A group of more than 70 United Methodist clergy and laity is asking the Council of Bishops to censure retired Bishop Melvin Talbert for encouraging UM clergy to disobey the Book of Discipline’s prohibition on officiating at homosexual-union ceremonies.
The request came in a July 19 open letter (reproduced below) sent to each bishop. That letter was released publicly last week.
The Discipline notes that sexual relationships between two people of the same sex are “incompatible with Christian teaching” (¶161F) and it prohibits clergy from officiating at union ceremonies that solemnize a relationship between two men or two women (¶2702.1).
At a May 4, 2012, gathering in Tampa, Fla., held on the final day of the United Methodist Church’s quadrennial General Conference, Bishop Talbert said existing UM standards on human sexuality are “immoral and unjust and no longer deserve our loyalty and obedience.” His remarks came two days after the General Conference voted to maintain the UMC’s long-held position on homosexuality.
Bishop Talbert urged clergy who had previously committed to perform union ceremonies for homosexual couples “to stand firm in their resolve to perform marriages among…same-sex couples.” Doing so, he noted, would involve “defying the [church] laws that prohibit them from doing so.” He also called on local UM churches to host such ceremonies, an action also proscribed by the UMC’s Book of Discipline.
Although 14 other UM bishops were in attendance as he spoke, Bishop Talbert said he was not speaking on their behalf or as a representative of the Council of Bishops.
The July 19 letter asking that Bishop Talbert be censured is below, along with audio of Bishop Talbert’s May 4 address. Some links below have been added by MethodistThinker.com — Ed.
July 19, 2012
Dear Bishop ________________ ,
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ! We uphold you in our prayers for the important work that God has entrusted to you on behalf of His church.
We are compelled to write this open letter to you out of deep love for The United Methodist Church. Our unity is once more challenged by the remarks of one of your number and we ask that you take appropriate action to respond.
According to the websites of Methodists In New Directions and the Reconciling Ministries Network, Bishop Melvin Talbert made the following comments on May 4, 2012, at the Love Your Neighbor Tabernacle in Tampa, Florida:
The derogatory rules and restrictions in the Book of Discipline are immoral and unjust and no longer deserve our loyalty and obedience. Thus the time has come for those of us who are faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ to do what is required of us….
The time has come to join in an act of Biblical obedience. I call on the more than 1,100 clergy [who have signed marriage initiatives] to stand firm in their resolve to perform marriages for same-sex couples and to do so in the course of their normal pastoral duties, thus defying the laws that prohibit them from doing so….
The time for talking is over. It’s time for us to act in defiance of unjust words of immoral and derogatory discrimination and laws that are doing harm to our GLBT [gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered] sisters and brothers.
The Reconciling Ministries Network reports that standing with Bishop Talbert were retired Bishops Judy Craig, Violet Fisher, Elias Galvan, Susan Hassinger, Don Ott, Sharon Rader, Roy Sano, and Jack Tuell; and active Bishops Warner Brown, Sally Dyck, Grant Hagiya, Bob Hoshibata, John Schol, and Mary Ann Swenson.
|Each bishop of The United Methodist Church has agreed to live within the covenant defined by our Book of Discipline. Each bishop is charged in the Book of Discipline “to uphold the discipline and order of the Church.”||
We are deeply concerned that Bishop Talbert has undercut that very discipline and order, by encouraging dissension, disunity and disobedience, and advocating anarchy and chaos in response to the actions of the 2012 General Conference, taken after focused prayer, study, and holy conferencing.
Sadly, Bishop Talbert reiterated his call for UM pastors to disobey the Book of Discipline and pledged to do so himself, if given the opportunity, when he preached at the ordination service [PDF] on June 16 at the California-Pacific Annual Conference.
By their action in standing with Bishop Talbert as he made his statement at the Love Your Neighbor Tabernacle, the other bishops appear to have lent their credibility and influence to his call for disobedience.
We have corresponded with all the bishops who stood with Bishop Talbert and received replies from most of them. Some did not know ahead of time what Bishop Talbert was going to say and do not support his call for disobedience. Others did know and do support that call. Without a public statement clarifying where those bishops stand, however, it appears to our church that all were supportive.
In its November 10, 2011 letter [PDF] to United Methodist Sisters and Brothers in Christ, this Council of Bishops declared:
At times like these we call upon each other to remember and renew our covenant with God and with one another as United Methodist Christians. As bishops chosen, consecrated and assigned by the Church, we declare once again our commitment to be faithful to this covenant we have made. As the Council of Bishops we will uphold the Book of Discipline as established by General Conference.
The actions of Bishop Talbert specifically, and any of those retired and active bishops who stood with him, knowing what he was prepared to say, directly contravene this commitment made by the Council of Bishops as a whole. We commend the commitment of the Council of Bishops to be intentional in holding one another mutually accountable to the office and responsibilities of bishops as outlined in our Book of Discipline.
Now is the time for you to demonstrate your commitment by acting to hold these who have been disobedient to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church accountable for their inflammatory actions. We ask that:
We acknowledge that these are challenging days in The United Methodist Church. We affirm our commitment to the Book of Discipline, including its statement “that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the Church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self.”
We fully support the Discipline’s affirmation [in ¶ 161F] “that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.”
We will continue to uphold you in prayer. We will continue to work together to preserve the unity and integrity of The United Methodist Church, and to make disciples for the transformation of the world.
We look forward to the actions you will take in response to this open letter.
Yours in Christ,
The Rev. Ed Robb III, The Woodlands UMC, The Woodlands, Texas
The Rev. Thom Abrahamson, Armona UMC & Lemoore UMC, Lemoore, Calif.
