I Corinthians 13:13
According to Paul, “Love never ends.” It is eternal.
In a very real sense, it is love which is on trial as the United Methodist Judicial Council meets in Newark, New Jersey, this week.
Technically, it is about a motion made by Dixie Brewster, a laywoman from Milton, Kansas, and passed by the South Central Jurisdiction, which asks the court to declare invalid the election of Karen Oliveto as a Bishop by the Western Jurisdiction.
The contention of Brewster's petition is that since Bishop Oliveto is married to another woman, Robin Ridenour, she must be considered a “self-avowed practicing homosexual” and therefore in violation of the Book of Discipline and ineligible for election as bishop.
In a Washington Post article, Susan Hogan reports that “The two women greeted one another and shook hands before Tuesday’s hearing.” At a press conference after yesterday’s session, Bishop Oliveto was asked why she had sought out Ms. Brewster. She said that if we cannot love one another and show love for one another, then we are not witnessing for Christ.
In his opening presentation, the Rev. Keith Boyette, an ordained elder in the Virginia Conference and an attorney representing the South Central Jurisdiction, argued that the “nomination, election, consecration, and assignment of Karen Oliveto as bishop” violates church law and is, therefore, “null, void, and of no effect.”
As evidence that Bishop Oliveto was in fact a “self-avowed practicing homosexual,” Rev. Boyette presented a copy of the marriage license of Bishop Oliveto and her wife, Robin Ridenour.
My colleague Will Green, who is attending the hearing, commented eloquently on the use of the marriage license as evidence against Bishop Oliveto.
“This made me remember a conversation I had with Karen years ago when we were talking about performing same-sex weddings. She told me that out of all the weddings she has ever performed, she has noticed that the only couples who have copies of their marriage license framed and hanging up in their homes are all same-sex couples. This is a reminder that the ministry we have to offer is more valuable and beautiful than we can ever realize. She encouraged me to feel joy in performing weddings of same-sex couples because people who have had to fight and suffer to be able to celebrate their love are people it should be a special honor to minister to.
“Knowing that Karen & Robin's wedding license was being submitted to the Judicial Council as ‘exhibit 1’ made it clearer than ever that this church treats our love as nothing more than evidence to be used against us.”
This tells you everything you need to know about the case. If love is used as the evidence against Bishop Oliveto, then it is easy to see which side we need to be on.
In conversation with a group of friends, I was talking about the argument brought by Rev. Boyette and the South Central Jurisdiction, that marriage is a romantic relationship and therefore a marriage between two women is evidence that they are “practicing” homosexuals. A recently divorced woman laughed ruefully. “Marriage isn’t always romantic,” she said. “And I can tell you about a celibate marriage.”
We laughed with her, but we also felt her pain.
A marriage license tells us that two people are married. It doesn’t tell us anything about their relationship. We may hope that being married would be much more than a legal contract, but we cannot know that.
My hope for Robin Ridenour and Karen Oliveto, and for every other couple, is that they are head over heels in love with each other. That they love each other deeply, intellectually, spiritually, physically, and emotionally.
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