Contact Your Bishop

Rob Renfroe on Talbert’s Breach of the Discipline

1. Please write with courtesy and respect for the office of bishop, and express yourself as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Avoid demonizing those with whom we disagree. Avoid inflammatory language. Avoid demanding language, but ask clearly and concisely for what you would like to see the bishop do.
2. Ask that your bishop encourage the Council of Bishops to file complaints against Bishop Talbert for undermining the ministries of other UM pastors and for conducting a service in celebration of a same-sex union.

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  1. Inman Moore, Retired United Methodist Minister says

    I am a retired minister in the United Methodist Church. Thank you for the opportunity to express my opinion. While I respect the people in the Good News movement, I strongly support Bishop Mel Talbert in his recent officiating at a same sex marriage ceremony in Alabama. I say this for two reasons.

    The first is that the church has always been lifted to greater heights by the reformers who followed their conscience and went beyond the established norms of their church at the moment. Jesus set the example by violating several of the established rules in his time. He performed work on the Sabbath. In his Sermon on the Mount He refuted or revised several of the statutes found in Leviticus, such as the “eye for an eye” standard stated by Leviticus. In fact,in his sermon, he changed the old law six times.

    Paul also said that Gentiles should be accepted as Gentiles and did not have to be circumcised or be bound by the old food laws. Early on, he said that all are accepted by God: Jew or Greek; male or female, bond or free. All come into the Kingdom by their faith. Martin Luther, a Catholic Priest, deeply challenged the establishment in his time. John Wesley started a whole new movement in his day. While he had great differences with the established church, he died as an ordained minister in the Church of England.

    The second reason I approve of Bishop Talbert’s action is my understanding of the Bible. For Christians, underlying our differences on many issues today is the way we interpret the Bible. The Good News Movement has often been critical of the way many of us treat the Bible. Some have said that many in the Church today have simply thrown away the Scriptures. I plead “Not guilty.” I have been a student of the Bible all my life. I read the Bible. I study the Bible. It is a great book and is the background book for the Christian Faith. But the Bible is not infallible. it is not infallible. It was written by men inspired by their understanding of God, but these writers did not always agree. The Bible is a product of the Church. The books in the Bible were selected by the early Church from a number of other books circulating at the time. The Old Testament was not even written by Christian writers. We simply took over the Jewish Scriptures and made them a part of the Christian Bible. The early church was not perfect, So it is understandable that the Bible is not perfect either. What the early Jews and later Christian writers said about homosexuality is not necessarily an edict of God. The Christian slave owners in the South proved scripturally that slavery was compatible with the Christian Faith. Nehemiah gave the segregationists a leg to stand on and they ran with it. Some churches still do not ordain women because, on one occasion, Paul said that women should not speak out in public. There are some Christians who still believe that. But most of us have moved to higher ground. Just as we now condemn slavery and segregation, we are moving today to understand that gays are gay because they are born that way, just as straights are straight because they were born that way. And both gays and straights are welcome in the Kingdom of God.

    With that said, my prediction is that we will one day celebrate the leadership of people like Bishop Talbert who call us, in the name of Christ, to continually move on to higher ground. One final word: I sincerely hope the Good News Movement and the rest of us in the United Methodist Church will continue together in the United Methodist Church to do our best to be good citizens of “The Kingdom of God.”

    Inman Moore

    • Dear Inman,

      #1 The reformers sought change based on the idea of returning to scriptural authority. Please include the scripture that say that the homosexual act is approved by God and also the scripture that says that two people of the same gender can get married.

      #2 When you say that Jesus said something that was radically different that is true, but He was God Incarnate so He had the right to better explain the true will of God. Bishop Talbert does not have the same authority as Jesus.

      #3 While Paul was saying that no person is outside of the kingdom of God on the basis of their gender, ethnicity or level of freedom, he did not imply that every action (sexual or otherwise) was therefore approved by God. All people are of “sacred worth” but not all actions are acceptable to God. We all need to be saved according to the grace of Christ and can receive that grace but that does not dismiss our behaviors as all being no big deal to God because of grace.

