Bishop blesses same-sex couples in their marriages

Bishop Melvin G. Talbert preaching at the 2013 Reconciling Ministries Network convocation at the Metropolitan Memorial UMC in Chevy Chase, MD. Photo by Sam Pinczuk

Chevy Chase, MD — Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, a retired bishop of the United Methodist Church and an outspoken advocate for full inclusion of GLBTQ persons in the life of the church, offered a special blessing for the union of same-sex couples present at the Sunday, September 1, 2013 evening worship service of the Reconciling Ministries Network FaithQuake Convocation. Using the Declaration of Marriage from the marriage ceremony in The United Methodist Book of Worship, Talbert pronounced that those same-sex couples present who had given themselves to one another by solemn vows and the giving and receiving of hands and rings were married in name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. “Those whom God has joined, ” Talbert proclaimed, “let no one put asunder.”

The United Methodist Book of Discipline forbids clergy of all levels from “…conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions (Paragraph 2702.4 of the 2012 United Methodist Book of Discipline).”

Earlier in the service Bishop Talbert justified his continued advocacy and support of GLBTQ issues as part of a general call to biblical obedience. Drawing on Micah 6:8 (He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you:  to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God. CEB) and the great commandment of Mark 12: 29-30, Talbert suggested that the full inclusion of GLBTQ persons in the life of the church was consistent with the biblical witness, and challenged both lay and clergy persons to “do the right thing” in opposing the “unjust and immoral laws” in the United Methodist Book of Discipline that suggest homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching and limit ministry by and with gay and lesbian persons.

“Biblical obedience,” Bishop Talbert told The United Methodist Reporter, “…is the willingness to follow the biblical call to do the right and just thing, which is not restricted by church laws that are immoral and evil in their exclusivity.”

When asked about how his actions were in conflict with the current provisions in the Book of Discipline, Talbert remarked that there was no person more committed to honoring the Book of Discipline than he, however he believed that there were many more positive expressions of inclusivity in the Discipline than those which were exclusionary in nature, thus leading to his stance. He stated that his position did not undermine his covenantal relationship with the United Methodist Church, and that his positions were thoroughly rooted in a Wesleyan theological framework.

Bishop Talbert acknowledged that some persons may have complaints of his actions at the convocation. “Our polity has a process by which persons can express their views and file complaints, said Bishop Talbert. “I anticipate that due process will be followed if such complaints are filed.”

In his remarks to the convocation, Bishop Talbert reported that he had received word that the College of Bishops of the Western Jurisdiction had unanimously supported his position for full inclusion of GLBTQ persons in the life of the church.

Bishop Talbert was elected to the episcopacy in 1980 and served the Seattle and San Francisco episcopal areas until his retirement in 2000. Prior to being elected bishop, Talbert was a leader in the civil rights movement, spending time in jail with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Talbert as also the General Secretary for the General Board of Discipleship between 1973 and 1980.

The video of Sunday evening’s worship service can be found at

Join the conversation....

  1. Bishop Melvin Talbert represents the epitome of pure love and grace in the United Methodist Church
    I stand with and along side the Bishop as he "walks the talk". Peace be with him as the struggle continued.Preach it Bishop Talbert.Preach it and live it Bishop!!!

  2. The United Methodist Book of Discipline forbids clergy of all levels from “…conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions (Paragraph 2702.4 of the 2012 United Methodist Book of Discipline).”

    Lets just have a free for all and completely disregard the direction of the Book of Discipline at all levels. I am quite sure that there is something on each page that there is disagreement on, so are we justified in just simply disregarding it? Do we host NAMBLA in our buildings during Sunday School, left to some that should be ok, or does the Bishop draw his own personal line at that point? If at some point we condone same sex marriage I will find it necessary to not be part of that division of the Church, and there will be a division much like the Lutherans.

    So… what next, and I guarantee you there will be a next.

  3. Bishop Melvin Talbert represents disobedience to the vows he took at ordination as a pastor and when consecrated as a bishop. He promised to uphold the law of the Church.

    We can argue all day about interpretation and application of the relevant biblical passages. The short version is this: 1) From creation God made sex to be between a husband and wife. Period. 2) All biblical texts addressing issues of sexuality, Old Testament and New, look positively on sex within heterosexual marriage, and speak negatively on all expressions of sex outside of those bounds. To arrive at a "pro-homosexual sex" stance, you've got to do some work to ignore that uniform teaching.

