[Oe List ...] Report on Bishop Karen's gathering @ Lake Junaluska

Margaret Aiseayew aiseayew at netins.net
Tue Nov 7 16:36:05 PST 2017

Thank you so much for this report.  It gives me more hope than anything I have been encountering from the institutional side, including a long conversation last week with someone who has the Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto as his assigned bishop and who I thought was far more clear in his thinking and for that matter—faith. I am looking forward to the Way Forward report and any possibilities it might hold.  Blessings on all of you who worked to pull off this event.

Emmanuel, Margaret


From: OE [mailto:oe-bounces at lists.wedgeblade.net] On Behalf Of W. J. via OE
Sent: Tuesday, November 7, 2017 5:11 PM
To: H. A. Tillinghast; Order Ecumenical Community
Cc: W. J.
Subject: [Oe List ...] Report on Bishop Karen's gathering @ Lake Junaluska


This is a 'Report' (if I may be so bold) to the Order:Ecumenical on the 'edge' of the turmoil in the United Methodist Church from a transestablishment worm's eye perspective on the ground (or, better, 'underground') at the Council of Bishops' meeting <http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/bishops-called-to-navigate-off-the-map>  this week at Lake Junaluska.

First, why now? I'm not one to brag or anything, but it dawned on me that I was in a position to get something new, unprogrammed, and unexpected to happen here in the Southeastern Jurisdiction during the CoB meeting.

(For non-United Methodists: The SEJ is the surviving 'remnant' of the old Methodist Episcopal Church, South <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methodist_Episcopal_Church,_South>  which embraced slavery as a Biblical 'right' of white males--along with white male dominance over women--after the 1845 schism over the scandal that a Methodist bishop in Georgia owned 2 slaves. And which remains a conservative bastion of 'guns and religion' from the 1939 merger with northern and Protestant Methodists to this day. Along with the South Central Jurisdiction.)

Where the shit has REALLY hit the Methodist fan is that in 2016 the Western Jurisdiction elected and consecrated as bishop Karen Oliveto, the married lesbian senior pastor of Glide UMC in San Francisco.

Karen's election/consecration caused an even greater uproar (and yet-unresolved 'legal' issues with the church's rule book) that has intensified the polarization over LGBT inclusion vs. active persecution in a postmodern legalistic version of a witch hunt (over the prohibition of LGBT clergy and LGBT weddings). 

Once again electing an 'offensive' bishop (among many other intentionally 'offensive' and rebellious violations of denominational polity) has pushed this church to the brink of another schism.

At this very moment the CoB is meeting in Executive Session to offer feedback on an interim report from their Commission on a Way Forward <http://s3.amazonaws.com/Website_Properties/news-media/press-center/documents/COWF_July_2017_Report_Final.pdf>  on how to find 'a way forward' that would deconstruct/restructure the global denomination's polity as a post-denominational reality--some kind of Wesleyan global association of church bodies that would embrace the reality of regional diversity in cultural context. (For example,  polygamy <http://ibrarian.net/navon/paper/AN_AFRICAN_PERSPECTIVE_ON_POLYGAMY_IN_THE_UNITED_.pdf?paperid=17744381>  is a huge issue among African Methodist clergy.) 

At least that's our hope and prayer: that a new, less restrictive and more permissive rule book will be adopted in the 2019 special session of the UM General Conference--where the shit will REALLY hit the Methodist fan over the determination of a rabid few alt-right/conservative <https://wesleyancovenant.org/2017/07/12/our-hope-for-the-way-forward/>  US delegates plus the entire African contingent to 'hold the line' against the evil of homosexuality, etc. and force a schism.

For those of you who are still with me, this moment has a LOT to do with the Mathews brothers <https://www.bu.edu/sth/2010/01/13/bishop-james-k-mathews-sth-%E2%80%9938-honored-for-life%E2%80%99s-work/> !


Our beloved late 'Bishop Jim' Mathews <http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/bishop-mathews-ardent-missionary-dies>  was a Methodist missionary in India and mission executive before his election. He and 'Brother Joe' had a practical global vision of the church as mission. An outcome of traditional missionary work in the developing world was the establishment of Methodist Central Conferences. Methodist work in India evolved into an autonomous Methodist Church <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Methodist_Church_in_India> , but in the Philippines and Africa, Methodist work remained under the global structure of the UMC.


