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Pro-homosexuality Pastor Who Performed Homosexual Marriages Pleased With Bishop's Praise For Her Disobedience


Last February, a complaint was filed against me that stated I had violated the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church for performing the wedding of Bill Hinson and Dan Johnson at Bethany United Methodist Church in San Francisco. That complaint began a process of supervision, which was carried out according to The Book of
Discipline of The United Methodist Church.

Today, I am pleased to report that I have been informed by Bishop Beverly Shamana of the California-Nevada Annual Conference that the
complaint has been resolved.

I am very grateful that The United Methodist Church has a process that is not punitive in nature but rather seeks accountability and reconciliation. While the details of our meetings remain a confidential personnel matter, I will say that, for me, the conversations were honest, challenging, and respectful, carried out in a prayerful manner that was mindful of the Church, The Book of Discipline, the dignity of all persons involved, and the unique and historic moment that was experienced in San Francisco this winter.

We at Bethany felt a unique calling last February, as San Francisco celebrated the love and commitment of more than 4000 gay and lesbian couples through marriage. As a people rooted in the Word of God, we knew that where love is, God is there also, and so we sought to bear witness to the way God had broken into human history. While people across the country and throughout our denomination had much to say about the marriages, we at Bethany were uniquely positioned at the epicenter of it all, as fourteen couples within our congregation were married. We felt we had a hopeful and joyous testimony to offer our United Methodist sisters and brothers.

Sadly, our witness went unheeded. In the spring of 2004, the General Conference of The United Methodist Church voted to define marriage as solely between two persons of the opposite sex, and limited the ministries of the church by refusing to allow clergy to celebrate the marriages of same-sex couples. In spite of these proclamations, we know that God's love and justice are unstoppable. Having glimpsed the future God is unveiling, we know the Church will eventually confess its sin of heterosexism which has fractured the body of Christ and will affirm the love and commitment of all couples, regardless of sexual orientations or gender identities.

I am grateful for the words and prayers of support from individuals and communities across the country. The notes and calls from clergy and laity from within our United Methodist connection as well as those outside our denomination were overwhelmingly supportive. It was humbling to have so many people praying for me throughout the complaint process. In addition, I would like to thank:

* Members of the California-Nevada Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church, for their affirmation of my ministry;
* The national staff and constituencies of the Reconciling Ministries Network and the Methodist Federation for Social Action;
* Sister Bernie Galvin, the steering committee of Religious Witness with Homeless People, and my San Francisco interfaith colleagues for their vocal support of my ministry;
* The Rev. Barbara Troxell, whose spiritual direction provided care for my soul;
* The Rev. Linda Snyder, who accompanied me to one of the supervisory sessions;
* Especially the Rev. Ginnie Pearson, who was my advocate throughout the duration of the complaint and who provided much guidance and wisdom;
* My family, whose constant love provided strength for the journey.

Lastly, I am eternally grateful for the people of Bethany United Methodist Church. Throughout the 12 years I was privileged to be their pastor, we learned that we are most faithful when we are willing to face the cross for the sake of the Gospel. I am grateful for the ways we challenged one another to love God more deeply and to live out that love by radical acts of justice and compassion.

On July 1, I left Bethany United Methodist Church to become the assistant dean for academic affairs and director of contextual education at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. I welcome this opportunity to serve a seminary committed to training progressive Christian leaders for the sake of Christ’s church.
Becoming a part of the community at PSR feels like a natural extension of the ministry I began at Bethany.

I remain inspired by the witness of the 4000 couples who were married in San Francisco during our "Winter of Love."ť Their love and commitment touched and changed the hearts and minds of people across the country. In spite of the setback of a court decision that annulled the marriages, we know that this is but a temporary delay to the acquisition of the full rights and responsibilities of marriage for gay men and lesbians. In the meantime, I pray that the couples may be forever mindful of the blessings of God that are found in their life together.

October 4, 2004
Rev. Dr. Karen P. Oliveto
Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs
Director of Contextual Education
Pacific School of Religion
1798 Scenic Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94709

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