IRD News Release
IRD Comments on Methodist Bishop’s Same Sex Rite
On October 26 retired United Methodist Bishop Melvin Talbert is scheduled to conduct a same-sex union for two men at a United Church of Christ sanctuary in Birmingham, Alabama, violating The United Methodist Church’s prohibition on same-sex unions. Talbert has rejected pleas not to proceed from North Alabama Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett and the executive committee of the church’s Council of Bishops.
Last year, the United Methodist Church’s governing General Conference voted by 61 percent to reaffirm its stance for traditional marriage and sexual ethics. Forty percent of the delegates were from outside the U.S. Over 35 percent of United Methodists now live in Africa, where the church is growing and conservative. Under current growth trends, Africans likely will become a majority in the denomination within the decade, a trend that almost certainly precludes the currently 12 million member United Methodist Church (7.4 million in the U.S.) from following other declining historically liberal Mainline denominations in the U.S. that have liberalized their sexual teaching. Dissident clergy like Bishop Talbert have responded by vowing defiance of the church’s policies.
IRD’s President Mark Tooley, a United Methodist, responded:
Bishop Talbert has not pastored a church since the 1960s and presided over imploding membership and schism as bishop in Seattle and San Francisco. As bishop and president of the National Council of Churches he was a divisive political activist who seemed to prioritize political causes over the church’s teachings and health. Neither he nor other dissident clergy, most of whom are also retired or preside over declining churches, represent United Methodism’s future.
The 12 million member global United Methodism Church has avoided the schism and accelerating membership spiral of other once Mainline denominations by reaffirming orthodox, universal Christian church teaching, which includes understanding marriage as the lifelong union of man and woman. As liberal U.S. churches decline and the African church especially continues to grow, United Methodism is less and less captive to U.S. culture, for which the church can be grateful.
Hopefully current and future United Methodist bishops and clergy, unlike many retired ones from another era, will understand that Christianity’s future is global and orthodox.