Bishop follows through on commitment to conduct same sex wedding

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Center Point, AL — United Methodist Bishop Melvin G. Talbert followed through on his announced commitment to join in marriage Bobby Prince and Joe Openshaw, a same-sex couple who are members of the Discovery United Methodist Church in Hoover, Ala.

Openshaw and Prince were legally married in a civil union in Washington, D.C. in September. Wanting the recognition of the church, they originally contacted local United Methodist clergy to conduct their wedding, but the proscriptions which restrict UM clergy from officiating at same sex weddings in the United Methodist Book of Discipline made it difficult for any to preside at the service. They then contacted Bishop Talbert, who agreed to preside over the celebration of their marriage.

On Saturday afternoon, they were married in a religious ceremony at Covenant Community Church (UCC) in Center Point, Ala. The service was hosted by the Rev. J.R. Finney’s congregation because United Methodist churches are prohibited from celebrating or using their buildings for such unions.

With three sheriff’s deputies, multiple media representatives and an officiating United Methodist bishop in jeopardy of facing charges for violating the denomination’s Book of Discipline, this was a unique occasion. However, for the majority of the approximately one-hundred and fifty in attendance, this remained a marriage ceremony, even in the face of the implications for the United Methodist Church and the presiding clergy. Like most “traditional” weddings, there were flowers, music, and restless children.

Meghan Richardson attended Discovery United Methodist Church with Openshaw and Prince for several years and came to celebrate her friends’ marriage. “In my time at the church, they were always there to do the altar decoration before anyone else came in on Sunday, made desserts for Wednesdays and they did more to bring new folks into the church than anyone I could recall. I love them dearly. They are the real deal.”

[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”225px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Other Reports on this Event

[/dropshadowbox]For several of the clergy in attendance, there was a sense of frustration at this even being a divisive or contentious issue. One elder of the North Alabama conference in asserted that “some clergy were told not even to attend the wedding as it could hurt their careers.”

“We just need to get over it,” said Rev. Mike Harper. “It’s obvious these guys care about each other. I’m embarrassed that we feel awkward about affirming something so beautiful.”

Others were appreciative of the work of Bishop Wallace-Padgett as she attempted to hear both sides of the issue. “I think our bishop has done a good job in having folks get together to share our opinions,” said Rev. David Barnhart, pastor of St. Junia UMC in Birmingham. “We’ve made some great strides in having a conversation and lowering the level of anxiety. I recognize that I’ve got friends all over the map on this issue. We talk about breaking a covenant, but if we cannot even have a conversation, then the covenant has already been broken.”

“She’s been deeply spiritual, honest and respectful through this,” stated another. “I have a lot of respect for her faithful, fair leadership through this.”

Bishop Talbert, who once shared a jail cell with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. now faces possible discipline by his fellow bishops for disobeying the discipline of the church. “I’m choosing to do the right thing, no matter what,” he stated during the ceremony. “I’m no longer allowing myself to be imprisoned by a law that is wrong and unjust,” he later added. “Therefore, I’ve decided to act as if it doesn’t exist.”

In response to United Methodists who disagree with his actions today, Bishop Talbert stated, “You have a right to your position. Give those of us who are of a different opinion the same respect. We as a church don’t all agree on this issue. When the General Conference refused to support a statement saying that we don’t all agree, I said ‘Shame on us.’ We need to state that publicly.”

Openshaw and Prince requested that the service end with a prayer for the affirming clergy in attendance and for the United Methodist Church as a whole. Local elders and deacons of the North Alabama Conference filled the front two rows of the sanctuary. Several ministers from different parts of the country participated in the service as supporting clergy. During the prayer the Bishop Talbert and the other supporting clergy who participated in the service were compared to Jesus turning over the tables of the money-lenders in the temple.

Photo courtesy of the Reconciling Ministries Network.

Bart Styes, UMR Correspondent

Bart Styes

Bart Styes is Director of Student Ministries at Bluff Park UMC in Hoover, Ala. He’s a lifelong United Methodist and an active lay member of the North Alabama Conference.

