I love documentaries. It all started with watching Frontline’s Dick Cheney’s War and went downhill as streaming got popular in college. Then with the advent of Netflix, a whole spectrum of documentaries was just a click away. During a breakup, I went through a World War II phase because it didn’t remind me of my ex. When I want to get jazzed I like a good sports documentary. If it has to do about women’s rights, I usually tear up and want to burn a bra (just kidding). Music, religion… I love them all.
My favorite documentarian is Ken Burns. He has made the Civil War interesting and Prohibition thrilling. Most of all, I like his documentarian style.
I sat and witnessed the election of the first openly out bishop, Bishop Karen Oliveto, just a few days ago. For the first time in my life, I realized that I was a part of history. I didn’t do it in the comfort of my own home snuggled up with my dog, but was an active observer slash Tweeter.
I saw a qualified woman be elected to the church’s highest office. To step into a role that requires much of any candidate, but even more so as the first out bishop. Bishop Oliveto asked us if we were able and we resoundingly said yes.
All around the room, there were tears of joy. My LGBTQI+ brothers, sisters, and siblings for the first time, could look to the Council of Bishops and know that their voices, their perspectives, their hopes and dreams, and their fears would be heard at the highest levels of our institution.
As I openly wept, I felt hope and possibility for The United Methodist Church. You see, if Ken Burns was directing a documentary (which he should) about the election of Bishop Oliveto and asked me questions about my day leading up, I’d have to explain that mere hours before, I was ready to leave the church.
Friday morning I woke up with this heavy feeling I couldn’t shake. A few actions and conversations in the morning made me think, if we can’t elect the best candidate because of homophobia or because we were scared, how could I stay? (I want to say, all the of candidates were amazing and I later pledged to work for Dottie 2020.) What was holding me to this institution that wasn’t fulfilling God’s call of radical love? For some time, the glue that has held me has been my annual conference and jurisdiction. I feared for the first time that my jurisdiction was going to let me down.
But it didn’t. As each candidate allowed the Spirit to work, we inched closer to an election. Finally it happened and Karen Oliveto made history, really her-story.
As much as I believe that the election of Bishop Oliveto is important, what is more important is what I realized afterwards. We took a huge step forward as a church, to live into the promise.
I believe that we are one step closer to actualizing the Kin-dom of God, maybe two.
Even after the election, many of us gathered together in the hotel bar. Every single time a bishop candidate walked it, we all rose to our feet clapping and whooping. That’s the Western Jurisdiction. We were, we are united, and moving forward, beyond proud to make history.
Some day, probably sooner than later, Bishop Karen Oliveto will have a documentary outlining her life and her call to ordained ministry. We will discover she is more than who she loves, actually, we will discover who she loves, who she walks with, as she lives out her life modeled after Jesus.
I’m just praying Ken Burns makes the documentary.