Story submitted by the Rev. Dr. Don Messer | Photos by the Rev. Bill Moore
Association of Retired Clergy
Rocky Mountain Conference of The United Methodist Church
More than 100 retired United Methodist clergy of the Rocky Mountain Conference of The United Methodist Church announced their enthusiastic and unwavering support for Bishop Karen Oliveto and their appreciation for her exceptional leadership as their spiritual leader.
The United Methodist Association of Retired Clergy (ARC) of the Rocky Mountain Conference formed in response to the complicated 19-page ruling of the United Methodist Judicial Council on whether an openly gay clergyperson can serve as a bishop. The group held its first meeting May 8 at University Park United Methodist Church in Denver.
The new ARC group has affirmed its understanding that Bishop Karen Oliveto has been duly nominated, elected, consecrated, and assigned to the Mountain Sky Area of The United Methodist Church (400 congregations in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Montana and one church in Idaho). Its members agree with the five western United Methodist bishops in their goal "for a United Methodist Church that is multicultural and inclusive."
During its first meeting, members elected as chairperson the Rev. Dr. Don Messer, president emeritus of Denver’s Iliff School of Theology, author of 16 books, and currently executive director of the Center for Health and Hope.
Messer said that in the last week, he had contacted retired United Methodist pastors who have served in the Rocky Mountain region. "Too often retired clergy feel placed on the retirement shelf," Messer said. "But they eagerly jumped off to signal their unwavering support of our Bishop, ARC and its vision of an inclusive church."
Messer said that vision included a commitment "to stand in solidarity with LGBTQ laity, clergy, and candidates for ministry, speaking and working to ensure the dignity and safety of all persons in church and society."
Other officers elected were Rev. Dr Harvey Martz, former senior pastor of St. Andrew UMC in Highlands Ranch as vice chairperson, Rev. Marilyn McGraw, former pastor of Phillips UMC in Denver, and Rev. Greg Young, former pastor of Christ Church United Methodist in Denver.
Steering committee members include Rev. Betty Bradford, former pastor of Lakewood UMC, Rev. Doug Slaughter, former pastor of Litteton UMC, Rev. Dr.Janet Forbes, former pastor of St. Luke's UMC in Highlands Ranch; Rev. Marla Kauerz, former pastor at Hope UMC in Greenwood Village, and Rev. David Ferguson, former pastor at Good Shepherd UMC in Thornton.
Martz noted that “Bishop Oliveto brings great spiritual depth to her demanding role as our episcopal leader. She brings diverse experience, passion, a pastoral spirit, and unique leadership gifts to her role as our Bishop, and we are excited about her presence with us.”
She has served in a variety of congregations as well as on a seminary staff. Her most recent role before her election as bishop was senior pastor of Glide Memorial UMC in San Francisco, a congregation of 11,000 members and one of the flagship churches for United Methodism in the U.S. and which was featured in the film "The Pursuit of Happyness."
Martz underscored that “She has been properly nominated, unanimously elected, duly consecrated, and appropriately assigned to our area. We retired clergy unequivocally support her leadership.”
The Rocky Mountain Conference ARC officers believe that there will be other groups of retired United Methodist pastors across the denomination who will organize to advocate for a church that is fully inclusive of all persons regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, economic condition, or sexual orientation.
An upcoming role of this new United Methodist ARC group will be at the June Rocky Mountain Annual Conference meeting in Denver of 800 lay persons and pastors from a three-state area where the ARC leaders will be present to listen, interpret, and advocate for full inclusion in United Methodism.
Bishop Karen Oliveto, upon hearing about the formation of the retired pastor group, said, "I am so excited about the organizing of the retired clergy. They have served the church faithfully as pastors, professors, chaplains, and in so many other ways. They continue to faithfully serve as they offer their wisdom and hope to our area. May God bless their efforts and the partnership we share as we live into beloved community."
For more information about ARC, contact the Rev. Dr. Don Messer at firstname.lastname@example.org
or 303 877-1955; or the Rev. Dr. Harvey C Martz at email@example.com