November 15, 2013

BREAKING: United Methodist Council of Bishops Calls for Charges Against Mel Talbert

Meeting this week in Lake Junaluska, NC, the global Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church, after several closed-session meetings, adopted a statement which: (1) notes the deep divisions within our denomination as well as the Council itself, (2) declares that “[w]hen there are violations of the Book of Discipline, a response is required,” (3) calls on the Council’s executive committee to “initiate a task force to lead honest and respectful conversation s regarding human sexuality, race and gender in a worldwide perspective” (4) acknowledges bishops’ authority for holding one another accountable (within some limits), and (5) calls on Council of Bishops President Rosemary Wenner of Germany and Debra Wallace-Padgett of North Alabama to formally file charges against retired Bishop Mel Talbert on the two counts of “conducting a ceremony to celebrate the marriage of a same gender couple” and, since he invaded North Alabama to do it, “undermining the ministry of a colleague.” Such high-profile, public insistence by the Council on accountability for one of its own is unprecedented in modern UMC history.

The full text of the statement is below:



On October 26, 2013, retired Bishop Melvin Talbert conducted a ceremony celebrating the marriage of a same-gender couple in Center Point, Alabama. Prior to October 26, 2013 Bishop Talbert advised Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, resident bishop of the North Alabama Conference, of his intention. Bishop Wallace-Padgett requested that Bishop Talbert not perform the ceremony in the area in which she serves. After conversation with Bishop Wallace-Padgett, Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council of Bishops, engaged the Executive Committee of the Council of Bishops in a discussion about the proposed action. On October 21, 2013, the Executive Committee issued a statement requesting Bishop Talbert not to perform the ceremony in Bishop Wallace-Padgett’s area. They said, in part,

“The bishops of the church are bound together in a covenant and all ordained elders are committed to uphold the Book of Discipline. ‘Conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies’ are chargeable offenses in the United Methodist Church (¶2702.1.b).”

The actions of Bishop Talbert raise considerable concerns and have stimulated much conversation, reflection, and prayer among the members of the Council of Bishops. The Council recognizes the deep divisions and pain in our church over these issues. United Methodists are not of one mind, and followers of Christ and people of conscience hold conflicting views. These issues require continuing honest and respectful conversation as well as prayer throughout the church.

The purpose of the Council of Bishops is to lead the church in its mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. To that end, bishops are also required to “uphold the discipline and order of the Church…..and to share with other bishops in the oversight of the whole church.” (Para 403.1.f) When there are violations of the Book of Discipline, a response is required. However, the General Conference has given the Council of Bishops limited authority for the task of holding one another accountable. Such authority and accountability resides in the College of Bishops and the Jurisdiction or Central Conference Committees on Episcopacy. (Paragraph 413 and Paragraph 403.1.f)

Therefore, the Council of Bishops, after much prayer and conversation, takes the following actions:

We acknowledge that we, the Council of Bishops, and the Church are not of one mind in matters of human sexuality; pain exists throughout the connection, including persons who support ishop Talbert’s actions and persons who object to them. We express our pastoral concern and care for all people.

We affirm the October 21, 2013 action of the Executive Committee which requested that Bishop Talbert not conduct a ceremony celebrating the marriage of a same gender couple in the North Alabama area.

We respectfully request that Bishop Wenner, President of the Council of Bishops, and Bishop Wallace-Padgett, Resident Bishop of the North Alabama Conference, address the action of Bishop Talbert and file a complaint under the provisions of Paragraph 413 for undermining the ministry of a colleague (Paragraph 2702.1f) and conducting a ceremony to celebrate the marriage of a same gender couple (Paragraph 2702.1b) within the bounds of the North Alabama Conference.

We recommend that the Executive Committee initiate a task force to lead honestand respectful conversation s regarding human sexuality, race and gender in a world-wide perspective in our shared commitment to clear theological understanding of the mission and polity of the United Methodist Church.

As a Council of Bishops, we affirm the theological task articulated in the Book of Discipline (Paragraph 105, page 87). “United Methodists as a diverse people continue to strive for consensus in understanding the gospel. In our diversity, we are held together by a shared inheritance and a common desire to participate in the creative and redemptive activity of God. Our task is to articulate a vision in a way that will draw us together as a people in Mission….. We proceed with our theological task, trusting that the Spirit will grant us wisdom to continue our journey with the whole people of God.”

36 Responses to BREAKING: United Methodist Council of Bishops Calls for Charges Against Mel Talbert

  1. Rev. Kristopher Perry says:

    I am sure that this is a very difficult time for the Council of Bishops, but the decision made is truly what is in the best interest of our Church.

