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To the people called Methodists within the Mountain Sky Area:
Grace and Peace to you in the name of our Risen Savior, Jesus. In this season of new life, we look upon the Mountain Sky Area with great hope as God’s Spirit is creating Beloved Community in our midst. Yet Resurrection does not mean the end of all challenges for God’s church.
We write to keep you informed of an important matter involving the Mountain Sky Area and our United Methodist Church. We believe it is important to keep the people of the Mountain Sky Area apprised of developments in the questions raised over Bishop Oliveto’s election last July.
Immediately after the Western Jurisdictional Conference’s episcopal election concluded, the South Central Jurisdictional Conference asked our denomination’s top court, the Judicial Council, for a declaratory decision on the validity of the election. The Judicial Council will hear arguments in the matter when it meets in Newark, New Jersey, on April 25, with a ruling expected within days. This process is outlined in our Book of Discipline.
As the Joint Cabinet of the Mountain Sky Area and the Lay Leaders of the Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain Conferences, we believe that Bishop Oliveto’s election is valid. It is our prayer that the Judicial Council will confirm this position. Nonetheless, we know there are several potential outcomes. We know the ruling will have implications for the entire denomination, but as Bishop Oliveto is our episcopal leader, we will be affected most.
Accompanying this letter is an information sheet prepared by Western Jurisdiction and Mountain Sky leaders for distribution in our churches. We ask pastors and church leaders to make this letter and the accompanying material available to congregations as soon as possible. After the ruling, we will provide more information and guidance for our churches and leaders.
No matter what the decision is, we know some among us will not agree. Some will feel hurt. Some will feel distanced from the church. That is why we must be in prayer for one another and for our church. In addition, we ask you to pray for Bishop Oliveto, the Cabinet, our conference leaders, members of the Judicial Council, and all who will participate in the hearing on April 25.
We do not believe agreement, even on major issues like this, has ever been a requirement for loving each other and remaining one family in Christ Jesus who, in the week of his death and resurrection, prayed that we may be one (John 17:21).
Although the Council’s decision could have significant implications on our life together, we have faith that the Resurrection of Jesus is what most determines our future. The United Methodist Church, and its predecessors, have faced many challenges and disagreements in the past and has lived to witness to the grace of God in Jesus Christ through our distinctive Wesleyan voice we offer the world. We know God will see us through this time as well.
Yours in Christ,
Melanie Rosa, Dean of The Rocky Mountain Cabinet
Jeff Rainwater, Dean of The Yellowstone Cabinet
Don McCammon, Lay Leader of the Yellowstone Conference
Margaret Hotze, Co-Lay Leader of The Rocky Mountain Conference
Kunle Taiwo, Co-Lay Leader of The Rocky Mountain Conference