Council of Bishops takes action following same-gender ceremony

wtm.jpgBrothers and Sisters in Christ,

Over the last several days the United Methodist Council of Bishops has been in session at Lake Junaluska, NC. Of the many topics on the agenda this week, none was more significant or more engaging than the discussion that resulted in this statement (posted below).

This statement from the Council of Bishops is a result of discernment, prayer, and deep reflection. It arises out of the recent actions of retired Bishop Melvin Talbert in the residential area of Bishop Debra Wallace-Padget.

Retired and resident bishops of The United Methodist Church throughout the world came to the Council of Bishops with widely different contexts, culturally and theologically, to craft the following points:
1. An acknowledgement of our dependence on God and our need for prayer
2. A recognition that United Methodists are not of one mind on the subject of human sexuality, and that there are deep divisions among Christians who read scripture in different ways and whose consciences move them to opposing convictions.
3. A direct response to the action of Bishop Talbert, which was in violation of the 2012 Book of Discipline by undermining the ministry of another.
4. A commitment to lead honest and respectful conversations around human sexuality, race, and gender in light of our theological convictions for the sake of our mission.

I ask you to note three facets of this development:
1. The General Conference, not the Council of Bishops, speaks for The United Methodist Church.
2. The Council of Bishops does not hold an individual bishop accountable; this practice is given by the General Conference to the (jurisdictional) College of Bishops.
3. The response of the bishops is a reflection on two subjects: a) the violation of the Discipline by a member of the clergy, b) the ongoing struggle of the church with our ministry with gay and lesbian persons.

As the resident bishop of the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences, I take seriously the calling to be a shepherd to the clergy and laity of the Nashville Area. I am aware that there are deep divisions among us on this subject. We are in a difficult time as we navigate the changing cultural landscape. We are also an incredibly diverse Church. I covet your prayers for all who are harmed by this action.

Peace and Deep Prayer,
– Bishop William T. “Bill” McAlilly

*For those who follow a number of bishops on these matters, Bishop Ken Carter was the chief architect of the above statement with slight variations for the Nashville Area. I am indebted to Bishop Carter for sharing his willingness to be collaborative. A small group of bishop colleagues collaborate on a number of issues of this nature from time to time.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | Council of Bishops
Contact: Diane Degnan (email)

LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C.: Following the action of a retired bishop to conduct a same-gender ceremony in violation of church law, the United Methodist Council of Bishops took a series of actions to address the issue during their annual meeting this week in Lake Junaluska, N.C.

The Council requested that Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council, and Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett of the North Alabama Conference file a complaint regarding Bishop Melvin Talbert’s action, for “undermining the ministry of a colleague and conducting a ceremony to celebrate the marriage of a same gender couple.”

“When there are violations of the Book of Discipline, a response is required,” the bishops said in a statement.

The Council also voted to initiate a task force to lead conversations about human sexuality, race and gender in a global perspective. The goal of this effort is to come to a shared theological understanding amid diverse opinions in the church about these issues.

These actions followed days of prayerful discernment and conversation about the action it would take after retired Bishop Melvin Talbert conducted a ceremony on Oct. 26 celebrating the marriage of a same-gender couple in Center Point, Ala. – a chargeable offense for United Methodist clergy.

Church law says that, “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”

Both the presiding bishop of the North Alabama area where the ceremony took place, Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, and the Executive Committee of the Council had requested that Bishop Talbert not perform the ceremony.

Under church law, the College of Bishops – which is constituted of the bishops in a jurisdictional or central conference – has authority and accountability for processing complaints against a bishop who serves (or served) in that area, which would be the Western Jurisdiction in this instance.

Earlier this week in the President’s Address, Bishop Wenner acknowledged there is diversity of opinion about many issues in the church. “We have to lead together although we are not one minded. We do not need to hide that we are diverse,” she said. In the address, she also noted, “Serious conflicts have to be brought to the tables where leaders are present,” an acknowledgment that supports the plan for further discussion of the issue through a task force.

In a statement, the Council said that when followers of Christ and people of conscience hold conflicting views, honest and respectful conversation and prayer are needed throughout the church. The Council expressed pastoral care and concern for all people. (Read the full statement online.)

