Today, the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church have issued a statement concerning the actions of retired Bishop Melvin Talbert who, on October 26, in Cedar Point, Alabama, conducted a ceremony of celebration of "marriage" between two men. Prior to taking this action, Bishop Talbert was urged by the jurisdictional bishop of the North Alabama Conference, Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, along with the Executive Committee of the Council of Bishops, not to take this action.
Bishop Talbert chose not to comply, and, instead, chose to break covenant with the United Methodist Church by ignoring the clear stance of the Book of Discipline, which he was sworn to uphold.
Having prayerfully considered this issue, the Council of Bishops issued a statement which included a request that Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council of Bishops, and Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett file a complaint. Such complaint, one would expect, would bring Bishop Talbert to a church trial.
Frankly, though I think the Council of Bishops have taken the correct action, consistent with the Book of Discipline, I am disappointed in the overall statement from the Council of Bishops. Rather than using this opportunity to talk about the position of the United Methodist Church concerning sexual matters, and the reasons for those positions, including the consistent gospel tension expressed in the position, the bishops chose, instead, to speak about the diversity and lack of consensus within the denomination.
Bishop Michael Coyner (my bishop, as I serve within the United Methodist Church) said, “I was pleased that our Council of Bishops took a careful and prayerful look at the events surrounding the action of Bishop Talbert to celebrate a same-gender marriage in the state of Alabama against the request of the resident Bishop and the Executive Committee of the Council that he not do so. After deep discussion, hearing from all sides, and engaging in Christian conferencing with one another, the Council took the only action which was legally possible for us. Now it is in the hands of the processes outlined by our Book of Discipline, and that is the appropriate and official locus of the next steps.”
Again, I am a bit disappointed with Bishop Coyner's statement that, "the Council took the only action which was legally possible for us." - It sounds very much like, "We didn't want to do this, but our hands were tied, so we had to, legally." This, again, rather than taking the opportunity to talk about the consistent position of the denomination and how Bishop Talbert's actions have led to this unfortunate situation.
The full statement from the Council of Bishops can be read, here.