A letter from Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball in response to Judicial Council ruling 1341

By WV UMC Admin

Dear Members and Friends of the West Virginia Conference,

On April 28, 2017, the Judicial Council made a decision on a petition requesting a declaratory decision on the election, consecration, and assignment of Karen Oliveto as a bishop in the Western Jurisdiction. This was one request on a docket of several items discussed and deliberated by the Judicial Council during their April 25 – 28 meeting in New Jersey.

The Judicial Council decision in regard to the petition submitted about the election, consecration, and assignment of Karen Oliveto is summarized as follows: The Judicial Council ruled that the consecration of a gay bishop violates church law but also said Karen Oliveto “remains in good standing,” until an administrative or judicial process is completed. The decision goes on to describe the required disciplinary process by which a bishop’s ministerial office is to be reviewed. The Council’s decision concluded with a reminder that a bishop’s constitutional right to fair and due process must be protected and reiterated that until an administrative or judicial process is completed, the bishop remains in good standing.

As I share this summary, I once again call you to prayer and remind you that the Council’s actions are specific to the particular circumstances documented in the submitted petition. The Judicial Council did use the Book of Discipline in its deliberation and discernment but does not have the responsibility or authority to make changes to the Book of Discipline. Only the General Conference has the responsibility and authority to make decisions around changes to the Discipline.

Prayer is a powerful gift of the faithful and helps us to place our trust in God. Pray for all those who have been involved in this process. Prayer for those with whom you agree and disagree. Pray for those who are confused, angered or in pain. Pray that in the midst of disagreement we do not and will not treat other people as objects, in our minds, through our actions, or with our words. Pray for the work of the Commission on a Way Forward, whose work is on-going as it seeks to move into the future in a way that unifies United Methodists in our mission and yet provides a way for us to live faithfully in the midst of diversity and disagreement about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, and intersex persons. We believe in a God who has created and is creating and makes all things new. As United Methodists, we are confident that God will lead us in ways that bear the fruit of faith and ministry in West Virginia and across the world.

The General Conference will be meeting in a special called session from February 23 – 26, 2019 in St. Louis, Missouri. This called session will be limited to receiving and acting upon a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward.

Christ commissions us to go make disciples of Jesus Christ. Everyone needs the saving, transforming power of God. The purpose of the church is summarized by the Great Commandment and the Great Commission. Today, renew your commitment to bear witness to the love of God and the love of neighbor; and go, go make disciples of Jesus Christ so that our world may indeed be transformed by the life, hope, peace, and love of God in and through Christ Jesus our Lord. My hope lies in Christ!

Grace and Peace,

Sandra Steiner Ball
Resident Bishop, West Virginia Conference


President of the Council of Bishops: Statement regarding Judicial Council decision 1341