Performing A Same-Sex Marriage

Bishops support same-sex marriage at United Methodist General ConferenceBy Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, Retired
The United Methodist Church

Joe Openshaw and Bobby Prince will be married in Birmingham, Ala., on Oct. 26, 2013. It will be a joyous occasion and celebration. It will be my honor and privilege to officiate at their Holy Ceremony. Why am I doing this wedding? Simply put, I was invited to do it by Bobby and Joe. Of course, there is a long story that led to this moment in time.

For more than 40 years, our church—The United Methodist Church—has struggled over the rights and privileges of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) persons in its witness and ministries. Our Book of Discipline (covenant book of laws) has many positive affirmations of ministries to and with LGBTQ persons. However, our church has chosen to enshrine some derogatory and restrictive language that declares the practice of homosexuality incompatible with Christian teaching, forbids its clergy from performing or celebrating same-sex marriages or holy unions, and forbids the use of church facilities to host such ceremonies. In our Book of Worship we have liturgies designed to bless animals in the context of our worship services. Are our LGBTQ sisters and brothers less than animals?

When our 2012 General Conference failed to do the right thing by removing such derogatory and hurtful language from our Book of Discipline, I was moved by the Spirit to speak a word of hope to our LGBTQ sisters and brothers at every level of the life of our church and society. Drawing from my consistent stands for justice, going back to my days of student sit-ins and my commitment to non-violence, I felt compelled as a bishop to declare that the derogatory language and restrictive laws in our Book of Discipline are wrong, immoral and unjust, and no longer deserve our loyalty and support. Thus, I chose to call for an “Act of Biblical Obedience” (Micah 6:6-8; Mark 12:28-31) in defiance of the stance of our church regarding LGBTQ persons in our churches. Plus, I stated publically that if the opportunity presented itself, I would officiate a same-sex marriage or holy union.

Bobby Prince and Joe Openshaw have fulfilled all the requirements for marriage by our church, with the exception that they happen to be two gay men in love. So, I shall keep my promise and perform the wedding ceremony for Joe and Bobby, who desire the blessings of our church in the presence of family, friends and clergy as they openly declare who they are as part of the family of God.

Please pray for Joe and Bobby and all of us who will gather for a joyous occasion Oct. 26 in Birmingham.

**Read a statement from North Alabama Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett


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  1. Stephen York

    The position of Biblical literalism is untenable. Where is the UMC of the Social Gospel? This denomination has shifted so far toward the conservative, exclusivist theology, it is on thin ice. Does not Biblical criticism, theological reflection mean anything? Bishop Talbert is a prophet of God. Stand like Daniel, Bishop Talbert! Though you may be placed in the lion’s den, God will deliver you, unharmed. Hallelujah!

  2. Mginia-Friend

    “With God’s help we will proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ. We will surround these person with a community of LOVE and FORGIVENESS, that they may grow in their trust of GOd, a nd be found faithful in their service to others.” This is what a United Methodist Church promised me when they witness my baptism. Not once in my baptismal service did the caveat of “only as long as you continue to pretend you are straight will we continue to”welcome you as a member of the family of Christ” THANK GOD there are clergy such as Rev. Ogletree, and Bishop Talbert who are willing to step forward and actually put their promises of supporting their Christian brothers and sisters (and their children) into reality. Bishop – stay strong, and may Joe and Bobby’s wedding go off without a hitch!

    1. Mona

      People really need to really study their Bible to find out what is right and what is wrong. Paul refused to conform to this world and so do I.

  3. Oma Sue

    My heart aches as I see this division in the church I love. Our society seems to encourage this divisiveness (witness the fiasco playing out in Washington) but as Christ followers we are called to a higher standard! My own understanding of Christ’s message is one of love and grace for everyone so I am proud of Bishop Talbert’s courage in taking this position. However I also pray for God’s intervention to lead our church away from this chasm which only drives those who haven’t heard the Good News farther away instead of bringing them closer to God’s love.

  4. Stephen York

    Inclusion issues in the Christian church go back to the Book of Acts chapter 15. At the Council at Jerusalem (which predates the UMC by a couple thousand years) Gentiles were precluded UNLESS….”Then certain individuals came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’”
    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts%2015&version=NRSV The Apostle

    Paul also addressed this “tradition of exclusion” in Galatians 2. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians%202&version=NRSV

    This is at the heart of the issue now facing the UMC: how do we interpret the Scriptures? Does God the Holy Spirit still speak or is He mute? Does God include people that were previously excluded?

    I am offended at the notion that we who are inclusive are somehow apostate or illiterate in matters of the Scriptures, or that we somehow do not regard the Scriptures seriously.

    The Scriptures and the power of the Holy Spirit to speak contemporaneously has precedent over the BOD. It is the church’s understanding that must change, not the LGBT brothers and sisters who are excluded from the UMC.

    “We ought to obey God, not man,” on this subject. Biblical literalism is inconsistent in its application of the Scriptures. Have any Biblical literalists on this page reading this eaten shell fish lately? Have your women cut their hair? Worn slacks (Deuteronomy 22:5)?

    Interesting hermeneutics espoused in this blog. Where I was taught in seminary, it was called “eisegesis.” How about “exegesis”?

  5. Janey Smith

    Thank You Bishop for your leadership within our UMC and throughout the world. You are a gift to us.

  6. Vic

    In my humble opinion, Mr. York has it exactly right, “The Scriptures and the power of the Holy Spirit to speak contemporaneously has precedent over the BOD. It is the church’s understanding that must change, not the LGBT brothers and sisters who are excluded from the UMC.”

  7. Rev. Ruth Gray

    Stephen York, well put! I had the privilege of serving under Bishop Talbert when he was Bishop of the Pacific Northwest Conference and I agree he extended God’s unlimited grace then as well as now. I know his character! He is a Daniel. I am so happy for these two persons of great worth who no longer have to hide their light under a bushel.

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