  2. Donnie says:

    It’s definitely a start. I just pray they will follow through during the penalty phase.

    • Rev. Martin Fors says:

      The meaning and even the text of the statement below has been reiterated over and over since 1969. Likely I’ll be in my grave and with the Lord while statements such as this will continue to be repeated. Honestly speaking, I don’t know how much longer I can remain and support financially and otherwise my beloved denomination while this continues. Will we go ‘down the tubes’ like the Episcopal Church? We’re headed that way and many clergy and bishops could care less. The word ‘conversation’ is meaningless… we’ve been in ‘conversation’ ad infinitum. The quote follows:

      We recommend that the Executive Committee initiate a task force to lead honest and respectful conversations about human sexuality, race, and gender in a world-wide perspective in our shared commitment to clear theological understanding of the mission and polity of the United Methodist Church

  3. theenemyhatesclarity says:

    Amen, Donnie. I am not an optimist, but this is more than I expected. The ball is rolling, but the question is, is it rolling uphill or downhill?

  4. Jeff Allen says:

    BUT will the College of Bishops for the Western Jurisdiction, who are tasked with carrying this action out, actually follow through? They have already stated their support of Bishop Talbert, and they have also encourage ministers to violate the Book of Discipline with regards to this issue! If the COB has punted, will the College now fumble the ball?

  5. Jeff Allen says:

    And what will another task force accomplish? The UMC has been debating this issue for 40 years, and in many cases, the so-called “progressives” have been anything but respectful (I call to you attention Amy DeLong’s stunt at the last General Conference in Tampa).

    You either believe the Bible or not…it’s that simple! There is no middle ground between truth and falsehood. “For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”(2 Cor. 6:14).

    • Robert A. Mitchell says:

      “Christianity” is based on the first four books of the New Testament, codified by Christ’s disciples, who quoted Him on issues of significance. Homosexuality was not one of those issues; nowhere in the Gospel does Jesus himself address the issue of homosexuality. So who are we to make it an issue in His name?

      Mohandas Gandhi said:
      “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”

      Bob M

      • John S says:

        If Jesus is God and the bible is the word of God then what the bible teaches on homosexuality is what Jesus taught on homosexuality. If Jesus is not God or the bible is not the word of God then neither is authorative nor require serious attention. But the argument that “Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord …seated at the right hand of the Father…” taught nothing about homosexuality is completely false.

      • dan b says:

        Bob M, since Jesus radically transformed many concepts as understood in the Old Testament, why did He not change our understanding of homosexual activity if indeed He intended the Church to change it’s view of it? So why are progressives trying to make an issue of something He did not intend to change? Why are you / they trying to be so divisive?

      • Gene Mims says:

        Read Matthew 5:17-18. To me it states that the Law that God gave Moses was still in effect. Therefore, your suggestion that Jesus did not mention homosexuality specifically is moot.

  6. Ray Worsham says:

    Their act of asking him not to carry on his pathetic publicity stunt left them no choice but to do something. I fear the outcome. This continued notion of divided minds and conversation does nothing to address the real problem of rebellion within the ranks of elders and bishops. I fear the outcome of this action will not support the truth of the gospel in any way. We need Christian leadership from Bishops that recognize the truth the Christs’ death offers freedom from sin, that sin will always try to silence that gospel, and they must defend the gospel from sin.
    Where is that statement?

    • gary says:

      While I agree with you Ray, that statement and leadership that you want will never come from the c-o-b. I suspect that the “punishment” from this action will be simlar to Amy de Long and the white paper she had to write on “conflict” or something along those lines.

  7. Holly Boardman says:

    I am hopeful that this horrendous situation may be a tipping point that will lead to the adoption of a new Book of Discipline. The 2012 General Conference rightly recognized that our current Book of Discipline is too United States centered for a global church. They charged a task force of the Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters to draft a proposal. The task force met in Budapest in September, and I am quite heartened by the tweets I read about their work. . They seem to be proposing a two volume BOD. Volume 1 would be designed for the entire global connection. It would be SMALL (Bishop Strieff held up a BOD from the 18th century that was small enough to fit in his pocket). This book would focus on our common theology and history as Wesleyans. It would serve to give us a common identity. It would not be a book of rules (like our current BOD). The vision then allows multiple volume 2 BOD’s. I believe these would be regional and contextual books.

    My hope is that this proposal will be embraced enthusiastically and soon. I believe it is time for The United Methodist Church to move on. We need to celebrate our many successes, repent of the harm we have done, admit that we have failed to be an obedient church, and embrace God’s vision for global Wesleyan Christianity. Perhaps we should hold a service of Death and Resurrection for the United Methodist Church. Let’s reboot–perhaps as part of a new “Global Methodist Connection”.