    But back to my main point: Bishop Talbert is breaking his own vows. No one forced him to make those vows. The rules did not change somewhere along the way. And no one is forcing him to remain in the UMC. He is exalting his own views above the good order of the UMC. Confess and repent, bishop!

  4. Jesus died and was resurrected for "ALL" peoples so "ALL" peoples are welcome in the church. We must remember that excluding anyone is not what Jesus taught. The church cannot open doors in the world if the members inside keep them closed.

    Thank you Bishop

    • No one is closing the doors of the church to sinners, robinwa. But when we actually BLESS and CELEBRATE sinful behavior we have crossed a line.

  5. bscarb1710 says:

    Apostasy! Can we take away his pension?

  6. keithmcilwain says:

    The issue here is NOT gay marriage or inclusion. All persons are already welcome in the Church, after all, regardless of where we do or do not agree with their lifestyle decisions, sexual or otherwise.

    The issue here is: Did Bishop Talbert officiate or bless a same gender union or marriage? If so, he has violated the Discipline which he took a vow to uphold.

    Advocating for change in the Church, however passionately one feels, does not grant the right to violate our covenant. This is why the Bishop's action is illegal at best, schismatic at worst.

  7. Another issue is whether this action CAN be dealt with. Two jurisdictions officially voted to IGNORE this part of the Book of Discipline. Bishop Talbert says that the Western Jurisdiction of the College of Bishops stands with him on this. So, where should a complaint be filed? The event occurred in Washington, DC, which is in the North East Jurisdiction–the second district that voted to ignore violations of this nature. I'm wondering if the Council On Bishops would bother to do anything (I don't think it is within their job description.) Could the Judicial Council deal with it? I'm not sure, but I don't think they can.

    I am aware of at least one other clear violation. The Rev. Monica Corsaro performed a same-sex commitment ceremony that "looked like a wedding" and discussed it openly on the CBS Sunday Morning Show.

    The segment above aired more than a year ago, and no charges have been filed.

    So we have a much bigger problem than a retired bishop who has defied the Book of Discipline. Bishop Talbert's actions represent an actual split in the church.

    General Conference needs to address this in 2016. It is time to formalize a separation, divide up the property, change our names, and go our separate ways.

    • keithmcilwain says:

      I hope it doesn't come to that. My prayer is that Bishop Talbert & his friends who are also violating our covenant choose penitence & agree to once again abide by all of the vows they took to live under the authority of the Church via our Discipline. Their faithfulness can prevent a schism; their lack of faithfulness will trigger schism.

      • Activism has driven most of this situation. Not religious belief. Those that violate our duly debated, voted on and approved Constitution should be brought up on charges for violating the constitution, not just a slim slice of a paragraph. The rest of society has capitulated to the LGBT, (anything goes) crowd, including their quiet endorsement of NAMBLA, (how does that fit with a safe sanctuaries policy?) It has been demonstrated that while they claim victory it is never good enough they will always remain the victims. I happen to believe we as a denomination will make this type of union legal in the name of inclusion, the fallacy of filling the seats, and some carefully selected Bible verses. The outcome of such action is already determined. It will be devastating to Methodism possibly making it Methodwasm.

  8. If, as some of us believe, the parts of the Book of Discipline that discriminate against lesbian and gay persons violate the constitution of the UMC, where is the forum to test this? During the trials I've attended, when anyone tried to bring up the constitution, the presiding bishop/judge said that the constitution was not relevant, just the facts of whether a specific paragraph of the BOD was violated. Where can the argument be heard about whether excluding gay and lesbian folk from full participation in the church violates Division 1, Article 4 of the UMC constitution?

  9. The silence of the Council of Bishops is deafening.

    One more addition to my comment above,–my understanding is that we are due to write a new Book of Discipline that will reflect the reality that we are a GLOBAL church now–no longer US centered. GC2012 proved that our current polity is not working anymore; and our inability to deal effectively with violations of the Book of Discipline is another reason to enthusiastically take on that task.

  10. 21 "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' 23 And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'

    Build Your House on the Rock

    24 "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it." Jesus, according to Matt 7


  1. […] Talbert’s actions are in violation of The Book of Discipline. The United Methodist Reporter notes that the Book of Discipline prohibits clergy from “conducting ceremonies which celebrate […]

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