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

Paula Philbrook paula.philbrook at gmail.com
Tue Nov 7 16:36:55 PST 2017

Thank you!

On Nov 7, 2017 5:17 PM, "W. J. via OE" <oe at lists.wedgeblade.net> wrote:

> 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.
> Marshall
> 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:
> *Props:*
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> OE at lists.wedgeblade.net
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>    - 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
> *Actions:*
>    - 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.
> Marshall
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> OE at lists.wedgeblade.net
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