      #4 Since you state that scripture is fallible how does one decide which part of scripture is authoritative? Who will dictate what we really need to observe? Who / what shapes your theology and why should that influence have any influence on the rest of us?

      #5 How do you defend the behavior of Bishop Talbert’s direct and divisive behavior? Integrity would demand that he first resigning as a UM bishop before he did the service in question? For 40 years there has been a system (one that he took ordination vows to uphold and expected others to do the same when he was an active bishop) in place that has allowed for respectful dialogue, sensitivity, debate and prayer. It has sought to recognize the pain caused by this issue and has also tried to show sensitivity and empathy to the minority voice. All of this being done with a common desire for unity in the connection even in the disagreement. The bishop’s action has accomplished nothing to strengthen unity and instead has done more damage to the trust that a bishop should nurture. He could have even spoken his support for the couple in question while still promising to obey the Discipline as it presently exists while vowing to keep seeking change. All he has accomplished is to cause more pain, more heartbreak and greater disunity. Does everyone now have the freedom like bishop Talbert to break any part of the Discipline that we personally disagree with? Shall we all become autonomous congregations and clergy? Or do we all in the UMC owe each other the ethical accountability of obedience to our common connection and promised vows even when it is deeply challenging to keep that vow, always with the freedom to resign from our ordination if we can no longer keep those vows. This I believe to be behavior that is closer to being prophetic and at the very least respectable in conduct even if lacking in theology.

  2. J H Bullock says

    Dear Rev. Renfroe,
    Thank you for your message. Although I have serious disagreement with your statements on homosexuality, I can appreciate your convictions and passions. My hope and prayer is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ will always trump the Book of Discipline in the UMC. The Book of Discipline is man’s interpretation of the Gospel and should never be regarded as more important than the Gospel as I “hear” presented in your message. I would encourage you to reconsider the message to be based on the message of Christ, not the Discipline. I believe iit would be more effective, even if one views one’s interpretations about Jesus to be against homosexuality. The schism of the 19th century involving slavery was Scripturally based, not disciplined based. On another note, I believe “united” does not necessarily mean “uniformity”. How beautiful it could be if the United Methodist Church could live this out with both sides of the table agreeing to serve together for the sake of the Kingdom. I believe if there is a church that could do it, It would be the UMC. Blessings on your ministry!

    • J H, I think we all (I hope) agree that the Gospel takes precedent in all that we attempt to do. I believe that the BOD as presently written is in agreement with what the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the NT is teaching regarding homosexual activity. Namely that all persons are of sacred worth, but that “all have sinned” and therefore need the atoning grace of Jesus who “gave His life as a ransom for many”, “so that anyone who believes in Him (though a sinner) might receive eternal life” and at the same time are called to “go and sin no more”. That having been said please provide the scripture that says that homosexual activity should no longer be considered as sinful as stated in the OT and therefore redefines marriage as possibly existing between people of the same gender.

      Also on the basis of your other statement regarding “unity” vs “uniformity”, what would be the basis, operation and enforcement mechanism of a the minimal orthodoxy / doctrine of a reformed UM denomination? What would be your authority for that theology which would be our new orthodoxy? I am not trying to be critical here but am interested in what you would do differently than what has already been done without eventually running into the same situations? Our history suggests this is not an easy task. Blessings to you as well.

  3. The problem with Bishop Talbert and now the rogue pastor in central Pennsylvania who performed a same sex marriage (SSM) is that they are interpreting the Bible erroneously through their own human lens. I have been part of the UMC since 1998 and have grown increasingly alarmed as I’ve observed a gradual decline within some churches. There are many mainline churches that have a cancer of apostasy growing within in their interpretation of the Bible, liberal theology (i.e. social gospel), acceptance of ordained gay ministers, gay marriage issue, etc. The UMC is currently the last holdout in not giving in to the liberal agenda, but I’m not sure this will last forever. Some have aptly called UMC the “untied Methodist Church” (a term I read elsewhere on the internet). If things don’t somehow improve, I predict the UMC will ultimately split, much like the schism that occurred within the Episcopal church after 2003. Scripture clearly states not to be “unequally yoked with unbelievers”. Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy).

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