The Rev. John Allen, Flower Mound Trietsch Memorial UMC, Flower Mound, Texas
The Rev. Scott Allred, Aldersgate UMC, Chico, Calif.
Turner Arant, Confessing Movement Board, Sunflower, Miss.
The Rev. Larry Baird, Trinity UMC, President of Confessing Movement Board, Grand Island, N.Y.
The Rev. Richard Bayard, Retired Elder, Visalia, Calif.
The Rev. Bill Bouknight, Associate Director, Confessing Movement, Columbia, S.C.
The Rev. Keith Boyette, Wilderness Community UMC, Chair of Good News Board, Spotsylvania, Va.
The Rev. James Buskirk, Confessing Movement Board, Tulsa, Okla.
The Rev. Riley Case, Associate Director, Confessing Movement, Kokomo, Ind.
The Rev. Bryan Collier, The Orchard UMC, Tupelo, Miss.
The Rev. Robert Collins, Jr., Centenary UMC, Modesto, Calif.
Robert Draper, Good News Board, Hot Springs, Ark.
The Rev. Maxie Dunnam, Confessing Movement Board, Memphis, Tenn.
Mickey Ellis, Confessing Movement Board, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Charles Ferrara, New Life Community Church UMC, New Fairfield, Conn.
The Rev. Scott Field, Wheatland Salem UMC, Good News Board, Naperville, Ill.
The Rev. John Gerlach, Trinity UMC, Windsor, Conn.
The Rev. Robert Gorrell, Church of the Servant, Oklahoma City, Okla.
Judy Graham, Confessing Movement Board, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Ronald Greilich, Elder, Retired, Clovis, Calif.
The Rev. John Grenfell, Jr., Good News Board, Fort Gratiot, Mich.
The Rev. Randall Hageman, Gateway Community UM Congregation, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Rick Hanse, West Hartford UMC, West Hartford, Conn.
The Rev. Chet Harris, Dueber UMC, Canton, Ohio
The Rev. Tom Harrison, Asbury UMC, Tulsa, Okla.
The Rev. Matthew Hartsfield, Van Dyke UMC, Tampa, Fla.
The Rev. Tony Holifield, Central UMC, Fayetteville, Ark.
The Rev. Godfrey Hubert, Foundry UMC, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Kent Jackson, Branford UMC, Branford, Conn.
Tom Junk, Confessing Movement Board, Tulsa, Okla.
Joe Kilpatrick, Confessing Movement Board, Tucker, Ga.
The Rev. Chong IL Kim, Bible UMC of New York, Dix Hills, N.Y.
Katy Kiser, Good News Board, Carrollton, Texas
The Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, Vice President, Good News, Spring, Texas
The Rev. Charles Kyker, Christ UMC, Confessing Movement Board, Hickory, N.C.
The Rev. James Leggett, Grace Fellowship UMC, Katy, Texas
The Rev. Kenneth Levingston, Jones Memorial UMC, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Joseph MacLaren, University Carillon UMC, Oviedo, Fla.
The Rev. David Mantz, First UMC, Port Jefferson, N.Y.
The Rev. Jim Martin, The River UMC, Richmond, Texas
The Rev. John Ed Mathison, Confessing Movement Board, Montgomery, Ala.
The Rev. Gregory McGarvey, Carmel UMC, Confessing Movement Board, Carmel, Ind.
The Rev. Randell Mickler, Mt. Bethel UMC, Marietta, Ga.
Dan Moore, Confessing Movement Board, Martinsville, Ind.
The Rev. Delroy Murdock, St. Paul’s UMC, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Norman Neel, Good News Board, San Augustine, Texas
The Rev. Allen Newton, St. James UMC, Montgomery, Ala.
The Rev. Randy Paige, Christ Church United Methodist, Port Jefferson Station, N.Y.
The Rev. James Presig, Lee’s Summit UMC, Lee’s Summit, Mo.
The Rev. Glen Raley, First UMC, Marysville, Calif.
The Rev. Robert Renfroe, The Woodlands UMC President of Good News, The Woodlands, Texas
Donna Schlitt, Confessing Movement Board, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Mike Schreiner, Morning Star Church, O’Fallon, Mo.
Donald Shell, Good News Board, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Dan Slagle, FaithBridge Church, Good News Board, Spring, Texas
The Rev. Ralph Sigler, Harvest Church UM, Dothan, Ala.
The Rev. Roger Spahr, Cornerstone Church, Watertown, S.D.
David Stanley, Confessing Movement Board, Muscatine, Iowa
Helen Rhea Stumbo, Good News Board, Fort Valley, Ga.
The Rev. Jeff Switzer, Sandtown UMC, Confessing Movement Board, Sandtown, Miss.
The Rev. Alpher Sylvester, Bethany UMC, Brooklyn, N.Y.
The Rev. Richard Thompson, First UMC, Good News Board, Bakersfield, Calif.
The Rev. Robert Thompson-Gee, Poughkeepsie UMC, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
The Rev. Doug Thrasher, Hillside UMC, Woodstock, Ga.
The Rev. Robert Tindale, Killearn UMC, Tallahassee, Fla.
The Rev. Kirt Watkins, Sea Cliff UMC, Sea Cliff, N.Y.
The Rev. Stephen Wende, First UMC, Confessing Movement Board, Houston, Texas
The Rev. Ken Werlein, FaithBridge Church, Spring, Texas
The Rev. Alice Wolfe, Christ UMC, Baltimore, Ohio
The Rev. Steve Wood, Mount Pisgah UMC, Confessing Movement Board, Alpharetta, Ga.
Marianne Wright, Good News Board, Valdosta, Ga.
The Rev. Harold Zimmick, Asbury UMC, Madison, Wis.