As reported earlier, retired Bishop Melvin Talbert of San Francisco recently won a joke of a “just resolution” in which he faced no consequences for becoming the first United Methodist bishop to perform a same-sex “sin blessing” service.
The United Methodist Renewal and Reform Coalition – The Confessing Movement within The United Methodist Church, Good News, Lifewatch, Renew Network, Transforming Congregations, and IRD’s UM Action program – stands united in decrying this resolution as “inadequate, unfitting, and improper.”
Talbert performed his publicity stunt in October 2013 in Northern Alabama, dismissing the protests of both that area’s new bishop, Debra Wallace-Padgett, and the executive committee of the United Methodist Council of Bishops. At their November 2013 meeting, active United Methodist bishops voted overwhelmingly to authorize Bishop Wallace-Padgett as well as liberal Bishop Rosemary Wenner of Germany (then the Council of Bishops President) to file formal complaints against Talbert, on the grounds of both performing the same-sex union ceremony (strictly forbidden by the biblical rules our clergy vow to uphold) and undermining the ministry of a colleague. The complaint was handled within the College of Bishops of the notoriously radicalized Western Jurisdiction, where United Methodists actually committed to United Methodist doctrine are marginalized, in the name of “inclusivity.”
After this “resolution” was finally announced fourteen months after the offense, Talbert wasted little time in making publicly clear his understanding that, in the words of the Associated Press, “the settlement doesn’t prevent him from performing more same-sex marriages.”
Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of Good News noted, “We were simply amazed by the resolution.” He added, “To most observers it certainly appeared that Bishop Talbert had performed a same-sex service and that he had undermined the ministry of a colleague. But the so-called ‘just’ resolution resulted in no adverse consequence for these clear violations. In fact, Talbert was allowed to reiterate that ‘his actions were just and right.’”
Pat Miller, executive director of The Confessing Movement within the United Methodist Church lamented how “The process has taken altogether too long and there is nothing satisfactory about what has been determined to be justice.”
My own further statement as UMAction director is as follows:
If such a mockery of a ‘just resolution’ had been intentionally designed to exacerbate and prolong division, conflict, and pain on all sides of our denomination, and make it more difficult to move forward in genuinely compassionate Christian ministry for ALL people, including same-sex-attracted individuals, the statement could hardly have been much different.
This weak enabling of Talbert’s bull-in-the-china-shop covenant breaking reflects especially on the Western Jurisdiction in which this process was handled. It highlights the question of why this region must be uniquely privileged with an unjustifiable over-supply of bishops, heavily subsidized by United Methodists in the rest of the country, while the Western Jurisdiction itself consistently lags behind all other regions in paying its own assigned share of apportionments.
Overall, this represents yet another disappointing failure of leadership, courage, and trust from our bishops, on whose collective behalf this delegated settlement was reached.
United Methodist clergy who disagree with our denomination’s biblical policies on sexual self-control must recognize that have a choice to make. For the good of our church and its mission, as well as for the sake of demonstrating that their own word to God and fellow United Methodists can be trusted, they can determine to uphold and follow the policies they vowed to uphold and follow. Or if they feel they cannot remain within the parameters of their own voluntary ordination vows, as a matter of basic integrity they can withdraw from The United Methodist Church. But there is zero integrity in pursuing a destructive path of defiance and willful disobedience within The United Methodist Church, a choice that only works to tear apart the unity of Christ’s church, undermine trust throughout our denomination, and harm our church’s mission to make disciples for the transformation of the world.
The full Renewal and Reform Coalition statement is as follows:
UM Coalition Statement on Talbert Resolution
As leaders of the Renewal and Reform Coalition in The United Methodist Church, we believe the so-called “just resolution” of complaints filed against Bishop Melvin Talbert for performing a same-sex union service and undermining the ministry of another pastor is inadequate, unfitting, and improper. It fails the church. This settlement mocks the notion of a “just resolution” of Talbert’s intentional act of defiance because it fails to acknowledge that a serious breach of the covenant occurred and it contains no specific commitment to avoid future transgressions.
The Renewal and Reform Coalition consists of six groups of clergy and laity seeking to maintain United Methodist teaching and practice within the boundaries of scriptural Christianity as stated in the church’s doctrinal standards. The groups include The Confessing Movement within The United Methodist Church, Good News, Lifewatch, Renew Network, Transforming Congregations, and UM Action.
The fact that there were no consequences for violating the Book of Discipline nor any expressed regret for doing so invites future violations by Talbert and other clergy who disagree with the church’s biblical and compassionate provisions on marriage and sexuality. This settlement is one more in a series of “just resolutions” that have ignored the violation of official United Methodist policy as determined by 11 General Conferences over the past 40 years. It has become apparent that certain parts of the church and certain bishops have determined not to uphold and enforce the spirit, as well as the letter, of the United Methodist Discipline that they vowed to maintain at their ordination and consecration, and which all bishops reaffirmed as recently as last November’s Council of Bishops meeting.
As leaders of the Renewal and Reform Coalition, we call upon annual conferences to elect delegates to the 2016 General Conference who will restore accountability and integrity to our United Methodist covenant of baptism, membership, and ordination. We further call upon General Conference to pass legislation that will create a consistent global accountability for bishops and defined penalties for performing same-sex unions or marriages. We call upon all bishops to uphold and enforce the provisions of the Discipline with integrity, even when they disagree with those provisions. We also call upon the Council of Bishops to lead The United Methodist Church by teaching our church’s doctrine and by upholding our church’s discipline-not by seeking a public posture of neutrality.
Finally, we call upon those who disagree with our church’s doctrine and discipline to exercise their dissent within the parameters of obedience to our church covenant. Actions of defiance and willful disobedience tear apart the unity of Christ’s church, erode trust throughout our denomination, and severely undermine the church’s mission to make disciples for the transformation of the world.
Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, coordinator of the RRC and vice president of Good News
Rev. Larry Baird, past president of The Confessing Movement within The UM Church
Rev. Karen Booth, director of Transforming Congregations
Rev. Bill Bouknight, associate director of The Confessing Movement within The UM Church
Rev. Keith Boyette, chairperson of the Good News board
Rev. Walter Fenton, director of strategic resources for Good News
Rev. Daniel Fuller, convener of the NE Jurisdictional Evangelical Connection
Mrs. Judy Graham, president of The Confessing Movement within The UM Church
Mrs. Kathryn Kiser, team leader of Renew Network
Mr. John Lomperis, UMAction director
Sen. Patricia Miller, executive director of The Confessing Movement within The UM Church
Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of Good News
Rev. Paul Stallsworth, editor of Lifewatch
Mr. David Stanley, chair of UM Action steering committee
Mrs. Jean Leu Stanley, UM Action steering committee member
Mr. Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy