KaBahaghari* United Methodists, a Reconciling community in the Philippines, welcomes the election of Bishop Karen Oliveto to episcopal leadership in The United Methodist Church (UMC) as the Spirit’s sign of hope for the full inclusion of all persons in the our denomination. As our first openly lesbian bishop, we celebrate this watershed moment in the history of LGBTQ United Methodists’ struggle for affirmation and reconciliation.
Watching intently from across the Pacific, we thank God and express our gratitude to the delegates of the 2016 Western Jurisdictional Conference of The UMC for your courage in choosing the best episcopal leader to serve despite the challenges we are facing. You have given hope to our LGBTQ community and allies in the Philippines. Bishop Oliveto’s election is a bold expression of faith that celebrating one’s sexuality should not hinder anyone from engaging in meaningful UMC ministries, including that of the episcopacy.
We welcome Bishop Oliveto’s election as a testament to LGBTQ persons and their loved ones who are experiencing hurt and harm that God’s love is bigger and continues to work toward healing. It is also a visible sign, that just like Bishop Oliveto, LGBTQ persons are God’s gift to the church as we make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We pray that our experience of healing would extend to every part of our United Methodist connection, especially to those who lament Bishop Oliveto’s election. In our differences and diversity, may we find strength and unity in the same hope celebrated in our primary covenant – our Baptism – that we are all children of God committed “to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.”
We join Bishop Oliveto in her message of faith in action: “We are moving on to perfection but as long as there are people who walk past our churches and wonder because of their race, ethnicity, because they are documented or undocumented, homeless or housed, or because of their sexual orientation or gender identity class or ability, if they wonder if that church can be their sanctuary, we still have work to do.” May our denomination – across the world – continue united in justice for all as we pursue perfection in love.
As we enter into another quadrennium of discernment, we support the Council of Bishops’ admonition for us to “be open to new ways of embodying unity” from a humble place of “complete surrender to God’s unlimited imagination.” We celebrate hope and banish fear. We call for openness and conversation and pray for healing.
Conveners, KaBahaghari United Methodists of the Philippines
*Bahaghari is the Pilipino word for rainbow, and kabahaghari means “a part of the rainbow”