Open Letter Calls for Censure, Charges Against Retired Bishop
More than seventy prominent United Methodist clergy and laity have written an open letter to the Council of Bishops calling upon the Council to hold retired Bishop Melvin Talbert accountable for provocatively encouraging clergy to disobey the denomination's prohibition on same-sex marriage.
At a May 4 rally following General Conference, and again at the California-Pacific Conference ordination service in June, Bishop Talbert called for the schismatic action. "The derogatory rules and restrictions in the Book of Discipline are immoral and unjust and no longer deserve our loyalty and obedience … I call on the more than 1,100 clergy [who have signed marriage initiatives] to stand firm in their resolve to perform marriages for same-sex couples and to do so in the course of their normal pastoral duties, thus defying the laws that prohibit them from doing so…."
At the July meeting of the Western Jurisdictional Conference, Bishop Talbert was appointed to lead the Western Jurisdiction's College of Bishops in its Strategic Plan for Gospel Obedience. This plan was enacted to challenge bishops, clergy, laity and local churches and ministry settings to operate as if the statement printed in the denomination's law book — Paragraph 161F ["The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching."] — "does not exist."
"We are deeply concerned that Bishop Talbert has undercut that very discipline and order," states the letter, "by encouraging dissension, disunity and disobedience, and advocating anarchy and chaos in response to the actions of the 2012 General Conference, taken after focused prayer, study, and holy conferencing."
The letter requests the executive committee of the Council of Bishops to publicly censure Bishop Talbert for his remarks and to file complaints against him for (1) "disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church [in violating his responsibility to uphold that order and discipline], (2) dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrine of The United Methodist Church, and (3) engaging in behavior that undermines the ministry of another pastor" (Book of Discipline, ¶2702.1e, f, g).
"The actions of Bishop Talbert specifically, and any of those retired and active bishops who stood with him, knowing what he was prepared to say, directly contravene this commitment made by the Council of Bishops as a whole [to uphold the Book of Discipline as established by General Conference]," the letter states.
The letter also called upon the 14 other retired and active bishops who stood with Bishop Talbert in Tampa as he made his declaration to either publicly repudiate Bishop Talbert's call to perform same-sex unions or themselves be censured by the Council of Bishops.
The 70 signers included pastors of both large and small congregations, representing various regions of the country and every United Methodist jurisdiction. Also signing were clergy and lay members of the Boards of Directors of the Confessing Movement and Good News.
The open letter –– and the eventual response from the Council of Bishops –– will be posted at www.faithfulumc.com.
Rev. Tom Harrison, pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church, Tulsa, OK - 918.853.4794
Rev. Randy Paige, pastor of Christ Church United Methodist, Port Jefferson Station, NY – 631.664.9837
Rev. Ken Werlein, pastor of Faithbridge United Methodist Church, Spring, TX - 832.541.4673
Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of Good News and pastor of discipleship at The Woodlands United Methodist Church, The Woodlands, TX – 281-507-9153
Rev. Tom Lambrecht, vice president of Good News, The Woodlands, TX – 920-475-6000