United Methodist Bishop To Officiate Same-Sex Wedding

On October 26, 2013, Bishop Melvin Talbert will be performing a holy wedding ceremony in Birmingham, Alabama, for Bobby Prince and Joe Openshaw, two members of The United Methodist Church (UMC). Talbert is a retired bishop in The UMC.

Openshaw and Prince seek to build their lives together and have the church present in that life. They believe that commitment to love in marriage helps bring them toward the fullness of their individual humanities. They believe that marriage strengthens their relationship in ways that benefit the entire community. They have been together for 12 years. Openshaw was born into the Methodist faith, and Prince has been Methodist for a number of years. They are members of Discovery UMC, located near Birmingham. For many reasons outlined in their story, they wanted to get married—not just legally (which they did in DC), but in a religious ceremony.

Bishop Talbert takes the work for LGBT justice in The UMC very seriously.

As a younger man, he sat in jail with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for three days and was arrested in Atlanta for lunch counter sit-ins. Since that time, he has taken, and continues to take, very bold stances for LGBT persons. He will be the first UMC bishop to publically perform a marriage for a same-sex couple.

Talbert adheres to Biblical Obedience, a belief based on scripture and the fullness of UMC law which calls on clergy to offer all ministries to all people, and to act as if the immoral, unjust, discriminatory laws that forbid clergy from officiating same-sex marriage do not exist. It is about respecting LGBT persons in their full personhood—offering them all of the rights, responsibilities, sacraments, and ministries of the church. The UMC also calls on bishops to be present in the lives of the community to offer a prophetic witness.

Whereas The UMC law book, known as the Book of Discipline, says that “The UMC does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching,” and it forbids clergy from officiating same- sex weddings or churches from allowing weddings to happen in their sanctuaries, other parts of church law contradict these restrictions.

The whole of church law leans not toward rigid restriction, but instead toward openness, acceptance, love, grace, and equality:

"Inclusiveness means openness, acceptance, and support that enables all persons to participate in the life of the Church, the community, and the world. Thus, inclusiveness denies every semblance of discrimination.”

“We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God.”

“All persons, regardless of age, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured.”

“We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.”

The United Methodist Church is the second largest protestant denomination in North America. Other Protestant denominations, including Episcopal, Presbyterian (PCUSA), Lutheran (ELCA), and United Church of Christ, fully accept the LGBTQ community, including marriage equality.

Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) is a growing movement of United Methodist individuals, congregations, campus ministries, and other groups working for the full participation of all people in The United Methodist Church. 

Photo via Reconciling Ministries Network

Comments (9)

God bless this bishop and God bless holy ecclesiastical disobedience!
He's in good company.

Talbert's action is less a matter of ecclesiastical disobedience and more a matter of Gospel (even Biblical!!) Obedience that Spirit has made normative in the ministry and life of Jesus. Go bishop! Go!! and Godspeed!

The General Conference of the UMC has patiently and prayerfully listened to the homosexual lobby for 40 years. Their concerns have been deliberated in open forums. The entire connectional system has honored their participation and given them voice. After much prayer and respectful consideration, the UMC has mandated a biblical and traditional position that affirms homosexual people as individuals of sacred worth who need to have a personal relationship with Jesus but does not affirm homosexual activity or gay marriage in the same way that it does not affirm adultery, cohabitation, pornography, the sex trade, prostitution, and all manner of behavior associated with the biblical term "fornication" (pornia). This is our interpretation of scripture and our official position as a covenant community. Since the primary job of the UM bishop is to support and enforce the Discipline, it is time for Bishop Talbert to resign his ordination and join another denomination. Additionally, if the other bishops do not bring a complaint against him, they are also in violation of the Discipline. Only the General Conference speaks for the UMC and it has spoken quite clearly on this topic. A bishop does not have an independent authority to speak or act in a way that is contrary to the general church. Clearly, this represents a connectional crisis, a crisis that may be the catalyst to help the American connection find a real solution to this disagreement while keeping covenant with the global connection. Regardless, the bishops have to act and speak with one voice or the connection is broken and there is no basis for a United Methodist Church. In such a case, the UMC would need to split and go separate ways. The latter may be the best solution since the gay lobby will not accept the spiritual discernment of the global church.

My husband and I were married in Provincetown Mass. By the meth pastor there the Rev. James Cox. There are more pastors who understand that the teachings oh Jesus and love are more important than the per vetted laws of man and the church. Thanks to both of them!

While I sincerely wish it were already true, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) does not have marriage equality. I'm grateful for this United Methodist bishop and his courage and compassion.

Abomination!!!!! This is one of many in the UMC that is NOT in it for the ministry but the money! I pity him on Judgement Day!!!!

If I understand this correctly, this Bishop is not from Alabama. He has no authority to "marry" this couple because they have already been "married" in another state. Therefore he can only "bless" the marriage that has already taken place. The current Bishop of the UMC in Alabama has asked this Bishop not to come to Alabama, however, he persists on coming to make a political statement. As a minister who was ordained in the UMC, he should respect the Book of Discipline. He is now retired, and if he chooses to now represent beliefs that are not part of the Book of Discipline, then he should join another denomination.

The Social Principles, as found in the Book of Discipline, are not "Church Law" as is often reported. It contains recommendations. The odious phrase "homosexuality is incompatible with the Christian faith" is in the Social Principles, which also recommends that United Methodists should not use alcohol or tobacco, and should support a lot of other very valid things. But it is not "Church Law." Bishop Talbert's performing of this blessing on a same-sex couple in an area where the UMC bishop doesn't want him to go is of a piece with the hundreds of Christians who went to Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana in the 1960s (against the expressed wishes of some of the bishops of those areas) to stand with Black brothers and sisters in their struggle for dignity and justice. If a bishop is a bigot, it is good that other bishops make that clear by standing for justice and righteousness, however unpopular that may be.

same sex marriage is not new for us. But in previous it was consider as illegal where as now it is approved by our constitution and it become a common legal activity. I think it is good. Marriage is a process through out which two person comes to close or bind each other. So it is most important to know their wish and we should respect it.

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