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November 15, 2013


Methodist Bishop to Go On Trial

In a move so rare that it will undoubtedly elicit disbelief throughout the mainline world, the United Methodist Council of Bishops has decided to put one of its own on trial for violating the denomination’s Book of Discipline. What’s more, the charge has to do with the one of the two inviolable tenets of 21st religious liberalism, the sacred wonderfulness of homosexuality. (The other, of course, is the sacramentality of abortion.) John Lomperis of the Institute on Religion and Democracy gives the full statement by the CoB from the meeting at Lake Junaluska, N.C.:

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 ishop 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 conversation s 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.”

This will no doubt provoke howls of outrage from liberals, and further calls for an official schism in the United Methodist Church. To which I say: excellent, on both counts.


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10 comments

As a former UM minister myself, I would offer these caveats, based on experience. First, the crux of the statement is an acknowledgement of division among the bishops, not a declaration of unity. Second, the recommendation of a “task force to lead honest and respectful conversation s regarding human sexuality, race and gender” is an overt concession to the heretic Talbert, and precisely the kind of “conversation” he intended to provoke by his disobedience. Third, the statement merely requests that charges be filed. It does not (and, based on my understanding of the limited authority of the CoB, cannot) direct a bishop or bishops to follow through on the request.

In other words, this “statement” is little more than a typical bureaucratic response, calculated to appease all sides and accomplish nothing. Whether or not a complaint is actually filed is already irrelevant because of the parameters the statement sets (acknowledgement of division, call for dialogue, etc.). The United Methodist Dog and Pony Show will continue. Ho hum.

[1] Posted by Jagged Edge on 11-15-2013 at 02:50 PM · [top]

Well said Jagged Edge

[2] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 11-15-2013 at 03:12 PM · [top]

I’m a former UM myself, Jagged, so I’m not naive about the system. You’re certainly correct that nothing may happen. But I think it likely that charges will be filed, since the bishop whose conference Talbert invaded was specifically named in the statement. I don’t think she’d have been willing to go along with that unless she was also wiling to proceed with the charges.

As for the task force, that’s window dressing. Nothing that it proposes would ever pass General Conference, assuming it made liberal recommendations, and in the meantime it would serve no other purpose than allowing libs to blow off steam.

And as for the acknowledgement of division, I think there’s good in that. Given the unwillingness of liberals to live in obedience to church law, an open recognition of the division can only hasten the day when schism becomes formal. I’ve always been one to find heresy, and the tolerance thereof, more problematic than schism, which in this instance would primarily be the going separate ways of two different religions. Anything that speeds that process is to the good.

[3] Posted by David Fischler on 11-15-2013 at 03:21 PM · [top]

John Wesley himself (lifelong Anglican, but founder of the Methodist movement) correctly defined “schism” not as “not a separation from any Church, (whether general or particular, whether the Catholic, or any national Church,) but a separation in a Church.” I have been hearing about “the coming schism” in the UMC, the Anglican Communion, and any number of other Protestant bodies for going on 20 years now. Recognizing that it already exists would require going down the difficult road of repentance and reconciliation. Pretending that it is still “coming” implies it can be prevented by compromise and half measures, which is what the CoB, in typical fashion, is doing here.

[4] Posted by Jagged Edge on 11-15-2013 at 03:43 PM · [top]

There’s an excerpt from one Rev. Martin Fors in the comments section:

“Will we go ‘down the tubes’ like the Episcopal Church? We’re headed that way and many clergy and bishops could care less. The word ‘conversation’ is meaningless… we’ve been in ‘conversation’ ad infinitum.”

At least they have not yet confronted the meaninglessness of “indaba”, that’s a few years down the road.

[5] Posted by SpongJohn SquarePantheist on 11-15-2013 at 05:46 PM · [top]

And then “radical reconciliation” after that.  Yeah this play has several acts to go.

[6] Posted by Capt. Father Warren on 11-15-2013 at 06:58 PM · [top]

Don’t hold your breath.  The discipline to be meted out, if any at all, will be done by the Western Jurisdiction of the UMC, which is notoriously liberal. I believe they came out with a “suggested” punishment of pastors doing this.  The “suggested” punishment was a 24 hour suspension.  IIRC, the Judicial Council recently ruled that this resolution about suggested punishment was invalid.

The UMC clerics are becoming nothing more than a bunch of community organizers following Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” to choke and overload the system so it collapses, whereupon they can remake it in their own image.  I guess since they’re all Arminians anyway, they don’t believe in the total depravity of man and think by following the zeitgeist they can save themselves cheese

[7] Posted by Daniel on 11-16-2013 at 11:58 AM · [top]

The Methodists 21st Century version of the Righter trial…
same result—-no core doctrine? what are the chances?

[9] Posted by aacswfl1 on 11-20-2013 at 11:16 AM · [top]

Hey #9, I too thought of the Righter Trial. However, there was (and still is) core doctrine in TEC, it has simply been ignored hence the trial court’s “no core doctrine” stance. However, if the UMC ignores their own discipline (which they have not given the punishment of this minister) and accept some sort of *answer* from this minister that says “I won’t do it ” but he really means “for now…... until the time is right” then what is the *difference* between what transpired in the Righter Trial and what is happening in the UMC judgement?  In both cases, discipline is not truly sought- same end result happens….  heresy moves forward!!

[10] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 11-20-2013 at 12:08 PM · [top]

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