A United Methodist Church bishop is set to face a church trial in August, though the charges against her have not been made public at this time.
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño — who has been in ordained ministry for nearly five decades — has been suspended from her duties in the UMC’s Western Jurisdiction for more than a year as she faces five charges under the church’s Book of Discipline Paragraph 2703.1. The trial is set for Aug. 21 to 25.
The jurisdiction’s leadership has declined to say what the charges against the bishop are. The relevant passage from the Book of Discipline reads:
¶ 2702. 1. A bishop, clergy member of an annual conference (¶ 370), local pastor,9 clergy on honorable or administrative location, or diaconal minister may be tried when charged (subject to the statute of limitations in (¶ 2702.4)10 with one or more of the following offenses: (a) immorality including but not limited to, not being celibate in singleness or not faithful in a heterosexual marriage;11 (b) practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings,12 including but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual; or conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies;13 (c) crime; (d) disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church; (e) dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrine of The United Methodist Church; (f) relationships and/or behavior that undermines the ministry of another pastor;14 (g) child abuse;15 (h) sexual abuse;16 i) sexual misconduct15 including the use or possession of pornography, (j) harassment, including, but not limited to racial and/or sexual harassment; (k) racial or gender discrimination; or (l) fiscal malfeasance.
Similar to civil and criminal law, the United Methodist Church’s judicial review process assumes that all people who are charged are innocent until proven guilty.
Carcaño was elected a bishop in 2004. Known for her advocacy for vulnerable communities, for serving on the boards of numerous UMC agencies, and for calling for the full inclusion of LGBTQI+ people in United Methodist life, she is the UMC’s first Latina bishop. Carcaño has served as the leader of the Desert Southwest, California-Pacific, and the California-Nevada regional conferences.
In her time in the clergy, Carcaño also worked on a task force that helped revise the Book of Discipline and served on the committee that ultimately released the Spanish-language “Mil Voces Para Celebrar” hymnal.
“She has been a key voice in a critical time in the life of The United Methodist Church,” said the Rev. Lyssette N. Perez, a United Methodist pastor in New Jersey and president of MARCHA (Methodists Associated Representing the Cause of Hispanic/Latino Americans). The denomination’s Hispanic and Latino caucus has repeatedly urged Carcaño’s reinstatement.
“Bishop Carcaño understands the struggle of marginalized communities, and this is why she has been an advocate for full inclusion in the church and a prophetic voice in claiming the rights for immigrants and refugees.”
While she has not spoken about the charges, Carcaño told UM News that the UMC has played a significant role in her life. The child of farmworkers based in Hidalgo County, Texas, is a third-generation Methodist. Her father first came to the United States through the U.S. Bracero Program — which ran for approximately a decade as the government sought to address farm labor shortages — and later became a U.S. citizen.
“I would like people to know that God used the Methodist Church to save my family from poverty, from the impact of racism and its inequity and as a way forward for so many of us to have a better life,” she said, choking up. “The church opened so many doors for me that I will be forever grateful for. It gave me a different life.”
The bishop’s mother was a natural-born U.S. citizen whose family were Methodists. The family, including the future bishop, attended El Buen Pastor (The Good Shepherd) United Methodist Church in Edinburg, Texas. UM News continues:
Her earliest memory was of joining with her father and younger sister in decorating the church’s Christmas tree. As her father erected the tree, she said, he told his daughters about how God sent baby Jesus because God loved humanity so much.
“We were both kind of upset that baby Jesus had been born in this stable because we were farm girls and knew what that meant,” Carcaño recalled. “We knew how that smelled.”
But then her father turned on the lights of the Christmas tree in the darkened sanctuary, and she said it was the most beautiful sight she had ever seen.
“I remember thinking as a little girl, ‘God does love us,’” she said.
Carcaño’s suspension was announced on March 9, 2022. Even though she is not allowed to attend UMC meetings or do church work, she has continued to work with nonprofits outside the church, the California Endowment — a health foundation — and the Industrial Areas Foundation, a community organizing group. She also continues to work as an advocate for immigrants.
“I am asked for prayers; I am asked for counseling; I am respected and treated as a member of the board and as someone who can bring comfort,” she said of this work. “I’ve been welcomed and have found a place that feels like ministry, that feels like people committed to justice.”
Western Jurisdiction leaders see no problem with her continued leadership of these foundations.
“Neither of these organizations were involved in the complaints,” said California-Pacific Bishop Dottie Escobedo-Frank and the Rev. Dan Hurlbert in a joint email.
Since her suspension, the bishop has been virtually attending an Episcopal church where she knows the pastor.
Still, she wants to serve The United Methodist Church. Because of her age, she faces mandatory retirement next year no matter how her case resolves.
“I hope for the opportunity to complete my active ministry,” she said. “And I hope for the opportunity to continue to serve The United Methodist Church in retirement.”
Read the full UM News story here.
Photo: United Methodist Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño speaks at the UMC’s 2008 General Conference. (UNITED METHODOST NEWS SERVICE/CCA-SA 2.0-Generic)