A United Methodist Church pastor filed a complaint earlier this month against a regional body's leadership for electing an openly gay bishop, which violates the denomination's stance on homosexuality.
The complaint, filed by South Carolina pastor Rev. W. Timothy McClendon of St. John's United Methodist Church, takes issue with the recent election of Cedric Bridgeforth as bishop and the election of Karen Oliveto as bishop in 2016 by the same regional body. Both Bridgeforth and Oliveto are openly gay.
According to McClendon, electing openly gay bishops undermines "all United Methodist clergy who uphold the highest ideals of the Christian life" and "sends a confusing message about the meaning of marriage to the community and potential parishioners."
He also warned that such decisions increase "the likelihood of further fracturing of the denomination," as recently seen by the large number of churches voting to leave the UMC because of its continued debate on same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay clergy.
As of Tuesday, about 964 people signed onto McClendon's complaint against the Western Jurisdiction bishops in agreement with him.
Earlier this month, the Western Jurisdiction elected the Rev. Cedrick D. Bridgeforth of the California-Pacific Conference as a bishop in their regional body.
According to The Christian Post, the decision makes Bridgeforth the first openly gay African American bishop in the UMC. He was elected on the 18th ballot, receiving 73 out of 93 valid votes cast.
"It's in the Church where I have found purpose, even when I felt like it was chewing me up and spitting me out, I still couldn't let it go," Bridgeforth said following the regional body's decision.
"It wasn't about the institution; it wasn't about its rules or its regulations. It was about the call of God upon my life, to be bigger, to be better, to open doors where possible and to chart new ground where we have to."
The UMC's Book of Discipline, however, prohibits the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” into leadership roles such as bishop since their lifestyle “is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
In 2016, Karen Oliveto became the first openly gay bishop in UMC history after the Western Jurisdiction unanimously elected her as bishop of the UMC Mountain Sky Area. Oliveto remains in office to this day despite the United Methodist Judicial Council – the highest court of the UMC – rendering her election invalid in 2017.
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.