Skip to main content

Review: Our Strangely Warmed Hearts by Bishop Karen P. Oliveto

I was excited to receive a copy of Bishop Karen Oliveto's new book, Our Strangely Warmed Hearts: Coming Out Into God's Call for review. Without reading the back cover, I was expecting a book that told her story of ministry. Instead, this book is half a history lesson - of the gay liberation movement, and The United Methodist Church and homosexuality - and half a collection of stories of many others who are LGBTQ United Methodists. 

Some of the history Bishop Oliveto shared was familiar to me, but some things were totally new to me, like the "Council on Religion and the Homosexual," which, using denominational funds from The Methodist Church in the 1960s, worked together with "homophile organizations and church leaders" and developed goals and purposes that were so forward thinking. (25-26) Oliveto quotes founder and former executive director of the Reconciling Congregation Program Mark Bowman: "We have some sense of history. We know that when the church has excluded people on moral grounds, eventually God has opened the church doors again." (33) May it be so! "Eventually" can be such a long wait though! Section 1 wraps up with a brief page on the (then anticipated) work of the Commission on a Way Forward, and a short mention of the author herself: "On July 15, 2016, the Western Jurisdiction elected Karen Oliveto, the author of this book, to the episcopacy by a vote of 88-0." (64) Coming after a long section of the painful, harmful history of The UMC in excluding LGBTQ persons consistently, systematically, increasingly, the sentence is a bright spot of hope. 

The real star of this book is the second section, the narrative stories, first person stories from LGBTQ voices. What amazes me, knocks me off my feet, is that there is story after story of God's grace, of the (sometimes literally) life-saving work of Jesus at work in these folks' stories through The United Methodist Church in spite of all the ways we have done warm to these lives through that same institution. How incredible, and what a sign of the power of God to persist and find a way through all the barriers we erect! I am so humbled by these stories. And so moved by the stories of spaces and places of welcome even in the midst of a church whose official polity says "not compatible." These stories are miraculous, truly. 

Some standouts: "My queer identity calls me to connect the dots because breaking the  chains of oppression for one group of people is inextricably linked with the liberation of all." (Israel Alvaran, 96)

"I looked around at this stadium full of beautiful people that I have shared in ministry with, who affirmed me, and I knew that with one sentence most of them would have a completely different attitude toward me." (Rose, 124)

"I cannot fight all battles, but God is not calling me to; God is calling me to follow, to love, and to serve so that the church can make justice happen, and feast together at the banquet God prepares for our weary souls. Thanks be to God." (Rose, 125)

And from Bishop Oliveto's final wrap up: "This [exclusion of LGBTQ persons] comes at a high price ... the body of Christ is fractured. And lives are literally lost ... The saddest pastoral call I have ever received was from a gay man who asked me to 'unbaptize' him, because he had heard the stance of The UMC regarding LGBTQ people and felt he was no longer worthy of God's love and claim on his life." (127) 

I definitely recommend you give this book a read. 


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

re-post: devotional life for progressive Christians

I posted this a while back before anyone was really reading this blog. Now that more people seem to be stopping by, I thought I'd put it out there again with some edits/additons since it's been on my mind again... Do you find it difficult to have any sort of devotional time? When I was growing up, I was almost compulsive about my personal Bible Study, devotion time, etc. Somewhere along the way, I got more and more sporadic. In part, I found myself frustrated with the devotional books that I considered theologically too conservative. I find it hard to bond with God when you're busy mentally disagreeing with the author of whatever resource you're reading. My habit was broken, and I've never gotten it back for more than a few weeks at a time. So, a disciplined devotional/prayer/bible-reading life - is it something I should be striving to get back, or something that is filled by other ways I am close to God? This is a debate I have with myself all the time. On the

Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent, "Hope: A Thrill of Hope," Mark 1:1-8

Sermon 11/26/17 Mark 1:1-8 Hope: A Thrill of Hope             Are you a pessimist or an optimist? Is the glass of life half empty, or half full? My mom and I have gone back and forth about this a bit over the years. She’s wildly optimistic about most things, and sometimes I would say her optimism, her hopefulness borders on the irrational. If the weather forecast says there’s a 70% chance of a snowstorm coming, my mom will focus very seriously on that 30% chance that it is going to be a nice day after all. I, meanwhile, will begin adjusting my travel plans and making a backup plan for the day. My mom says I’m a pessimist, but I would argue that I’m simply a realist , trying to prepare for the thing that is most likely to happen, whether I like that thing or not. My mom, however, says she doesn’t want to be disappointed twice, both by thinking something bad is going to happen, and then by having the bad thing actually happen. She’d rather be hopeful, and enjoy her state of

Sermon for Second Sunday in Advent, "Peace: All Is Calm, All Is Bright," Isaiah 11:1-10, Mark 13:24-37

Sermon 12/3/17 Mark 13:24-37, Isaiah 11:1-10 Peace: All Is Calm, All Is Bright             “Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright. Round yon’ virgin mother and child. Holy infant, so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace.”             This week, I read news stories about North Korea testing a missile that perhaps could reach across the whole of the United States.             This week, I spoke with a colleague in ministry who had, like all churches in our conference, received from our church insurance company information about how to respond in an active shooter situation. She was trying to figure out how to respond to anxious parishioners and yet not get caught up in spending all of their ministry time on creating safety plans.             This week, we’ve continued to hear stories from people who have experienced sexual assault and harassment, as the actions, sometimes over decades, of men in positions of power have been