    I have some dreams for the American church too. I would like for our churches to recenter on Christ by adopting eucharistic worship–at least weekly. I would also like to see us return to our roots with a renewed emphasis on Wesley Class Meetings and Band meetings. I sincerely hope we will look at alternative ways to make decisions. Voting is not Biblical. Robert’s Rules of Order are designed to temper combat, but they also promote partisan spirit. We can learn much from other, obviously sustainable models of church government (yes, I mean catholisism and orthodoxy). Let’s take some of their best ideas and put a Wesleyan twist on them.

    As a retired United Methodist pastor, I am more interested in the future of Wesleyan Christianity than holding on to the obviously dysfunctional form of Methodism to which I vowed my loyalty. May God grant us wisdom and grace as we move forward.

    The Rev. Holly Boardman, Florida Conference, retired elder

    • John says:

      This is a ridiculous proposal. A secondary volume of the BOD would in effect divide the United Methodist Church. This is another attempt of what happend a few years ago. In 2008 the General Conference passed a series of constitutional amendments that would allow UM conferences to divide into regional bodies. These bodies would have the authority to write their own BOD. This became known as the, “Separation Amendments.” These amendments failed miserably.

      The truth is the BOD is not too, “United States centered.” If anything it is African centered; especially on the issue of homosexuality. When the separation amendments were proposed, the liberals claimed, “This is an attempt to end colonialism.” It was nothing more than an attempt to shove our African brothers and sisters aside so the liberal element in the United States could accomplish their agenda without having to deal with the Africans, the Filipinos, and the southern United States.

      The truth of the matter is the liberals simply can’t afford to break away from the UMC. I have had more than 1 District Superintendent tell me that the conservative churches tend to pay their all their apportionments. Where as the Liberal churches tend to pay only a part of their apportionments;
      if at all. I don’t have hard numbers to back up this claim but it would be interesting to research it.

  8. Ed Fickey says:

    I guess it doesn’t matter what is accepted and traditional and a part of the book of discipline. If it feels good, do it and make enough of a stink about it, until it is accepted. If a sin is a sin now, is it a sin later? Are we going to take other sins and just say that doesn’t count anymore? Or can we keep some sort of baseline, say this is it, and work back from there. When something is set down, it can be challenged, sure, that is what is required to keep something strong. Can it be broken? Not without consequence.

    • m.scott says:

      Have just read this today and have been sickened to see our BIshops do nothing again. And I agree with you, Mr. Fickey. Sin by any other name is still sin. We are all full of it and we are chastened by God to fight it. Same sex unions are a sin. Period. And the UMC is NOT doing its job by allowing this kind of thing to go on. If I kill a person, will the UMC just say, “well that’s a sin, but we’ll hold a conference and make a way to keep from punishing you.” Sounds to me like just what our government is doing as we stand by and let it. Not good for faith, not good for government.

  9. jo says:

    Maybe the time has finally come for a split in the denomination. Since we have argued this for nearly 50 years and have not agreed, I believe it is time to become two denominations, allowing those who believe one way to be one, and those who believe the other way to be the other. Why should we waste time in an argument that can not be settled when we should instead be doing ministry and mission? There are towns now that have two “Methodist” churches, maybe we would grow if we stopped arguing and allowed more churches to grow that have people with similar beliefs. I think both sides would grow if we could stop this stupid arguing and get on with what we each believe.

    • Davie says:

      Its interesting that when the liberals are losing the debate, they are willing to consider an amicable separation. However, when they are win the debate, like they have in TEC and the ELCA, they condemn any who try to separate as schismatic and use all means to prevent it from happening. Rest assured, if the liberals were winning, every, church, school and penny would be theirs.

  10. theenemyhatesclarity says:

    Rev. Boardman, I have a better idea. My church will have it’s own Book of Discipline, your local church can as well. That way we are each able to address the issues that are important to us.

    • John S says:

      And since my issues aren’t important to you and vice versa we can all keep our approtionment money and not send it to the conference since what is important to them is not important to us.

      The BOD is important because of the connectiveness of the UMC. If the parts weren’t so dependant on each other the fight wouldn’t be so bitter.

  11. Holly Boardman says:

    Sorry–I don’t want to be a Baptist.

    • theenemyhatesclarity says:

      John and Holly,

      I was being sarcastic. But if we are not all going to play by all the rules, why should any of us play by any of the rules. You cannot have a connectional church unless the rules are binding.

