Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. issued the following statement following the announced ruling of the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church:
Grace and peace to you in the name of the One that has broken down the dividing wall of hostility and created a new humanity by the cross and his blood, Jesus Christ, our risen Lord, and Savior (Ephesians 2:11-22).
The Judicial Council has ruled in a case that has attracted national attention to a divisive issue within The United Methodist Church. For those of you who have not heard, the Judicial Council ruled that the consecration of Bishop Karen Oliveto, a gay bishop, violates church law. However, Bishop Oliveto “remains in good standing” until an administrative or judicial process is completed.
This decision is met with joyous applause by some and by tears of sadness and feelings of crushing disappointment by others. Indeed, as this ruling shows, our denomination is not of one mind on matters associated with human sexuality.
It is important to understand what this ruling is and what it is not. The decision, in this case, does not change church law; only General Conference can do that.
In efforts, to maintain and strengthen the unity of the United Methodist Church, The 2016 General Conference created The Commission on a Way Forward, a group of 32 individuals from around the world. The commission is tasked with bringing a proposal to a special session of the General Conference for a way by which those who disagree on issues of human sexuality can coexist in the same church. The Council of Bishops called for the special session of General Conference in February 2019 in St. Louis for the sole purpose of hearing and taking action on the report of the commission.
Of course, that means we have nearly two more years to await any new decisions of Church law by General Conference regarding human sexuality. In the meantime, we will continue striving to increase the number of vital congregations throughout the Great Plains Conference that nurture people to stay in love with God, that bring others to know Christ, that serve others (especially the poor) and that seek social holiness and justice.
Regardless of our positions regarding this particular issue, Christ calls us to love, show respect and tenderness of spirit toward one another.
As followers of Christ, I urge United Methodists of Kansas and Nebraska to pause for prayer for our sisters and brothers who feel like they have lost another endless and bitter battle this day. In this struggle and conflict, a loss by one side does not translate to a victory for the other.
Pray for the Commission on a Way Forward that its members would wisely discern the will of God. Pray for the Council of Bishops as we work to lead the Church through these challenging times in our church’s history. And, pray for the witness of the church around the world that regardless of differences we may have that we would be ambassadors for Christ, proclaiming peace with God and peace with our neighbor.
As your bishop, I am committed to helping our conference find a way forward into God’s love, God’s blessings, God’s mercy and God’s joy. Our annual conference is vibrant because of our commitment to Jesus Christ, our commitment to each other, and our commitment to our shared mission.
I will pray for you. I ask for your continued prayers for our United Methodist Church and for me.
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.