January 5, 2015–Complaints filed against Bishop Melvin Talbert alleging he violated the sacred trust of his office for officiating a same-sex wedding have been resolved, avoiding trial. In the agreement, Bishop Talbert “holds steadfastly to the conviction that his actions were just and right,” and Bishops Wenner and Wallace-Padgett maintain that “pain exists throughout the entire connection, including among those who support the actions of Bishop Talbert, and those who object to the actions.”
Joe Openshaw and Bobby Prince asked Bishop Talbert to preside at their wedding after the pastor at their church was forbidden by her supervisors at The United Methodist Church to have any part with the wedding of her same-gender, committed church members, including pre-marital counseling or attending the wedding. Bishop Talbert traveled down to Birmingham from his home in Nashville, Tennessee to help the couple celebrate their love for each other and their covenant to let their love be a sign of God’s love for the world.
North Alabama Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett not only filed a complaint against Bishop Talbert for performing the wedding, but for interfering in her region, drawing parallels for some of former United Methodist bishops of the same Birmingham area, calling Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. an “outsider” and calling his witness “unwise and untimely.”
Upon hearing news of the Resolution, Bishop Talbert was elated, but still firm in his conviction for Biblical Obedience, a movement he believes can offer the best way forward for The UMC:
We reached a Just Resolution! Praise God! I’m grateful to my colleague Bishops Rosemarie Wenner and Debra Wallace-Padgett, consultants, and all the support persons, for their openness, honesty and fairness in the process. However, our primary mission of ‘making disciples…’ is still before us. At some point our church must choose its best future. Out of the depth of my heart, I believe embracing Biblical Obedience offers the best way forward for maximizing its potential for growth and full inclusion. I pray that we will remain open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, as we continue the struggle to be faithful followers of Jesus Christ. As the prophet Micah said, “God has told you, human one, what is good, and what God requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God.” – Bishop Melvin G. Talbert
Matt Berryman, Executive Director of Reconciling Ministries Network, and Bridget Cabrera, Deputy Director, said in their statement:
Whereas this is a day to celebrate, it is still sad that instead of recognizing and blessing the ‘signs and wonders’ of God’s presence in the love between faithful United Methodists Bobby and Joe, welcoming them as a couple into Christian service, and moving forward with this couple to do the work of God in a hurting world, the church continues to act as if this were the fulcrum on which Christian identity and practice must be measured for its orthodoxy. As a result, the church misses an opportunity to claim the ‘essentials’ of the Gospel entrusted to it, silences the proclaiming of these ‘loves’ by refusing their blessing at the altar, and punishes the prophets who dare to proclaim the gospel for all and renew the Church for ministry in today’s world. These same-sex couples who long to present their love before God, as it turns out, have stories that have been drowned out by the misplaced and irrelevant megaphones of church trials, complaints, headlines, and dialogues—these couples, their lives, and their stories are part of the renewal of The United Methodist Church.
Reconciling Ministries Network is a growing movement of United Methodist individuals, congregations, campus ministries, and other groups working for the full participation of all people in The United Methodist Church, mobilizing United Methodists of all sexual orientations and gender identities to transform our Church and world into the full expression of Christ’s inclusive love. RMN envisions a renewed and vibrant Wesleyan movement that is biblically and theologically centered. As committed disciples of Jesus Christ, Reconciling Ministries Network strives to transform the world by living out the Gospel’s teachings of grace, love, justice, and inclusion for all of God’s children.
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If you would like more information about Bishop Talbert’s Just Resolution, please contact Rev. Andy Oliver, RMN Director of Communications at 312-448-5305 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the background on Bishop Talbert’s act of Biblical Obedience, see links below.
Complaints filed against Bishop Talbert
RMN statement on complaints filed against Bishop Talbert
RMN executive director responds to COB plea for complaint
Council of Bishops request complaint against Bishop Talbert
Joe & Bobby’s open letter to the Council of Bishops
Bishop Talbert performs wedding
RMN executive director responds to Council concerning Birmingham wedding
Joe & Bobby share about their love for one another
Wedding bells sound challenge for church