Official statement of The Council of Bishops regarding Talbert same-sex union

Statement of The Council of Bishops

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 Bishop 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 honest and respectful conversations 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.”

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Comments

  1. Rev. Dan Boyd says

    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? Is a task force on continuing a dialogue that has clearly shown the incompatable core of our differences and clearly led the church to maintain the standard of the sacred worth of all but that the practice of homosexuality is incompatable with Christian teaching the best way to lead? Is this the only way the CoB can lead given their lack of unity?

    Will more churches and pastors openly violate the Discipline by allowing and officiating same gender unions. ( did anyone notice that the CoB statement named the union presided over by Bishop Talbert a “marriage?” Even the CoB language is not consistent with our Discopline which clearly defines marriage as only between a man and a woman. — Paragraph 161.B)

    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. I’m looking to see how and if the Lord leads otherss.

  2. The General Conference of our Church is the guiding light / entity of our Church on all matters. The General Conference has spoken clearly and decisively over these many past years of the Church’s position on same sex marriages. In the absence of a single CEO, the Council of Bishops / College of Bishops are the defac”to arbitrators/ enforcement arm of the Church on polity and issues, to a large degree toward responsibility leadership. It is the duty of every officer and member of the Church to uphold and defend our rules, beliefs and doctrine until it is lawfully changed or modified by the General Conference.

    The road of complaint by the Discipline and the recommendation to initiate a task force is a delay/ avoidance tactic to uphold our agreed upon positions by the General Conference. The Council of Bishops must issue stronger language and accountability for the egregious deliberate acts of defiance. A defiant child would be corrected by all the means necessary in the way it should go by loving parents. Likewise our Council of Bishops must get in the tough love business for Unity’s sake of all the U.M.C..

  3. William R. Graham says

    The repudiation of the breach of church law by our church authorities appears to be very weak. We applaud Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett for keeping her sacred vows and caring for the future of the United Methodist Church. If same sex “Marriage” is right, then Scripture has no authority in our church and becomes nothing more than a fable as already taught by some.

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