Council of Bishops' Statement and Bishop McLee's Letter

Council of Bishops' Statement and Bishop McLee's Letter

11/16/2013

Beloved New York Conference Family and Friends:

As a result of Bishop Melvin Talbert’s decision to celebrate the marriage of an already lawfully married same-gender couple and the ensuing controversy, the Council of Bishops has released a statement. Let me be clear, the Council engaged in honest, critical, prayerful and reflective dialogue as it worked to craft this statement. Moreover, all who wished to speak had voice and were heard. While the statement was adopted by the Council, it was not adopted without dissent. As is the case with The United Methodist Church at large, the Council is not on one accord on matters of human sexuality.

I have been clear in enunciating my objection to the current church doctrine and polity that excludes same-gender loving persons from full participation in the life of the church. I will continue to do what I can as a bishop of the church to make a difference in this ongoing struggle. As I have previously indicated, there are other areas that I also feel called to offer objection to as well. The short list includes: xenophobia, gender discrimination, and the unfinished work in the fight against racism.

As we continue in our journey to live as the “beloved community,” I invite you to join me in the following ways:

  • Let us reason prayerfully and not react in condemnation as we journey together.
  • Let’s distinguish what is factual from that which is rumor and innuendo concerning the recent meeting of the Council of Bishops.
  • Let us each discern how God calls us to lead on matters of human sexuality and on the myriad other issues facing the church.
  • Let us remember that The United Methodist Church is a “community of all,” where we each have a voice.
  • “Let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due season we will reap if we faint not.” Galatians 6:9.

Beloved, I urge you to continue in prayer for all bishops, for Bobby Prince and Joe Openshaw (the couple whose marriage was celebrated by Bishop Talbert), and for us all as we grapple with finding a way. It is my hope that at the end of the day, “Love will prevail.”

All my prayers,
Bishop Martin McLee

 

Council of Bishops Takes Action Following Same-Gender Ceremony

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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