Now United Methodists in the USA who are pressing for change are confronting the results of a century of work by conservative missionaries in the developing world. 


By not spinning off regional Methodist affiliates in Africa and the Philippines and elsewhere, we must now deal with the unanticipated consequences of creating a global denomination that is resistant to cultural change, largely because its fastest-growing segment is in Africa, which has increasing numerical weight among delegates voting at the General Conference.


So our beloved late Bishop Jim--who was revered among UM Bishops as their 'first among equals'--was (and is) simultaneously a giant symbolic figure representing the best of traditional Methodist missionary work and the presence of the Transestablishment in their midst: always pointing beyond Methodist institutional reductionism to call into being a more faithful global response to divine activity in our midst.


Which brings me to the present moment and the CoB meeting. And to the voice of Joe Mathews--still ringing in my ears.


Joe would say--and I'm sure did say--that there are kairotic moments when the invisible becomes visible. And that the role of the transestablishment is to honor the historical church, to both guard and challenge its self-understanding, including its perversions, and to pioneer and model a way forward to be the radical people in mission we are all called to be.


I am very sadly aware that Bishop Karen has become a demonized <https://juicyecumenism.com/2016/07/16/karen-olivetos-theology-criticizing-jesus-defending-demon-possession/> , heretical cartoon character <https://juicyecumenism.com/2017/09/15/lesbian-bishop-oliveto-warns-not-create-idol-jesus-says-bigotries-prejudices-updated/>  within the conservative United Methodist wing, and has received a ton of hate mail and even death threats.


So, realizing that she is personally unknown in the SEJ, and that she would never be invited to speak/preach/teach here, I decided to invite her to meet with a group of UM clergy/laity for a conversation last Saturday on their ministries with LGBT people and the future of the church. As one of the very few around here who has known Karen for a quarter century, I was in a position to make this happen with the active collaboration of many allies.


Of course the question of who in the hierarchy would authorize this meeting in 'hostile territory' was paramount. So, indirectly mobilizing whatever clout I had, I got a bishop to call another bishop (who had the authority to give permission), and we got the go-ahead to have a 'private' meeting with invited guests.


This time around, unlike Hearts on Fire <https://cmpage.org/documents/junaluska_report.htm>  at the Lake in 2005, the KKK <http://jacksonville.com/apnews/stories/090205/D8CBNHH08.shtml>  was not alerted!


Bottom line: 43 people signed up, some driving from as far as Charlotte, Winston-Salem, and Burlington, to spend less than 90 minutes in conversation with Bishop Karen. 


Including a total of three bishops (one of whom is a PLC grad from long ago--remember those?). And two clergy from an urban church that dared to host a gay wedding. And one clergy from a startup congregation that's half LGBT.


In the midst of the realities of our life in the UMC, there was an atmosphere of personal vulnerability, sharing of individual stories and group wisdom, and hope. People could connect with Bishop Karen's spiritual leadership and care for the whole church.


And, like a tiny mustard seed in the hearts of a few, that depth of transformative experience, we trust, will percolate throughout the SEJ.


I make no apologies for the length of this witness!


Because context is everything. And you need to 'get' the context to understand the meaning of "the invisible becomes visible."


To set a context for the meeting I did a brief ritual on brokenness and expenditure with Mary Z. Longknight. There were audible gasps as I carefully and slowly tore the three rounds of flatbread and Mary Z. announced:

We stand before the Word about the way life is and declare that our life is about brokenness, period. That the world we live in is just broken. That our nation is deeply polarized. And that our church body is deeply fragmented. The Word of Life is that when we dare to take our brokenness deeply into ourselves and feast on it for the sake of all beings, we are sustained in being. And we can share that sustenance with our neighbor. 

At the meeting's close I had the opportunity to share the following word with the three bishops, the clergy, and the laity present. 


I asked them to take home and consciously 'plant' the seed of what happened today, using the image of the tiny mustard seed planted in the SEJ.


And, using the game of chess as a metaphor of how bishops move diagonally, I invited all of us to pray that our bishops move toward convergence instead of divergence.


And I said that now is the time to guard our episcopacy. And to support our bishops (even those with whom we seriously disagree). So that they can take on their new role as change agents and lead United Methodism into its new reality. 


