Consecration of gay bishop from Colorado violates church law, United Methodist Church says

DENVER -- The consecration of a gay bishop violates church law, the top court of the United Methodist Church ruled Friday. It came in the case of United Methodist Church Bishop Karen Oliveto from Colorado.

As the first openly gay person elected bishop in the UMC, Bishop Oliveto might be forced step down because she’s married to a woman.

However, the bishop "remains in good standing," the Judicial Council said until an administrative or judicial process is finished. That's according to a report on the church's website.

Bishop Karen said she's "still deciphering it" Friday night. Her understanding is that she is still a bishop and needs to undergo an administrative review, which she is currently doing.

Last year, Bishop Karen was elected unanimously to lead 400 churches in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and one church in Idaho.

“When it became clear that I was going to be elected, it was one of the most powerful and profound experiences of my life,” she said.

Members of the clergy say Bishop Karen is well liked in Colorado, but more conservative parishes from elsewhere in the country have challenged her election, placing her in the fight of her professional life.

The challenge marks the latest case pitting progressive Methodist churchgoers against conservatives. It has also sparked a debate over biblical interpretation.

“I believe that Jesus would be inclusive,” said Rev. Jessica Rooks of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch.

Rooks said the validity of Bishop Karen's election is in question because she’s gay.

The Methodists' version of the supreme court will hear oral arguments Tuesday, deciding if an openly gay married person is allowed to serve as bishop.

Bishop Karen said church teachings support full civil rights of LGBT people in society but still withholds those same rights from clergy.

“There’s this double standard that’s going on that does create a, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ environment,” she said.

The divide grew wider as Methodists from a southern jurisdiction petitioned national church leadership to question Bishop Karen’s current role, according to clergy.

Colorado is considered a progressive area of the UMC. The differences are threatening to split up the church of millions of followers worldwide.

“Whatever the ruling is, there will be people upset, and there will be people celebrating,” Rooks said.

Members of the clergy said prayer vigils are being organized throughout the region. Parishioners are turning to a higher power, hoping for a verdict with which they agree.

A ruling is not expected until the end of the week.