DENVER – New United Methodist Bishop Karen Oliveto will make her first local preaching appearance as she helps Park Hill United Methodist Church celebrate its 106th anniversary on Sunday Sept. 11, 2016 at 10 a.m.
Bishop Oliveto’s four-year term as bishop of the Mountain Sky Area, based in Greenwood Village, outside of Denver, began on Sept. 1. Her preaching will be a historic, groundbreaking milestone for a congregation rooted in Denver’s Park Hill community.
The congregation has long been a voice for Christian social justice in Denver and throughout the Rocky Mountain (regional) Conference.
Bishop Oliveto’s appearance is in keeping with the church’s anniversary theme, “A Rich Past and Fantastic Future.” Bishop Oliveto is the first openly lesbian bishop in the United Methodist Church. She was elected bishop in July after serving as pastor of the historic, 12,000-member Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco.
She will join a historic group of groundbreaking persons to speak at Park Hill UMC. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has preached in the church, along with Andrew Young, Carlotta LaNier (one of the Little Rock Nine who is now a member of Park Hill UMC), Dr. Vincent Harding, and the Rev. Gil Caldwell who became Park Hill UMC’s first African American Pastor from 1997-2001.
The church rose in prominence in 1961 when under the leadership of Rev. Carlton Babbs, Park Hill Methodist Episcopal Church, now Park Hill United Methodist Church, became an integrated multi-racial/multi-cultural church as it strove to become a “Beloved Community.”
Years, later, led by Elinor Lewallen, Park Hill has become is a leader on LGBTQ issues in the community and the broader United Methodist Church. She is one of the founders of Colorado PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). In February, Park Hill members voted to become a Reconciling Congregation, a growing nationwide movement within the United Methodist Church to promote full inclusion of LGBTQ persons into all aspects of the United Methodist Church.
Bishop Oliveto is one of 66 active United Methodist bishops around the world. In addition to the Rocky Mountain Conference, the Mountain Sky Episcopal Area includes the Yellowstone (regional) Conference. She is responsible for 400 congregations in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, and a small portion of Idaho.