Statement from Bishop Bickerton on Judicial Council Rulings

Statement from Bishop Bickerton on Judicial Council Rulings

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton


I, like many of you, read with prayerful concern yesterday the decisions of the United Methodist Judicial Council regarding the status of Bishop Karen Oliveto (Decision 1341) as well as the Bishop’s Decision of Law in the New York Annual Conference (Decision 1343). 

The Judicial Council ruled that Bishop Oliveto remains a bishop in good standing although her consecration violated church law.  In making this decision, the Judicial Council ruled that they did not have the power under church law to do anything other than direct the church to use the administrative or judicial process that currently exists within our Book of Discipline.

The ruling related to the New York Annual Conference states that the Board of Ordained Ministry is required to examine all persons coming before them as to their fitness for ministry and make full inquiry as to the fitness of the candidate based on the paragraphs of the discipline that are “relevant to election of pastoral ministry.”  Further, the decision states that “candidates for licensed or ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church should be treated fairly and denial of entry must be based upon the evidence received from the results of the full examination.”

During the few short months that I have been in this Annual Conference I have come to believe that our current Board of Ordained Ministry is filled with highly competent and committed servants of Christ who bring integrity and clear vision to their work of “assuming primary responsibility for the enlistment and recruitment of ordained clergy.” (¶635.2a, 2012 United Methodist Book of Discipline).   I trust that their examination of candidates is thorough and comprehensive in nature.  I believe that our Board of Ordained Ministry will properly review this Judicial Council decision and continue to act with integrity in the manner by which they do their work.  I invite you to join me in prayers of thanksgiving and petition for those persons who have accepted the assignment to serve in this capacity.  May God’s blessings continue to guide and direct them in the ongoing work that is theirs.

In addition, these past several months I have found myself overwhelmed and extremely blessed by the giftedness of our licensed, commissioned, and ordained clergy.  We are blessed in this Annual Conference to have a team of committed servants who have been confirmed by their colleagues as called and gifted for ministry in the present age.  I count it a privilege to walk alongside them as we continue our work of revitalizing our churches, renewing the souls of our people, and offering grace and love to a broken world.  I also affirm the members of our LBGTQI community as they work with calling and purpose for the full inclusion rights of all of God’s children.  As we continue to work diligently in our efforts to welcome and affirm all of God’s children as a part of the body of Christ, we pray that God will not only bless us with the gifts and courage necessary to dismantle the “isms” and “phobias” that separate us from one another, but also with the discernment and insight necessary to replace judgment with grace and condemnation with affirmation as we reach out in ministry to all people everywhere.

It is my hope that we will continue to find significant ways to respect one another in the midst of our ongoing conversations concerning the future of our church and demonstrate to ourselves and the world that our love for one another is genuine and sincere.  It is my further hope that we will create the space necessary so that ministry can unfold in the midst of our varied contexts and theologies so that God may be glorified in all things.

I encourage each of you to continue the discipline of remaining focused on the mission of making and nurturing disciples on the journey.  I also urge you to be actively praying for Bishop Oliveto, the Board of Ordained Ministry, all persons affected by these decisions, the work of the “Commission on the Way Forward,” and the recently announced special session of the General Conference in 2019.

May God’s richest blessings fall upon us as we move forward in ministry together.
The Journey Continues, . . .

Thomas J. Bickerton
Resident Bishop

Read the statement on Decision 1341 from Bishop Bruce Ough, president of the Council of Bishops.