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 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaGDV117XuE&feature=youtu.be