April 20, 2017
To the saints of God in Iowa,
Grace and peace in the name of the risen Christ! The resurrection of Jesus, which we celebrated this past Sunday, reminds us that Christ offers new life and hope in the midst of the challenges of our daily lives, our nation, our world, and The United Methodist Church.
Some of you are aware that the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church will be meeting in Newark, New Jersey from April 25 to 28. One of the items on the docket of the Judicial Council, which is the UMC’s top court, will be the consideration of the Western Jurisdiction’s July 2016 election of Bishop Karen Oliveto, who is legally married to another woman. In September, Bishop Oliveto began her ministry, overseeing the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area, which includes United Methodist congregations in Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and a small sliver of Idaho.
On April 25, the nine-member Judicial Council will conduct an oral hearing in response to a request from the South Central Jurisdiction for a declaratory decision regarding the nomination, election, consecration, and/or assignment as bishop of a person who claims to be a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” or is a spouse in a same-sex marriage or civil union. It is important to note that the Judicial Council does not have the authority to change The Book of Discipline but can only rule on this specific case.
While some United Methodists hope that the Judicial Council will rule the election unconstitutional because of the United Methodist Church’s clergy standards, other United Methodists hope the election will be considered as valid because Oliveto was in good standing in her Annual Conference at the time of the election.
No matter what the decision is, we will not all agree with each other. Some United Methodists will celebrate, but other faithful United Methodists will feel deep hurt and disenfranchisement. I am asking all United Methodists in Iowa to be in deep prayer for Bishop Oliveto and United Methodists in the Mountain Sky Area as well as for the members of the Judicial Council.
I also encourage you to continue to pray for and encourage the work of the Commission on a Way Forward. As they continue their charge to bring recommendations to the proposed 2019 General Conference, may we renew our commitment to focus on our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world by loving each other.
These words from Ephesians 3:18-19 are on my lips every day, “I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Bishop Laurie Haller,
Resident Bishop, Iowa Area
The United Methodist Church