The Rev. Karen Oliveto of Bethany United Methodist Church married Bill Hinson and Dan Johnson in a homosexual union on Feb. 15, 2004. The marriage license was issued in San Francisco City Hall. A complaint was filed shortly thereafter, and since the complaint, she has been in a “supervisory” process for seven months with the UMC.
Bishop Beverly Shamana dismissed the complaint on the grounds that it did not violate the 2000 Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, which was in effect at the time of violation.
However, the 2004 General Conference in May, a few months after officially outlawed performing gay and lesbian marriages. Punishment for such an offense means the loss of ministering privileges.
The Bishop met with Oliveto four times during the supervisory process. According to the bishop’s statement, “The complaint has been resolved in a manner consistent with the 2000 Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church.” Weakly, he said that “the goal of the Book of Discipline is reconciliation and resolution, and this goal has been achieved,” never mentioning what the rulebook says on this issue directly, heck, or even indirectly.
“Bethany church has traditionally offered strong support to gay and lesbian United Methodists in San Francisco’s Noe Valley area,” the UMNS states.
“We at Bethany are greatly relieved, but not surprised, that the complaint was favorably resolved by Bishop Shamana,” said Jeff Friant, Bethany lay leader. “The weddings were declared legal, they were not prohibited at that time by the Book of Discipline, and were an act of equal justice.”
Friant topped it off by applying God’s love as justification for, rather than a strong call against homosexual unions. “Bethany and I believe that God's love and justice will prevail in the long run.”
Many California-Nevada pastors did not support Oliveto’s actions. In February, Rev. Jim Garrison, president of the Conference’s Evangelical Renewal Fellowship, said that her actions “threatened the unity of our whole connection.”
Another victory for those who follow God’s Word carefully: some 4,000 same sex couples were issued marriage licenses in San Francisco in February, but the California State Supreme Court voided the licenses in August 2004.
Oliveto now serves as assistant dean for academic affairs and director of contextual education at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. She says that the move was not related to the complaint.