Alabama couple responds to UM Council of Bishops

Openshaw and Prince

Bobby Prince and Joe Openshaw
Photo by Kevin Higgs

HOOVER, Ala. — The gay couple whose marriage was celebrated by Bishop Melvin G. Talbert have responded to yesterday’s statement by the United Methodist Council of Bishops (COB) requesting that a complaint be filed charging Talbert for his part in that service.

Joe Openshaw and Bobby Prince, members of the Discovery United Methodist Church in Hoover, AL, requested Talbert to preside at a worship service celebrating their marriage after their own pastor declined due to the proscriptions in the United Methodist Book of Discipline forbidding clergy from presiding at ceremonies celebrating same-sex unions. After requests from Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett of the Birmingham Episcopal Area and the Executive Committee of the COB were rejected, Talbert conducted the service on October 26, 2013.

Openshaw and Prince’s public letter to the COB, released last night, challenged the COB to not see the GLBTQ discussion as an issue, but reflecting people who were affected by the words and actions of the council. They wrote:

Dear Council of Bishops,

As we read the statement released by the Council of Bishops urging a complaint be brought against Bishop Talbert for officiating Bobby’s and my Holy Ceremony, we are once again reminded that those who are against the love between gay people refuse to acknowledge our humanity. In the statement, we are referred to as “a same-gender couple.”

Bishops, we want you to know that we have names; Bobby and Joe.

And we are not just an any same-gender couple.

We are two men who fell in love 12 years ago, after a chance meeting at Pensacola Beach, Florida.

We are two men who have struggled to find a place to land in our search for a spiritual home, and who found such a place at Discovery United Methodist Church.

We are two men whose love grew to the point that we felt marriage would best suit our current life.

We are two men who asked Bishop Wallace-Padgett, through an email, to re-think her position and to bless our relationship, but did not receive such a blessing.

We are two men whose own clergy was told not to offer us spiritual counseling and not to attend our wedding.

We are two men who are loved by the people at Discovery United Methodist Church, but are pushed aside by the United Methodist Church.

We are two men who are part of a family joined by this marriage, with in-laws and children and step-children and a grandson and a dog.

And we are two men who feel that their relationship has been blessed by God and that this blessing has been enhanced by our public wedding and by Bishop Talbert’s participation in our ceremony.

We are glad that you referenced our Theological Task, as put forth in our Book of Discipline. Our Reconciling Group at Discovery UMC, studied our Theological Task a couple of years ago. The phrase “Our task is to articulate a vision in a way that will draw us together as a people in Mission…” was important in our discussion at that time.

But now we see that you only want to draw together those who are like you; heterosexual. “Cast the gays aside and our church of those like us might flourish,” you may be thinking.

But we (Bobby and Joe, the same gender couple) want to draw all of God’s children together.  We believe in the sacred worth of all humanity, not just the straight ones. Even if our church should diminish in size somewhat in doing so, if that is the cost of being more like Jesus, is it not worth it?

We understand why your statements do not provide our names or any information about us. You do not want others to know that Bobby and I are real people, whose lives are as dull and uninteresting as any other married couple. We are just regular people. We just happen to be gay.

Bobby Prince and Joe Openshaw

The Council of Bishops ended their meeting yesterday. There has been no word on a timetable for the filing of the complaints against Talbert.

UMReporter Staff

This story was posted by a staff member of The United Methodist Reporter. For over 160 years The United Methodist Reporter has been helping the people called Methodist to tell their stories. If you have stories that you think need to be told, please let us know at

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13 Comments on "Alabama couple responds to UM Council of Bishops"

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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"We are two men whose love grew to the point that we felt marriage would best suit our current life."

This isn't the biblical or UM understanding of marriage. If I referred to my spouse in this way it would be insulting. It makes it sound as if their marriage was a matter of temporal convenience.


[…] So what did Bobby Prince and Joe Openshaw do? They reached out and found a courageous man who saw in them a love for God and each other and agreed to minister to them and to ask God to bless them. Bishop Talbert took it upon himself to pastor them, something denied them by their own bishop. […]

Pastor Al

Bobby Prince and Joe Openshaw are United Methodist….they are in love, they are faithfull to each other, I know Jesus in their lives, the attend small group study, they have read the BOD. I wish they were members of my church. Besides, if gay folks are wrong…I cannot wait until we start on fat people. (gluttony)


Thank you, Bobby and Joe, for your courage and steadfastness in the face of a profound failure of love by the UMC.


For what it's worth, I suspect the Council of Bishops are more familiar with Joe & Bobby than with 99.9% of their pastors who have been living by The Book Of Discipline. Any who think the leadership of Joe and Bobby, Amy & Mel is going to win friends, influence people, or otherwise have a "reconciling" effect are, in my opinion, misreading what's happening.

Garry Ruff

Our Book of Discipline says that marriage is between a man and a woman, yet both UMR and the COB refer to these two men as a "couple." They are not a couple as defined by the UMC. It is unfortunate that our leadership and our agencies do not strive to reflect official UM positions in their publications.


these gentlemen are emerging as leaders as powerful as Bishop Talbert and Amy De Long. God bless you, Bobby and Joe!

"Science now shows that homosexuality has, in all probability, a latent genetic origin influenced by prenatal maternal hormone levels." I do not deny this, however I also do not accept this as a legitimacy of a lifestyle. The logic behind this is that a predisposed inclination (possibly caused by genetics) toward the same sex is the definition of that person's "humanity." Is it likewise legitimizing the "latent genetic origin" of a person with attractions toward children, animals, or multiple partners? I know this will be met with angry responses, but it is an observation rather than an accusation. I am… Read more »

Bobby and Joe -you two have totally hit it on the head. THANK YOU for being a light.

Cheryel Lemley-McRoy
The established Church has been historically wrong about the Earth being flat, about the Sun revolving around the Earth, about left-handed people being demonic, and about red-haired women being witches. Every time science proves the Church wrong, there is a great resistance until much later the Church goes back to the Bible and realizes they have either mistranslated or misinterpreted the Scriptures. Science now shows that homosexuality has, in all probability, a latent genetic origin influenced by prenatal maternal hormone levels. The Church needs to re-examine the "gay" verses and find that God is not talking about homosexuality at all,… Read more »
Wes Andrews
Wow, this is ridiculous. The church has been wrong. But all the instances you suggest were cultural lies the church embraced and corrected. There is no scriptural definition that says red-haired women are witches. There is no Scriptural reference that says the earth is flat. There is NO Scriptural reference that says left handed people are demonic. And, thank God, the church, I'm sure with the help of the Spirit, has reformed from those mistakes. It is the most gracious and generous human organization on the planet. If you think Science tends to prove the church wrong, then go and… Read more »
The universal church over the course of history has used cultural beliefs, validating them thru interpretation of scriptures, to demonize redheads, left handers, and to support that the Earth is flat. Bear in mind, during the time of Christ, Bear in mind, women were not ordained, and in some denominations still are not ordained, due to cultural differences shown in the Bible. In Biblical times, women were considered property. They're lives centered around the home. They could not own property, speak publicly, or to any man that they were not related to. I doubt that this would fly in many… Read more »
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