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30 Comments on "Bishop follows through on commitment to conduct same sex wedding"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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Tom Lamkin
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I am not a Methodist, but believe that I understand the issue from the perspective of the gay community versus that of the straight community. I think it is more important to understand it from God's perspective (which includes Jesus as part of the trinity). It has seemed to me that most people agree that the ten commandments provide good guidance on the way we should live our lives. It is not good to kill, or steal or lie or to worship other gods, not covet etc. I assume that living in opposition to these rules is not pleasing to… Read more »
roland
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Jay.. thanks for the good fight.. I'd jump in but I am simply not so eloquent as you. but out of curiosity.. what exactly did old Dale say Jesus said about "sodomites"? because I was of the opinion that Jesus said nothing on the subject of homosexuality.

Wayne A. Salguero
Guest

iT is all a "red herring" OUR theological task is the knowledge of God and His Kingdom. What does that have to do with being"Bedroom Police" Peace, Love, Understanding and Forgiveness, Jesus stands for this, so does the UMC?

dmhphils
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Amazing how easily religious organizations can discard and reject God's Word and substitute their own opinions.

Jerry Dale Patterson
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A Christian is a follower of Christ. Christ affirmed the Biblical revelation. A person cannot be a Christian and reject the Word of God. In performing a Sodomite wedding, he has a reprobate mind, Romans 1:18f. That is he or she no longer has the ability to determine right or wrong. Any good Bible scholar also knows that Sodomites will be excluded from heaven and have their place in the Lake of Fire. This comes straight from the mouth of Jesus. You cannot follow Jesus and be disobedient to him.

Jay
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Thank you, Jerry Dale Patterson, for verifying the point I made above. People like you are why sensible people must dissociate from the United Methodist Church if it does not quickly adopt a policy of inclusion. The certainty with which you speak of "any good Bible scholar" just reveals the deep ignorance and stupidity with which you approach life.

guest
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Producing children IS one of the primary purposes of marriage. Another purpose of marriage is to demonstrate the relationship between Jesus Christ, the bridegroom, and the Church, his bride. That relationship is complementary, and is demonstrated by the complementary nature of males and females anatomically and reproductively. The natural result of male and female union is children. This is the reason childless women were always questioned, or pitied. Eve, by the way, means "life-giver." The natural result of homosexual coupling is barrenness. Homosexuality NEVER results in life. Heterosexuality almost ALWAYS results in life. You don't see the difference?

guest
Guest

The UMC "Church of Tomorrow" – where homosexuality is optional, pedophilia is optional, polygamy is optional, Jesus is optional, and the Bible is optional. Thank you, Bishop!!!

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[…] Openshaw and Bobby Prince, the two gay men whose marriage was celebrated by United Methodist Bishop Melvin G. Talbert in Birmingham this past Saturday, have written a […]

Sylvia
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We live with our gay son and his partner and in our state they cannot marry. Yes, we are welcome in our UMC….Grace Reconciling United Methodist. It is the most loving place that I have ever been. I don't know what the hierarchy of UMC still feel necessary in order that all people have freedom to love, cherish, and participate in the church business. Obviously they are reading from the wrong bible. Thank you, Don't bother to send scriptures I have them all. I believe that the UMC will suffer an open break in our historical UMC if we can't… Read more »
Joe Stains
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The question about sin may be asked about any practice–including the variety of those approved and those disapproved by nearly all of us. Unlike most disparaging terms, the word homophobia, political in origin, borrows the repute of the clinical community to implicate people indiscriminately with the stigma of mental health dysfunction. Concern or disagreement about this particular issue does not constitute clinical phobia. Would it be considered fair play for the opponents of homosexual conduct to introduce the term heterophobia into the debate? Resorting to namecalling based on opinions is poor conduct for both sides. Reviewing the present blog site,… Read more »
Jay
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You must not read Methodist blogs and their commenters carefully. Everyone of the terms I mentioned have been found, some numerous times, on various Methodist blogs, including UMConnections, just this past week in connection with Bishop Talbert. On those blogs, I have been called in addition to pervert, both satanic and evil. Nice. We know the effects of demonizing gay people. It leads to depression, despair, and all too often to suicide. Forgive me , if I am not willing to shed any tears for people who do that to others being called homophobic. I suspect that your apparently heightened… Read more »
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