COVER STORY 5d65413f4cf2b.image.jpg

The Rev. Greg Bramlage, center, prays with participants at a recent healing service. Photo by Rob Kelley

Bishops in the Western Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church have declared a “safe harbor” for LGBTQ people and clergy ahead of punitive new rules scheduled to take effect in 2020.

The Denver Post reports that the regional conferences of the eight westernmost states will not enforce mandatory suspensions for clerics who perform same-sex marriages.

“We do not intend to withhold or challenge ordination based solely on a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation,” said the “safe harbor” declaration, dated Nov. 6. “We are unwilling to punish clergy who celebrate the marriage of two adults of any gender or sexual orientation seeking the blessing of God and the Church for their covenanted life together.”

NPR noted that at its conference in February, church delegates from Africa and Asia largely joined U.S. conservative clerics in voting for the marriage penalties. The margin was a relatively narrow 438 to 384.

In 2016, Karen Oliveto of Greenwood Village became the church’s first openly gay bishop, despite the church’s overall hostility toward ordaining LGBTQ clergy.

“Hundreds of LGBTQ people are serving faithfully around the country, but most are closeted because they have to be,” said Oliveto, who is a signatory to the “safe harbor” declaration, according to The Post.

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