayer at 10am, tomorrow (Monday) morning as we prepare for a daunting week. If you’d like more information, I’ve included several links that give background information and explain the judicial process in more detail. If you’d like to discuss this further, I am happy to connect in person or virtually and chat more. In the mean time, I ask you to continue to pray for those you love, pray for those who you might not love, pray for that we may all come to better reflect the love and grace and peace of our Lord, Jesus. Amen. 

-Rev. Jasper

If you want to hear a reflection by Bishop Karen herself, click here:

If you want to hear from the delegates who elected her as Bishop, click here:

There are more well written reflections on her election at the links below: