Embattled gay Methodist Church bishop returns to Colorado

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. -- A Methodist bishop from Colorado who is making national news returned home Tuesday night after a highly publicized church hearing in New Jersey.

The lesbian bishop is fighting to keep her job in a church split over its views on sexual orientation.

Bishop Karen Oliveto is the first openly gay married bishop in the United Methodist Church. She said she has found support in Colorado, but she is facing resistance elsewhere.

On Tuesday, an emotional homecoming awaited Bishop Karen and her wife at Denver International Airport.

Many church members in Colorado are standing by the woman in charge of 400 congregations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Montana and one church in Idaho.

Her return to the Denver area comes after the church’s top court questioned her consecration because she’s married to a woman.

“It was a very painful [court] decision,” Bishop Karen said. “I was prepared to pack up.”

The future for Bishop Karen is uncertain despite still being considered a bishop in good standing.

The judicial council’s decision means fellow bishops in the more progressive West jurisdiction will review her case -- one that was brought by church leaders in a conservative southern district.

“The south is saying, well wait, we don’t want to have a bishop who happens to be LGBTQ,” Bishop Karen said.

Messages of love and support continue to reach the bishop outside her office in Greenwood Village, through letters and email.

Bishop Karen said the support keeps her going -- ready to face the challenges associated with her marriage and religion.

“Difference is actually a sign of God’s divinity and not something to be feared,” she said. "Instead, it’s something to be embraced and celebrated.”

Bishop Karen’s review will be handled by bishops in the same jurisdiction that elected her. When that review will start and how long it will take has not been determined.