HOUSTON, Tx – Good News, a group in the United Methodist Church which attempts to promote “orthodox Wesleyan Christianity,” released a statement today condemning Bishop Melvin G. Talbert for presiding at a service celebrating the marriage of a gay couple this past Saturday in Birmingham, and calling on the Council of Bishops to “exercise discipline and hold Bishop Talbert accountable.”
Talbert presided at the service in spite of calls from North Alabama Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett and the Council of Bishops Executive Committee to refrain from doing so. Talbert facilitated the service of celebration at the request of Joe Openshaw and Bobby Prince, a United Methodist gay couple legally married in Washington D.C. but wanting the recognition of the church.
Good News has traditionally opposed changes to the United Methodist Book of Discipline regarding homosexuality, and published a statement prior to the service calling on Talbert to refraining from disobeying church teaching, which prohibits United Methodist clergy from “conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions.” (¶2702.1)
Here is the full text of their statement:
In an egregious act of defiance, Bishop Melvin Talbert has publicly and flagrantly violated the covenant that binds United Methodists together by officiating at a service of holy union between two men in Birmingham, Alabama. We understand the emotional and sensitive nature of the sexuality debate within The United Methodist Church. At the same time, same-sex marriage is not legal in the state of Alabama, nor is it permitted by the United ethodist Discipline. Not only did Bishop Talbert defy church law, he ignored the urging of both Bishop Wallace-Padgett, bishop of Northern Alabama, and of the executive committee of the Council of Bishops not to preside over the service. Elected and sworn to an office of unity, Bishop Talbert has instead chosen to use his position to foment greater division within the UM Church.
As Bishop Michael Coyner has recently stated, “A bishop of the church, whether active or retired, has a special responsibility to teach the faith, to guard the church, and to order the administration and discipline of the church… I don’t think we can be ‘church’ together without a commitment to such order.”
Good News calls upon the Council of Bishops to exercise discipline and hold Bishop Talbert accountable, as they have publicly promised to do on several occasions. A failure to hold accountable Bishop Talbert and other clergy who are flaunting our church’s policies will result in the unraveling of our church’s covenant and order. Formal separation may not be far behind.