Karen Oliveto didn’t grow up in a religious family, but as a kid she fell in love with Sunday school.  She loved learning the stories from the bible, and she’d wake her mom every Sunday to take her and her siblings to church. Before long she knew she wanted to be a pastor, and gave her first sermon when she was 16. 

Karen Oliveto and Robin Ridenour at the Alive Now church camp in Sierra Nevada, California, circa 1993.
Courtesy of Karen Oliveto.

But during her first year of seminary, Karen realized she was a lesbian. Despite the United Methodist Church’s view at the time—that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachings—she persisted. And in 2016, Karen was elected to be the first openly gay bishop of the United Methodist Church.

She came to StoryCorps with her wife, Robin Ridenour.

 Robin Ridenour and Karen Oliveto at a church in Sacramento in 2016. Courtesy of Karen Oliveto.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired  June 6, 2024  on NPR’s Morning Edition.