And then I said: Mark my words! As soon as a new plan for reorganization is made public, the Council of Bishops will be attacked.


That was the best I could do to embody the presence of the transestablishment. And to speak to the historical church by calling our bishops to embody a new reality of united episcopal leadership.


But I did join the entire Council in their Memorial Service on Sunday. I sang hymns from the back row behind a group of African bishops. One of whom may have been Bishop Wandabula <http://www.umc.org/news-and-media/bishops-face-penalties-for-auditing-issues> , who was sanctioned <https://um-insight.net/in-the-church/umc-global-nature/latest-developments-in-umc-episcopal-accountability/>  for misusing .75 million bucks in church funds. And accused of retaliating against his accusers. (I don't know how this was resolved.)


But while I was aware that I don't share their perspectives on Biblical interpretation, church law, and fiscal accountability, I was so grateful to know that they are there, doing ministry to the best of their ability.


One of the Order's essential life understandings is that wherever we go, we will leave! And leave behind a core of local leadership who are trained, equipped, contextualized, and enabled to to their work in collaboration with their global colleagues--but without hierarchical control/supervision. Leaving lots of room to embody and grow local integrity. 


So here is the bottom line of my witness: the Order:Ecumenical is still alive and well and becoming visible when and where it needs to be a witness. Amen.




P.S. I couldn't resist adding that my memory is that Bob Fishel--ever the revolutionary oddball with that ironic, solemn, quirky Fishel expression--liked to pick up an entire plastic pitcher of water and just dump the whole thing out on the floor at the closing meal in RS-1. And people would gasp in shock! But he got across the image of just how radical expenditure really is.


BTW the Fishels are still alive and well and hosted me in Franklin, NC during the Total Eclipse last August.









On Saturday, November 4, 2017 5:37 PM, H. A. Tillinghast <rev.bud at mac.com> wrote:


I will not be able to participate, but I am most pleased about this honouring of my friend Bishop Karen.  Bless you for doing this. I’m sure that Joe, brother of a Methodist bishop, would be in the midst of this with his “Amen".


Bud Tillinghast


On 2 Nov 2017, at 7:44 pm, W. J. via OE <oe at lists.wedgeblade.net> wrote:


Mary Z., Marcia, and I (among others) are hosting a gathering at Lake Junaluska to honor Bishop Karen Oliveto and her wife Robin Ridenour at the beginning of the United Methodist Council of Bishops meeting.

It is in the new Welcome Center next to the building where Order members gathered for the Springboard conference a decade ago.


Here is the ritual that will open the meeting:



OE mailing list
OE at lists.wedgeblade.net



*	large black plate (with 'shalom' in 3 languages).
*	3 large round pieces of flatbread, rolled up on the plate
*	large clear glass pitcher filled with water
*	large clear glass cup [= chalice]
*	large serving tray holding the above


*	celebrant unrolls, elevates, and tears each piece of round bread in two, one at a time [* +  ** +  ***]
*	celebrant tears off a tiny piece of bread and eats it
*	celebrant pours water from the pitcher into the cup, intentionally letting it "run over" until it spills out onto the tray (without wetting the black tablecloth!)
*	celebrant takes a sip of water
*	celebrants distribute the 6 torn pieces of bread among the group to be passed and shared (as desired)

Words (ad libbed):

(while breaking the bread)

*	We stand before the Word about the way life is and declare that our life is about brokenness, period. That the world we live in is just broken.* That our nation is deeply polarized.** And that our church body is deeply fragmented.*** The Word of Life is that when we dare to take our brokenness deeply into ourselves [eats bread] and feast on it for the sake of all beings, we are sustained in being.

(while pouring the water)

*	We stand before the Word about the way life is and declare that our life is about expenditure, period. That we can't hide from the truth that our being is just poured out so that all may have life abundant. The Word of Life is that when we dare to expend our lives to serve a human world, our cup of life runs over. And we are sustained in being [sips water]. 

(while offering the bread) 

*	Bread for the journey!

*	Amen. Amin. Ameyn.


Let me know your thoughts.



-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://lists.wedgeblade.net/pipermail/oe-wedgeblade.net/attachments/20171107/cddee16b/attachment-0002.html>

More information about the OE mailing list