A group of 70 clergy and laity within the United Methodist Church has accused retired Bishop Melvin G. Talbert of encouraging disobedience to the denomination’s stance on homosexuality. The bishop is a veteran of the civil rights struggles of the 1960s and shared a jail cell with Martin Luther King.
… the group’s letter takes issue with Bishop Talbert’s May 4 remarks at a United Methodist gathering outside General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking body. The document also criticizes Bishop Talbert’s June 16 sermon at the ordination service of the California-Pacific Annual Conference, in which he reiterated his earlier remarks.
Bishop Talbert said on Aug. 24 that he stands by his statements. “General Conference made its decision in Tampa,” he said. “I was there. I heard the debate, and in spite of that, I made my decision on May 4, and I stand by that.”
The letter urges the bishops when they next meet to “publicly censure” Bishop Talbert. It also asks the executive committee of the Council of Bishops to file a formal complaint against Bishop Talbert.
The letter requests the bishop be charged with violating his responsibility to uphold church law, disseminating doctrine contrary to the standards of the United Methodist Church and engaging in behavior that undermines another pastor’s ministry.
“The derogatory rules and restrictions in the Book of Discipline are immoral and unjust and no longer deserve our loyalty and obedience,” Bishop Talbert said in May at the Love Your Neighbor Tabernacle outside General Conference. “Thus the time has come for those of us who are faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ to do what is required of us. . . . The time has come to join in an act of biblical obedience.”
Bishop Talbert called on the more than 1,100 clergy who signed pledges to officiate at same-sex unions to “stand firm.”
The Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book, says the practice of homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” The book prohibits United Methodist churches from hosting and clergy from officiating at “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions.”
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