Now is the time for openly gay episcopal leadership in The United Methodist Church

With hearts full of gratitude and joy, Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) celebrates a truly historic moment in the life of The United Methodist Church (The UMC). On the heels of the 2016 General Conference, the Spirit of God is now raising up three openly gay candidates for the office of bishop for election at the meetings of the Western and North Central Jurisdictions in just a few weeks.

Building on the courage and work of the saints who have gone before, Rev. Dr. Karen Oliveto, Rev. Frank Wulf, and Rev. David Meredith are called by God to serve the church in sharing their gifts of visionary leadership for the life of the world.

These candidates for election to the office of bishop come to this moment in history just as the General Conference — the governing body of The UMC — shifted its own weight toward a vision these candidates have been announcing for years as preachers of the gospel. The vote to establish a commission to examine and offer revision to anti-LGBTQ policy united a majority of delegates around the common desire to end discrimination and division. The vote, an expression of the Spirit’s leading, inaugurates a new moment in the life of The United Methodist Church that continues to grow and grow as Annual Conferences around the US resolve to ordain openly LGBTQ clergy, to affirm the image of God in our transgender siblings, and to publicly declare an unwillingness to conform with all aspects of anti-LGBTQ policy.

Now more than ever, The UMC needs leaders who have a sense of God’s work among the marginalized and whose ministries anticipate the unfolding reign of God in the world. Each of these candidates have dedicated their lives and ministries to the shepherding of people toward a vision of love that has not always been easy to see. Karen, David, and Frank have made it their business to provide the whole church not merely with God’s comfort but also with challenge to move us forward into a more just and inclusive future.

As gay preachers of the gospel, these leaders followed Jesus into the margins of the church’s life where they pursued love and justice risking their own livelihoods and security. They know what it means to follow Jesus into futures yet unknown and what it means to live in the promise and hope of a new creation whose reality is an unfolding dream. They have comforted the poor, the afflicted, and those in need while challenging the powerful and the privileged to grow more deeply into the full stature of Christ.

As those who have stood outside the circle of the church’s grace, they point to the spirit of the law as opposed to the letter of the law, they call for a riskier and more costly discipleship, and they invite us to see as they see — to stand at the margins and to join the redeeming, restoring, and reconciling work of God for the sake of the church and the world.

We have before us three called, qualified, and deeply faithful leaders whom God has gifted the church for such a time as this. We believe the new creation has begun — it’s time for The United Methodist Church to move boldly forward into the future and elect its first openly gay bishops to the glory of God and for the unfolding of a new future together.