GLAAD has been working with LGBT advocates in the United Methodist Church for years. We have recently Just last week, we shared the story of retired Nashville Bishop Melvin Talbert, who presided at the wedding of Joe Openshaw and Bobby Prince in defiance of United Methodist policy, but in scriptural obedience. The Alabama couple wanted Bishop Talbert because of his long support of LGBT Methodists. But forty years ago Bishop Talbert would not have even considered presiding at the wedding of an LGBT couple. Almost forty years ago, just a few years after voting at a Methodist general conference voting to adopt language saying LGBT is incompatible with Christianity, Bishop Tabert was invited to attend a weekend seminar for the LGBT and straight Methodists. During the weekend seminar participants did not reveal their sexuality until the end of the weekend.
"I declared those laws that prohibited clergy from marrying gay and lesbian folk and using the church for that purpose are immoral, unjust, they are evil, and they no longer deserve our loyalty and support," [Bishop Talbert] said. "It's time for us to do the right thing."
He volunteered to perform same-sex weddings and urged fellow clergy to do the same. He likens his work to the nation's civil rights movement, a comparison he doesn't make lightly. Talbert, now 79, shared an Atlanta jail cell with Martin Luther King Jr. in October 1960 after being arrested at an Atlanta lunch counter sit-in.
On Tuesday, Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, president of the Council of Bishops, said in an e-mail that the council will ask all United Methodists to uphold church discipline and explained the council's decision to intervene.
"Every bishop belongs to the covenant of the Council of Bishops," she wrote. "We support one another in prayer and in our efforts to be faithful Christians and we question one another if we see that a colleague does not respect the discipline that is developed by actions of our governing body."
Talbert is more than at peace with his decision — he's 100 percent convinced he's right.
"I have openly spoken out against my own church," he said. "What they do, I can't begin to say. Personally, I'm not losing any sleep over it."
It took a weekend of getting to know LGBT people to help Bishop Talbert develop an understanding.