  12. Bishop I. Paul says:

    Dear Church,
    Greetings in Jesus’ Name. Dear Church I am Bishop I. Paul from Lahore, Pakistan. I am the 4th Methodist Bishop in Pakistan. We are registered from 1950 and we are working independently after 1970. Now we are working in 10 regions with a team of 32 Pastors and 50 Evangelists. I am very glad to find you on internet because now days we need international Methodists to be with us, now we are not much able to work independently. So please do reply us in Jesus’ name because we all are from Him and we should remember His word that “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” and according to John Wesley “Methodists are one in all the world”.

    God Bless You. I will be waiting for your kind.

    • SteveInIndiana says:

      Apparently, “Loving your neighbor as yourself” is the crux of the issue, when your neighbor is a homosexual couple. :-\

      • Gene Mims says:

        I think our brother in Pakistan was looking for affirmation – not sarcasm. Yes, we should love our neighbors, but that doesn’t mean we have to agree with or accept their life styles.

  13. Archbishop Jocita Williams Phd.DD says:

    Church is an organized like any other business with it’s set of rules that people should respect. If You don’t like the rules stop being lazy not wanting to do the work to organize your own. you have to follow the organized rules who pays you to do so. You are paid to do as you are told not what you believe. Go organize your own.

  14. Jon Benton says:

    I pray that an inclusive Church strives to expand itself in love for all that is good…is current.. relevant and meaningful to all its participants. So much of TODAY has nuances that require Christian understanding.

  15. Chet Thomas says:

    As a life long lay person in the UMC I appreciate the verbiage of the UMC regarding our denominational stance in this arena, as I find it very balanced and tolerant considering the times we are in. We are not of one mind however and after speaking with several UMC pastors and others from both sides, it is apparent that those with a liberal mindset no long consider homosexuality “a sin. Those with a more traditional mindset do still consider the act of homosexuality “a sin” or against the will and intent of God, according to our understanding. I do find it less than genuine when I hear people say that Jesus never mentioned it so it must be okay. Jesus was never quoted as talking about Murder either (except for Matt 5 and it wasn’t even the point of that scripture) but I’m fairly sure Jesus did not approve of it or consider it okay. Of course this is a political issue within the church as well, even if know one openly admits it., as if this goes a certain way, their will be a “great divorce” within the denomination, and how do the properties, retirement, etc get split up. Maybe it can be done equitably. Maybe it will be a nasty affair like so many other divorces. But one thing will be certain – United Methodism will cease to be united.

  16. P. D. Worley says:

    I agree with Jo. It is time to separate. The Bible affirms that it is impossible to walk together if you can’t agree. However, those who so liberal that they no longer believe the Holy Bible do not want to separate because they have the nature of a parasite. They would not grow, but rather die if left to themselves since a parasite can not reproduce life of itself. They only exist to “suck out” the life of those that are truly alive.

  17. Jerry Kitchens says:

    So Holly doesn’t want to be a Baptist. Apparently she doesn’t want to be a Methodist either. This reminds me of the father who wanted his daughter to be in the Boy Scouts.

    Why do people want to change their church instead of going to another church where you would not need to support the Methodist Book of Discipline? This explains a lot concerning why the Methodist Church is loosing membership.

    And the Methodist Church doesn’t need another Book of Discipline. As Methodists we just need to believe in the one we have. Otherwise we are not Methodists.

  18. Keith Wells says:

    Jesus never mentioned sodomy , or usery, or stealing cable tv. All this was either beyond the pale for normal people or unheard of. The book of discipline does mention homosexual behavior , and very clearly states its opposition. Why is this so hard for the libertines to understand ? You don’t have to believe in the book of discipline , unless you want to be a methodist, you got options. Universal Unitarians don’t believe in anything , they would gladly accept the libertine methodist church into the fold.
    God help is all
    David Keith Wells

  19. James says:

    While I’m Roman Catholic, not Methodist, I drive past a Methodist church every day which has a sign reading “We stand with Bishop Talbert.” My curiosity led me here. It distresses me greatly that some of your church leaders, as well as some from other denominations (someone here mentioned the Episcopal church) no longer stand up for the principles laid down for us by God. While we may not always like what God tells us is right, by virtue of His being the creator He does make the rules that we are to follow.

    I live in an extremely liberal part of the country and too many churches here are abandoning principle and embracing what “feels good.” I pray that your bishops will come together and do what the Lord would expect them to do.

  20. I am curious says:

    for those who refuse to read the Bible in context: How many divorced persons have been remarried in your church? Isn’t this a sanctification of adultery? (Which Jesus did have something to say about.)

  21. kevin says:

    To those who refuse to read the Bible in context: How many divorced persons have been married in your church? isn’t this a sanctification of an adulterous relationship (which Jesus did have something to say about)?

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