Good News statement regarding Bishop Talbert’s blessing

Tom Lambrecht

Tom Lambrecht

“In a clever maneuver, retired Bishop Melvin Talbert provocatively called for the violation of the Book of Discipline, but he never followed through to violate it himself,” observed the Rev. Thomas A. Lambrecht, vice president of Good News, an evangelical renewal group within The United Methodist Church. “His purely symbolic action was without any authority or standing.”

During an evening worship service at the Reconciling Ministries Network’s latest gathering on September 1, Talbert offered a blessing (complete with the phrase, “Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder”) to all the same-sex couples in attendance. “Interestingly, however, he chose not to participate in two different same-sex unions during the event – something that is actually prohibited and could have attracted a complaint within The United Methodist Church,” said Lambrecht.

Good News laments the fact that, once again, leaders in our church are advocating for disobedience to our United Methodist covenant, without any public rebuke or accountability from the bishops, who are charged to “guard the faith, order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline of the Church” (¶403.1). Bishops are called “to teach and uphold the theological traditions of The United Methodist Church” (¶414.5). Good News is mystified as to why bishops who seek to undermine our church’s theological traditions are given free voice, while bishops who would uphold our church’s theological traditions remain silent.

“It’s not surprising that Bishop Talbert feels free to become ever more provocative,” said the Rev. Rob Renfroe, president and publisher of Good News. “In July, 2012, dozens of pastors sent the Council of Bishops (COB) a letter after Bishop Talbert called upon pastors to disobey the Book of Discipline and begin marrying gay couples while speaking at the conclusion of the 2012 General Conference – a call he reissued as he preached the ordination service for the California-Pacific Annual Conference one month later. The letter from the clergy leaders to the Council of Bishops went unanswered for seven months and was only answered then after a follow-up communication was sent.

Rob Renfroe

Rob Renfroe

“The response evidenced little concern about Talbert’s encouragement of disobedience and what it would do to our covenant and our connection,” said Renfroe. “Now, empowered by the COB’s apathetic response, he has moved to the next level of provocation. Our church needs our episcopal leaders to step forward. Otherwise the crisis that is likely to develop as Bishop Talbert becomes ever more provocative in his words and actions will be laid squarely at the COB’s feet.”

As we wait for our episcopal leadership to act, Good News calls upon all faithful clergy and laity to pray for the unity and integrity of The United Methodist Church, to stand firm in the doctrines and discipline to which they have pledged their loyalty and obedience, and to exercise godly and loving accountability over those who serve in ministry among us and over us.



  1. Another angle to this big question is, how can we increase accountability of bishops…such as requiring strict term limits? For the same good reasons, we set term limits for politicians.

  2. Paul Morelli says

    If our leadership encourages that we disobey the discipline because we disagree with it, then all who disagree with any part of it are free to disobey anything that doesn’t fit their personal theology and we have no way to covenant together. The very idea of covenant is that we can depend on the other party honoring the covenant or we can not negotiate anything in good faith….as in judges: each man did what was right in his own sight….if we disagree with the covenant to the point where conscience forbids our participation, the we should gracefully leave the covenant and join one where we do agree or otherwise the covenant becomes worthless to any and all


    • It is actually sad and scary to see satan working within the Methodist church. It is actually Bible and the Lord’s word first, Methodist Discipline next and political bending never. Political Correctness is not the same as Right and Wrong. It would be very interesting how many Christian Methodist have pulled away from the Methodist Church because of these political issues. Christian Methodist? Sounds like a name for an independent Methodist Church.

  3. To Mr. Hoppe’s suggestion of term limits: I have worked with the Methodist Church Ghana for years and really appreciate their form of government. Bishops are elected for one term, and can be reelected for a 2nd. After their term, they “go back down” to pastor local churches. No one is elected bishop for life, and with the reality of what is to come after their years of service ever present, I believe it adds to the sense of accountability and restraint. I love the idea of term limits. It wouldn’t solve all problems, but it might give us a shot at changing hearts and minds!

  4. I think Paul is exactly right. We need to find gracious ways for Bishop Talbert & his friends to leave the denomination & follow their consciences. If he insists on staying, then he needs to be held accountable for his words & actions which are contrary to our Discipline & damaging to our covenant.

    I also find the idea of term limits for Bishops to be intriguing (the EUBs also practiced that form if episcopacy, so there is also precedent in the American Church). I would support it if proposed but think it’s unlikely to pass at General Conference.

  5. The Rev. Holly Boardman says

    I disagree with Good News’ conclusion that Bishop Talbert did not violate the Book of Discipline. I watched the live-stream of the worship service, and I was quite disturbed to see that it used much of the official Celebration of Christian Marriage Service to affirm the relationships of same-sex couples. My understanding is that some or many of these couples were previously legally “married” in states where that is now legal. After preaching a sermon in which Bishop Talbert termed the church’s laws relating to homosexuality “evil” and “unjust” and encouraging bishops and clergy to disobey these laws; Bishop Talbert invited same-sex couples in the congregation to stand. He announced that they are married, and he offered a blessing. The fact that Bishop Talbert did not sign any legal wedding licenses does not mean he did not violate paragraph 2702 c of the Book of Discipline by conducting a ceremony which celebrates homosexual unions.

    Here is a link to a video of the service with Bishop Talbert so your readers can draw their own conclusions:

    Should charges be filed? I think so. I am reluctant to do so myself for several reasons. I am a retired clergyperson, and I do not think this should be a matter between retired clergy. Rather, I hope the Council of Bishops will reprimand Bishop Talbert for such actions, perhaps file charges against him, and enjoin him to discontinue advocating that United Methodists ignore portions of the Book of Discipline that they disagree with.

    If nothing is done to hold Bishop Talbert to account, perhaps we should admit that the Book of Discipline has become moot. It is time to draft a new GLOBAL Book of Discipline anyway. This is an incentive to get on with that task.

  6. Pastor Stephen Burkhart says

    The real violation and destruction of the Discipline is the lack of will of any of the Bishops to publically denounce Bishop Talbert’s violation. We are seeing the concept of collegiality deteriorate from a responsive balance of compassion and accountability, to an excuse to hold no one accountable. If this continues unchallenged, the Discipline does not exist.


  1. […] same-sex unions in open defiance of church law, and repeatedly said that he would do so as well. As our friends at Good News have earlier noted, after dozens of United Methodist pastors urged the Council of Bishops to publicly rebuke and file […]

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