by Cynthia B. Astle
Fifty-five candidates — including three openly gay clergy and a nominee who has been suspended pending charges — will vie for 15 bishop seats in five U.S. jurisdictions of The United Methodist Church during the week of July 11.
The three openly gay clergy came out this spring in a letter signed by more than 100 United Methodist clergy acknowledging their sexual orientation. Two are in the Western Jurisdiction, the Rev. Karen Oliveto, pastor of Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco (California-Nevada Annual Conference) and the Rev. Frank Wulf, pastor of Echo Park United Methodist Church in Los Angeles (California-Pacific Annual Conference. The third, the Rev. David Meredith, pastor of Clifton UMC and Director of Urban Ministry, Ohio River Valley District (West Ohio Annual Conference).
Oliveto and Wulf have been endorsed by their respective annual conferences; Meredith has not. Oliveto and Meredith are in legal same-sex marriages; Wulf says he is in a “covenanted relationship.”
The United Methodist Church forbids ordaining LGBT people, but this past spring more than 110 clergy have publicly acknowledged their sexual orientation in protest of the denomination’s continued stances that hold homosexual behavior to be “incompatible with Christian teaching.” If any of the gay candidates are elected bishop, they could immediately be brought up on charges for violating the Book of Discipline, and likely would be barred from taking office.
The fourth episcopal nominee whose candidacy is uncertain is the Rev. Jisun Kwak, who was endorsed by the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference where she served as superintendent of the Delaware Bay District. She has been suspended from ministry pending the outcome of an investigation into charges brought against her by the bishop and cabinet of the annual conference.
The nature of the charges brought against Rev. Kwak has not been specified by Bishop John Schol, who has recused himself from the disciplinary process because of their working relationship.
Cynthia B. Astle serves as Editor & Founder of United Methodist Insight.