When the General Conference of the United Methodist Church closed in Tampa without voting to include gay and lesbian people in the life of the church, Bishop Melvin Talbert stood in front of a crowd of about 200 supporters of full inclusion and called for United Methodists to join him in performing pastoral duties to gay and lesbian people, including enacting marriages.
Bishop Talbert’s call for what he called “An Act of Biblical Obedience” on May 4 has now resulted in letters from opponents of LGBT equality asking the United Methodist Church to censure Bishop Talbert. A handful of other bishops who stood with Bishop Talbert have also been targeted by the anti-LGBT group.
A Facebook group called “I Stand with Bishop Talbert” has been established for those who support Bishop Talbert’s leadership in moving the United Methodist Church toward fuller inclusion of LGBT people. To date, more than 1,100 United Methodist clergy from over 15 states have pledged to perform weddings and support gay and lesbian couples. Supporters of full inclusion had hoped to change the denominational policy at the General Conference. When that was not likely to happen, Bishop Talbert and several others called for those who supported full inclusion to fulfill their pledges.
“The time has come to join in an act of Biblical obedience,” said Bishop Talbert to the crowd, while the chanting of the Westboro Baptist Church could be heard in the background. “I call on the more than 1,100 clergy [who have signed marriage initiatives] to stand firm in their resolve to perform marriages for same-sex couples and to do so in the course of their normal pastoral duties, thus defying the laws that prohibit them from doing so.”
Since Bishop Talbert spoke those words, United Methodist clergy have been more public in their support for marriage equality. On Sunday, CBS Sunday featured the Rev. Monica Corsaro as she prepares for the wedding of a lesbian couple in Washington state.
It is unclear at this moment if the appeal for a censure of Bishop Talbert and the others who participated in the rally will be successful. Bishop Talbert has been a long supporter of full inclusion. He commented in his speech that he understood that there may be some action against him. “In 1960, I made the commitment to non-violence and chose to disobey the unjust laws of racial segregation and discrimination,” he told the crowd. “That was a serious act which resulted in many of us going to jail. Thus, I know the seriousness of what I am suggesting.”
GLAAD was on the ground at the United Methodist General Conference, supporting the efforts to change the denominational policy and GLAAD continues to support Bishop Talbert and all United Methodists who are working to support full participation. Watch Bishop Talbert's full speech below.