Council of Bishops takes action following same-sex union

Statement from Council of Bishops

Lake Junaluska, N.C.: Following the action of a retired bishop to conduct a same-gender ceremony in violation of church law, the United Methodist Council of Bishops took a series of actions to address the issue during their annual meeting this week in Lake Junaluska, N.C.

The Council requested that Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council, and Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett of the North Alabama Conference file a complaint regarding Bishop Melvin Talbert’s action, for “undermining the ministry of a colleague and conducting a ceremony to celebrate the marriage of a same gender couple.”

“When there are violations of the Book of Discipline, a response is required,” the bishops said in a statement.

The Council also voted to initiate a task force to lead conversations about human sexuality, race and gender in a global perspective. The goal of this effort is to come to a shared theological understanding amid diverse opinions in the church about these issues.

These actions followed days of prayerful discernment and conversation about the action it would take after retired Bishop Melvin Talbert conducted a ceremony on Oct. 26 celebrating the marriage of a same-gender couple in Center Point, Ala. – a chargeable offense for United Methodist clergy.

Church law says that, “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”

Both the presiding bishop of the North Alabama area where the ceremony took place, Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, and the Executive Committee of the Council had requested that Bishop Talbert not perform the ceremony.

Under church law, the College of Bishops – which is constituted of the bishops in a jurisdictional or central conference – has authority and accountability for processing complaints against a bishop who serves (or served) in that area, which would be the Western Jurisdiction in this instance.

Earlier this week in the President’s Address, Bishop Wenner acknowledged there is diversity of opinion about many issues in the church. “We have to lead together although we are not one minded. We do not need to hide that we are diverse,” she said. In the address, she also noted, “Serious conflicts have to be brought to the tables where leaders are present,” an acknowledgment that supports the plan for further discussion of the issue through a task force.

In a statement, the Council said that when followers of Christ and people of conscience hold conflicting views, honest and respectful conversation and prayer are needed throughout the church. The Council expressed pastoral care and concern for all people. (Read the full statement online.)
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Comments

  1. Rev. Carl Black says

    I have always appreciated the diversity and tolerance within our tradition. But on this issue we are not talking about disagreement on the subtle nuances of the wording of a Communion sacrament. For true unity to be restored there must be a common understanding of substantive scriptural issues. Without such commonality any talk of unity is avoiding the issue and disrespecting the many faithful United Methodists worldwide (whatever their inclination). Our Discipline stance is clear and is supported by the body of believers over many General Conferences. I pray that we may move forward in grace and love as we remain faithful to the essential tenets of our denomination. If those tenets are to change, it takes more than a task force to bring it about.

  2. Rev. Dan Boyd says:
    November 15, 2013 at 12:40 pm
    I hope all can see that the Council is following the Discipline’s “road” for a complaint against a Bishop. To do otherwise would call into question any results of the process. So an 120 day (or maybe a 240 day — see Paragraph 413.3b) waiting period has begun. Then another period of waiting if the supervisory response ends without resolution and moves into an Administrative or Judicial complaint.

    What will happen in the waiting?

    The Task Force will be created. Will the task force truely reflect the church? Will it be ‘stacked’with clergy, laity, and scholars who favor changing the church?

    How many believe that a task force to continue dialogue is the kind of leadership needed at this time? How many believe that a new task force will bring any new thoughts or conclusions in a matter when 40+ years of dialogue has clearly shown the incompatable core of our differences and clearly led the General Confernece to maintain the standard of the sacred worth of all but that the practice of homosexuality is incompatable with Christian teaching?

    WIll the CoB show the church that task forces and dialogue are their only way to lead given their now more opnly stated lack of unity?

    Will more churches and pastors openly violate the Discipline by allowing and officiating same gender unions?

    Will anyone challenge the CoB statement in which the ceremony officiated over by Bishop Talbert was named a “marraige?”

    Will people wonder as to why the official statements from the CoB, given as an expression of leadership, are inconsistent with the Disciplne they have covenanted to uphold? Do our Bishops not know that Paragraph 161.B clearly defines marriage as between one man and one woman?.

    Will some churches and pastors tire of the discord and disunity and either simply leave or take steps to leave?

    Will some begin to protest by withholding denominational apportionments?

    Will others further distance themselves from the news at the denominational level and simply refocus energy at the local church level?

    Will anyone Bishop stand up publically and call for a plan of mutually agreeable separation?

    I’m in prayer to hear from the Lord about how I am to respond? . I’m looking to see how the Lord leads others.

  3. Dan,

    You raise some very valid points about the UMC and where it is heading. I fear a schism is imminent in the not-so-distant future. Much like what happened to The Episcopal Church following 2003’s ordination of a gay bishop, liberal theology has wreaked havoc on our beloved church. I truly believe the day will come when churches will have to decide for themselves: do we stay within a declining and liberal-leaning denomination, or choose to follow Biblical teachings regarding sin and join/start a more conservative Christ-honoring movement. Dialogue is okay to a point, but must either lead to an understanding or a parting of ways. As the old John Bunyan (Anglican) hymn goes:”He who would valiant be, ‘gainst all disaster; Let him in constancy follow the Master; There’s no discouragement, shall make him once relent, His first avowed intent to be a pilgrim.” Let us all strive toward being a true pilgrim of God and walk in the light as He is in the Light.” Thanks be to God!

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