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14 Comments on “Council of Bishops takes action following same-gender ceremony”

  1. It seems our leadership spends way too much time and money in conversations which aren’t as ambiguous as they would lead us to believe while multitudes have yet to hear if whether there really is a Balm in Gilead. If Christ sets a person free, then just how free can a person really be? If Christ completes a person then just how complete can a person really be? Jesus taught His followers to pray, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Heaven’s not discussing sexual identity but rather in awe and praise at the King of kings and Lord of lords who created us male and female in God’s image.

  2. Judd A. Mowery says:

    Judd Mowery

    I do not understand why two men want to get married. I realize a lot of people have problems with their sexual identity. Nevertheless the Bible teaches that it is a sin. Do two wrongs make a right. If all men married men there would be no increase in the population. God never intended for men and men to be lovers. Why in the world would the church ever sanction such a life style. I am to love the sinner according to Jesus and his teachings and I am to forgive people when they have hurt me and others. Jesus said if I am not willing to for he will not forgive me. Sin can be forgiven. But a person must recignize there sin.
    A United Methodist who would oppose the Bible is wrong. John Wesley our founding Father of the Methodist Church would be shocked that an ordained minister would think same sex marriage is correct. The world can think like they want to think but the people of God should be listening to the Holy Spirit.

  3. Galen Colbert says:

    I respectfully submit to Ms. Swindle that my “lifestyle” is no different than yours. I get up, I go to work, I come home, I feed my dog, I pay my bills, and I try to be the best person and Christian that I can be. The UMC is on the wrong side of history with this one, and it’s very sad…for all involved. As I contemplate moving to another denomination, I’ll also be in prayer.

  4. […] Council of Bishops takes action following same-gender ceremony ( […]

  5. Doris Swindle says:

    I am in favor of treating all human beings with kindness and love. I can not see anywhere in the Bible where same sex marriage is acceptable. I believe as Christian it is our responsibility to express our support of a marriage being between a man and a woman. As a lifelong member of the Methodist Church I can not imagine allowing same sex marriage to be preformed by our ministers or in our churches. If you are gay and you chose to come to my church I will treat you with kindness and love but I can not condone your lifestyle. The silent majority has been quite too long. I will be in prayer that the discipline with be upheld.

  6. cdonladd says:

    Thank you Bishop for leading us with love and grace through these challenging times! I pray for us to stay in love and unite in our calling -“making diciples for the transformation of the world”!! Your leadership is such a gift to the world!

  7. Larry Furmann says:

    I prayed that the Bishops would follow the prophetic lead of Bishop Melvin Talbert, instead of the political lead this action suggests. Unless you have walked in our shoes, you cannot know what it is like to be considered less than a full Christian. Christ loved all people. That is what I believe true Christians are called to do. Thankfully, I am an active Christian in my UMC church and am not looked down on. I am a Christian who is male, who is creative, who has a deep love for Christ, who donates to my church, who volunteers in my church and…oh yeah…I am Gay, as God created me. I give thanks for prophets like Bishop Talbert.

  8. Whatever we individuals believe to be truth on the gay marriage issue, we have to continue to uphold the Discipline and respect the spiritual discernment of General Conference as a whole. For those of us who believe we see a different truth, the action required is to work within the church and it’s established polity to bear witness and seek change. I am concerned with the many young people who seem to just want to run away from this call to bear witness to communities of faith that think like them.

  9. I really do not see what race and gender have to do with human sexuality. I understand why one would group them together and perhaps with time and prayer I will see them as the same thing, but right now, it appears as a way to weaken the argument of the people who wish to return the church to a more orthodox one. By lumping these terms together, you are able to say, because you do not believe in the church blessing gay marriage, you are also a racist and a sexist.

    I truly struggle with this issue because I am for the government allowing gay marriage/union, but I am against the church blessing it. Please pray for me that I might better understand where God wants me to stand on this divisive subject.

    • Connie Waters says:

      I might suggest that you do some study on gender identity. Gender is not as Male/Female, either/or as you probably think. if we are going to respond to people authentically, we do have to consider gender. Also, fact is we don’t have a handle on what would be considered “women’s issues” anymore then we do LGBTQQAI issues.

  10. Thank you Bishop McAlilly for addressing this issue and keeping your flock aware of the current status. You are a master communicator and I appreciate your leadership.

  11. revrundjohn says:

    You know Bishop, my first instinct is to raise my fist in the sir and tell you what y’all should do. The truffle is, I don’t know. I now raise my hands and say God help us make right decisions or at least the best decision in these circumstances. We say the next right thing may be the best to pray for. Prayers my brother!

    Sent from Padre’s iPhone