Media Packet

Source files:

Questions and answers:

Q. Who is Bishop Karen Oliveto?

A. Since 2008, Oliveto has served as the senior pastor of Glide Memorial UMC in San Francisco. CA. Glide is the Western Jurisdiction’s largest membership congregation, and one of the top 100 largest membership congregations in the denomination. Prior to Glide, Oliveto served as the associate dean of academic affairs/director of contextual education at the Pacific School of Religion (PSR) in Berkeley. She has held pastorates at Bethany UMC in San Francisco and Bloomville UMC in Bloomville, New York, as well as being the campus minister at the Ecumenical House Campus Ministry at San Francisco State.

Oliveto earned a Ph.D and a M.Phil. from Drew University, a M.Div. from Pacific School of Religion (PSR), and a BA from Drew University.

She has served as a General Conference delegate in 2004 and 2016, and a Jurisdictional Conference delegate in 2000, 2008, and 2012. Oliveto serves on the General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA), the Western Jurisdiction Council of Finance and Administration, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) as a coach for the Lead Women Pastor Project.

For Oliveto's full biographical sketch, click here.

Q. How are bishops in The United Methodist Church selected?

A.  Bishops are elected by the jurisdictional conferences in the United States and by the central conferences in Africa, Europe and the Philippines. The United Methodist Church is divided into five areas in the United States known as jurisdictions: Northeastern, Southeastern, North Central, South Central and Western. Every four years the jurisdictional conferences meet to elect new bishops to serve the denomination. Delegates to the jurisdictional conference are comprised of clergy and laity elected by their annual conferences. Learn more about jurisdictions here.

Q. What is the eligibility of bishops to be elected?

A. Any elder in good standing and in full connection is eligible to be elected a bishop. Nominations or endorsements of individuals are common, but not necessary for election. The number of votes needed to elect a bishop is determined by each jurisdictional and central conference but the church’s Book of Discipline recommends at least 60 percent of those present and voting be necessary to elect. Bishops consecrated at the jurisdictional conferences begin their assignments September 1.

Q. What if a charge is brought against Bishop Karen Oliveto on her election?

A. Bishop Grant Hagiya, president of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops, said during a press conference that "If there are any kinds of administrative, judicial charges coming forward, we will handle them jurisdictionally, follow the process completely to the letter of the law. That's one thing we have to be straight-forward about."

Hagiya added that "If we deem the charges are valid, then we have a jurisdictional team that kicks in for the process as well as supervision. It is confidential."

Q. What is the Western Jurisdiction's stance on inclusion?

A. The various elements of the following vision all move us in the direction of making disciples:

A home for all God’s people, gathered around a table of reconciliation and transformation: the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church is multicultural and inclusive, engaged in the life of its communities, with confident, effective lay and clergy leadership who, in diverse ministry settings, form disciples who live out the Good News of Jesus as global citizens.

Read more of the Western Jurisdiction's Vision Statement.

Q. What is the history of the Western Jurisdiction in terms of full inclusion in the life of the church?

A. The Western Jurisdiction has traditionally been a place of historic first elections. Delegates to the Western Jurisdictional Conference have consistently advocated for full inclusion of all in the life of the church.

The Jurisdiction has elected:

  • The first Asian-American to be elected bishop was Wilbur Choy (Chinese-American) in 1972. He served in the Seattle and San Francisco Episcopal Areas before retirement;
  • The first African-American bishop to be elected in the Western Jurisdiction was Melvin G. Talbert in 1980;
  • The first African-American woman bishop was Leontine T.C. Kelly, elected in 1984;
  • The first Hispanic-American to be elected was Elias Galvan in 1984;
  • Bishop Elias Galvan was the first Hispanic ever to serve as president of the Council of Bishops (in 2001);
  • The first Japanese-American to be elected was Roy Sano in 1984; and,
  • The first Latina bishop was Minerva Carcaño, elected in 2004.

Q. How does this affect the General Conference proposal for the Council of Bishops to provide "A Way Forward" on inclusion in the church?

A. Bishop Hagiya said, "We, in no way, feel that this will derail that process. We are totally committed to the commission's 'Way Forward.'  It is part of what the Council of Bishops has committed to and a vision that we have for the future of the church. Hopefully we will find that way forward, but it's only going to be grounded in God. If we try to do it on our own, we will fail. But if we are following God's lead and truly willing to come to the table in the sense of Christian conferencing and love, I think we will find a way forward – for the whole denomination."

More resources and links:

The Western Jurisdiction website

The United Methodist Church website

Frequently Asked Questions about the Council of Bishops

Council of Bishops: An Offering for A Way Forward

Rev. Brad Laurvick, of Highlands UMC in Denver, created these videos explaining how bishops are elected and assigned