This post is by Dr. William R. Bouknight, associate director of the Confessing Movement Within the United Methodist Church.
It first appeared in a slightly different form in the October 2012 Confessing Movement e-newsletter.
Bill Bouknight is the author of The Authoritative Word: Preaching Trust in a Skeptical Age (Abingdon, 2001) and If Disciples Grew Like Kudzu (Bristol House, 2007).
Links have been added by MethodistThinker.com. — Ed.
When members of the United Methodist Council of Bishops gather next week (Nov. 4-9) at St. Simons Island, Ga., they will find it difficult to ignore a retired bishop, Melvin G. Talbert.
Bishop Talbert has urged more than 1,000 UM clergy who have committed to officiating at union ceremonies for homosexual couples “to stand firm in their resolve” — even though officiating at homosexual unions would violate the United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline.
Furthermore, the Western Jurisdiction has asked Bishop Talbert to oversee a grassroots movement that challenges the entire UMC to operate as if Paragraph 161F of the Book of Discipline “does not exist.” That is called nullification.
In reaction to these developments, more than 70 UM orthodox clergy and laity sent an open letter to the Council of Bishops urging them to “publicly censure” Bishop Talbert. The letter also asks the executive committee of the Council to file a formal complaint against the bishop.
Despite strong concern within the church about Bishop Talbert’s conduct, my guess is that the Council will do little or nothing about this matter.
From the UM
This pledge by more than 1,000 UM clergy to perform same-sex unions is not new. It was on the Council’s agenda a year ago. Yet the Council could not even bring itself to ask those 1,000 clergy to refrain from violating the Discipline.
(Do you suppose that if 1,000 clergy threatened to withhold apportionment payments, the Council would be that reticent?)
The Council’s problem is that it is hopelessly divided about Scriptural authority, theological worldview, and sexual morality.
Since about 1970, some bishops have been elected who have a relativistic view of Scriptural authority. Some ignore and/or don’t believe in some United Methodist doctrines spelled out in the Articles of Religion and Confession of Faith.
On the days of their ordination, they affirmed their belief in all of those doctrines (PDF—see pages 22 and 23). But somehow over the years they have changed. Yet not one of them has reported that change to the Board of Ordained Ministry and offered to turn in his or her credentials.
It is a safe prediction that the Council of Bishops will take no action with regard to Bishop Talbert. Nor will it ask those 1,000 clergy not to violate the Book of Discipline.
Instead, the Council will issue a call for all United Methodists to be tolerant, non-judgmental, and nice — and to engage in holy conferencing.
And the United Methodist Church in the U.S. will continue to decline.
Therefore, the Lord seems to be passing the torch of leadership to the African Methodists. Instead of rebelling against the Book of Discipline, they are focused on making disciples of Jesus Christ for the eternal salvation of persons and for the transformation of the world.