United Methodist Church Loses Members, Funds Because of Lesbian Bishop Consecration

Feb 13, 2017 12:12 PM EST

Some congregations of the United Methodist Church have been under "stress" and have lost members and financial support since the consecration of an openly lesbian bishop last summer.

This was according to an announcement posted online by UMC's Western Jurisdiction.

"With the election, consecration, and appointment of Bishop Karen Oliveto this summer, the Western Jurisdiction crossed a new threshold in our search to live into being the church we believe God is calling us to be - a church embracing all of God's children and empowering every follower to fully live into their God-given vocation," the announcement read.

That crossing of threshold involved some negative consequences, including members in some congregations, particularly in the Mountain Sky Area, leaving the church or withdrawing their financial support, putting such congregations in need of financial support.

"As we crossed the threshold, there has been stress in some of our most theologically diverse congregations," the post said. "Some have lost members. Others have had members withdraw their financial support."

"We believe theological diversity is critical for the vitality of The United Methodist Church. We seek to help our churches as we live into this new future," it added.

UMC's Western Jurisdiction called on the church to give monetary support through the sustentation fund set up for Mountain Sky Area. It also emphasized the need to stand together.

Oliveto was consecrated as bishop in July despite the church's Book of Discipline stating that "self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in."

At the time of her consecration, she had been married to Robin Ridenour for two years. The two women have been in a relationship since they met more than 17 years ago.

Oliveto's consecration as bishop earned various responses from other UMC leaders. While others celebrated it, others, like Rev. Ed Tomlinson of the Lanier United Methodist Church in the North Georgia Conference, did not. Tomlinson said the decision was "rushed" and did not give a chance for all voices to be heard.

A lot of UMC churches in Africa also do not agree with the consecration of Oliveto.

"We are in prayers here in Africa as we trust God to continue to lead us on the ancient path (the holy, undiluted Word of God) Jeremiah 6:16," Rev. Jerry Kulah, dean of Gbarnga School of Theology in Liberia said. "We shall not be moved. We will continue to remain obedient to the teaching of Scripture and loyal to Jesus Christ."

He added that those who choose to disobey God's word show that they are "transferring their loyalty somewhere else."