Karen Oliveto

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Karen Oliveto
Resident Bishop, Mountain Sky Episcopal Area
ChurchUnited Methodist Church
DioceseYellowstone Annual Conference and Rocky Mountain Annual Conference
In officeJuly 1, 2016 – present
Personal details
Previous postSenior Pastor, Glide Memorial UMC

Karen Oliveto (born April 4, 1958)[1] is the first openly lesbian bishop to be elected in the United Methodist Church. She was elected bishop on the night of July 15, 2016, at the Western Jurisdictional conference.[2] Her four-year term of service began September 1, 2016 and she currently serves as the bishop of both the UMC's Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone Conferences;[3][4] she was officially installed on September 24.[5] At the time of her election, she was the senior pastor of Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco.[6] Oliveto is married to Robin Ridenour, who is a deaconess in The United Methodist Church's California-Nevada Conference.[2]


Originally from Long Island, NY. She was born on Good Friday (April 4, 1958) and raised in West Babylon, which is on the South Shore of Long Island.[7] She grew up in the Babylon United Methodist Church (NY) and had her call to ministry at the age of 11.[8] She preached her first sermon at 16 and began working as a student pastor when she was 18.[9]

She has served parish and campus ministries in rural and urban settings in both NY and California.[10] In 2004, she performed the first legal same-gender marriage held in a United Methodist Church[11][12] during SF’s “Winter of Love”.[13] She has served as the associate dean of academic affairs at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, where she also taught United Methodist History/Doctrine/Polity and Evangelism as adjunct professor for 12 years.

She was the senior pastor of the 12,000 member Glide Memorial UMC for 8 years, becoming the first woman to lead one of the UMC’s top 100 largest membership churches.[14][15]


Oliveto is a graduate of Pacific School of Religion (MDiv, 1983) and Drew University, where she received a Ph.D. in Religion and Society in 2002 as well as a BA (cum laude) Psychology, 1980 as well as a MPhil, 1991[16][17] Her PhD is in Religion and Society. Her dissertation topic was: "Movements of Reform, Movements of Resistance: Homosexuality and The United Methodist Church. A Case Study"[18]

Status as Bishop[edit]

On April 28, 2017, The United Methodist Church's high court ruled 6-3 that while her lesbian status was in violation of the Church's policies governed by the Book of Discipline, she could still retain her position as Bishop and the Church's Western Jurisdiction would handle the matter.[19] The Judicial Council also ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to review her nomination, election, or assignment.[20]

Personal life[edit]

Married to Robin Ridenour, who is a deaconess in The United Methodist Church. The two met when they were volunteers at a Junior High Church Camp. They began dating in 1999 and were married in 2014.[21][22]

Ordained Ministry[edit]

Pastor, Bloomville UMC, Bloomville, NY 1983-1986

Campus Minister Ecumenical House Campus Ministry, San Francisco State 1989-1992

Pastor Bethany UMC, San Francisco 1992-2004

Associate Dean of Academic Affairs/Director of Contextual Education, Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, CA 2004-2008

Adjunct Professor of United Methodist Studies at Pacific School of Religion, 2004-2016

Adjunct Professor, DMin program at Drew University, teaching "Prophetic Leadership in Congregation and Community" 2012

Adjunct Professor of Practical Theology, Brite Divinity School (TX), teaching "Evangelism in Methodist History and Practice", 2015

Senior Pastor. Glide Memorial Church, San Francisco. 2008-2016

Resident Bishop of the Mountain Sky Area of The United Methodist Church, 2016–present



  1. ^ Communications, United Methodist. "Bishop Karen Oliveto - The United Methodist Church". The United Methodist Church.
  2. ^ a b Communications, United Methodist. "Western Jurisdiction elects openly gay United Methodist bishop - The United Methodist Church". The United Methodist Church.
  3. ^ River, Brick. "Bishop". www.rmcumc.org.
  4. ^ "Bishop". www.yacumc.org.
  5. ^ Church, Rocky Mountain Conference of The United Methodist. "Installation Service for Bishop Karen Oliveto - 24/09/2016". Evensi.
  6. ^ "United Methodist Church Elects First Openly Gay Bishop, In Defiance Of Church Rules".
  7. ^ "West Babylon New York - West Babylon LongIsland.com". www.longisland.com. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  8. ^ "United Methodists approve first openly gay bishop". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  9. ^ "News". www.cnumc.org. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  10. ^ "In Memory of Lizzie Glide, A Church Honors Her Mission". wordpress.com. 31 March 2014. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  11. ^ "Pastor faces complaint for performing gay marriages". archives.umc.org. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  12. ^ "Reconciling Ministries Network". web.archive.org. 23 October 2004. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  13. ^ "SF celebrated the 'Winter of Love' 14 years ago". ABC7 San Francisco. 12 February 2018. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  14. ^ https://www.rmcumc.org/files/content/communications/mountain+sky+area/bishop+karen+oliveto+official+bio+2016.pdf
  15. ^ Goodstein, Laurie (28 April 2017). "Methodist High Court Rejects First Openly Gay Bishop’s Consecration". Retrieved 25 January 2019 – via NYTimes.com.
  16. ^ "Executive Leadership - GLIDE". web.archive.org. 23 March 2016. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  17. ^ a b "Bishop Karen Oliveto - The United Methodist Church". web.archive.org. 11 September 2016. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  18. ^ "Movements of reform and movements of resistance [microform] : homosexuality and the United Methodist Church : a case study /". ResearchGate. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  19. ^ "Karen Oliveto, first openly gay bishop, in violation of Methodist church law, court says".
  20. ^ Communications, United Methodist. "Commentary: Attorney on confusion over Oliveto's status - The United Methodist Church". The United Methodist Church. Retrieved 2017-05-09.
  21. ^ Miller, Emily McFarlan (20 July 2016). "First Openly LGBT United Methodist Bishop: 'This Is the Time'". Sojourners. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  22. ^ "Married lesbian consecrated United Methodist bishop". United Methodist News Service. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  23. ^ "Distinguished Alumni/ae - Pacific School of Religion". web.archive.org. 8 January 2019. Retrieved 25 January 2019.
  24. ^ https://calnev-email.brtapp.com/files/pdf_documents/instant_connection/karen+oliveto+bio.pdf

External links[edit]