Bishop Melvin Talbert joined 13 other United Methodist bishops at a gathering on May 4 outside the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Florida, where they showed their support for clergy in the denomination who choose to officiate at religious weddings of same-sex couples. Doing so is a violation of church rules, but Talbert said he preferred Biblical obedience even if it meant ecclesiasical disobedience. Photo by Paul Jeffrey/courteys UMNS

United Methodist bishop may face trial for presiding at gay wedding

(RNS) Complaints have been filed against a United Methodist bishop who presided over a same-sex wedding of two men in defiance of his denomination’s rules prohibiting such ceremonies.

Bishop Melvin Talbert joined 13 other United Methodist bishops at a gathering on May 4 outside the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Florida, where they showed their support for clergy in the denomination who choose to officiate at religious weddings of same-sex couples. Doing so is a violation of church rules, but Talbert said he preferred Biblical obedience even if it meant ecclesiasical disobedience. Photo by Paul Jeffrey/courteys UMNS

Retired Bishop Melvin G. Talbert is the highest clergyperson to have broken the church’s official laws and the only known bishop to do so. Photo by Paul Jeffrey/courtesy of UMNS

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Retired Bishop Melvin G. Talbert is the highest clergyperson to have broken the church’s official laws and the only known bishop to do so.

He officiated at the Oct. 25 union of two men in Birmingham, Ala., even after the local bishop and the executive committee of the Council of Bishops urged Talbert not to go ahead with the ceremony.

Days later, the denomination’s Council of Bishops requested complaints be filed against Talbert.

According to the complaints lodged with the bishops in the denomination's Western region, Talbert is alleged to have "violated the sacred trust of his office.”

Reached at his Nashville home, Talbert, 79, said church policy requires him to remain silent about the disciplinary process. But he said he was “delighted” that the New York Annual Conference announced Monday (March 10) that it had averted a trial for the Rev. Thomas Ogletree, who presided at the marriage of his son to another man.

“I hope this is a way forward,” Talbert said. “This matter will not be resolved until those discriminatory passages are removed from the Book of Discipline.”

Church law calls homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.” The denomination bans clergy from performing and churches from hosting “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions.”

The church’s disciplinary process could lead to a trial and the loss of Talbert’s clergy credentials, though increasingly, bishops in more liberal regions of the country find ways to resolve such complaints without trials.

Several other United Methodist clergy face possible trials, as the denomination grows increasingly polarized over church law over ministry to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.



  1. Let’s see now. Mr. Talbert (sorry, can’t call him a bishop) wants to follow “church policy” when it comes to “remaining silent about the disciplinary process”, but he wants to openly VIOLATE “church policy” when it comes to gay marriage.

    These guys are killing the Methodist Church, and they are happy about it. And their cancer has metastasized completely throughout the New York Conference. It is time for serious surgery. It is time for excommunication — no-good clergy, no-good conferences, all of them. KICK THEM OUT already.

  2. Doc Anthony, typical of the nastiness so many religious people, claims he cannot address Bishop Talbert by his proper title, and goes along with all the holy goodness of so many Methodists and other religious people in being ready, even wanting to throw those who are a different sexual orientation than his–I presume–and those who disagree with his theological or moral or ecclesiological ideas into the church dumpster.

    So much for the goodness of religion. So much for the goodness of Churches. So much for those who presume to be equal to God by knowing as much as God, and who set themselves up as almighty legislators. So much for heterosexuals who make homosexuals and are then so ready to force them to live hidden lives, deprived of the very rights those heterosexuals demand for themselves. So much for phony religiosity!

    I also wonder if Doc Anthony is white or black?

  3. The Methodist Church could be considered genuinely Christian except for the ignorance and evil of its attitudes toward the homosexuals its members beget.. There is such a hypocritical ignorance with a church that has come so far in the past half century in coordinating religious thinking with the latest in science, sociology, psychology, and history yet remains so deeply embedded in the dark ages of ignorance about sexual orientation. It really prevents the Methodist Church from being considered “mainline.” It is downright fundamentalist! And that is a pejorative description that its members, led by illiterate clergy, have earned for themselves.

  4. What is apparent, is that you are wholly unqualified both intellectually and spiritually to comment here, The Word of God is the basis for the Christian faith, one cannot pick and choose those doctrines which they will accept or reject; as if the life of faith were a twelve dollar buffet. I am not afraid of homosexuals (i.e. homophobia) I am afraid for them. Most who call themselves Christian are not hateful to ‘gays’, they simply reject the notion that active homosexuals can be regarded as brothers or sisters in the faith as the bible specifically rejects this. It is much too much of having your cake and eating it too. If Gays insist upon pursuing that life style, they can not by the Word of God be called Christian. They are indeed free to choose. The Word of God is timeless and not subject to changing cultural conditions.

  5. Oh please, every fundamentalist thinks they are the sole arbiter of what the Bible means. Everyone else is either ignorant, selective or just heretical. Its a great way to boost your ego with nothing to show for it. Its nothing but narcissism on your part.

    Most Christians are not hateful to gays, the majority either are supportive of them, or at worst indifferent. But some feel that they have a duty to treat them as less than human. Subject them to discrimination, ostracism, sometimes even violence. They claim there are some people unfit to love, to care for children, to serve their nation, or to be full members of their society.If that is not hatred, then you don’t understand the term.

    “The Word of God is timeless and not subject to changing cultural conditions.”

    And of course later will come the various legalistic exceptions why Christians do not follow ALL of the words of God when it comes to various little rules in the entirety of the Bible. One thing Fundamentalists are great at, is making excuses why they emphasize the stentorian, draconian elements of the Bible and completely miss the humanity of it.

    The idea that there are escape clauses to “Love thy Neighbor” in your version of belief show how deficient religion is when it comes to moral issues.

  6. I agree completely. These people — like Talbert and that defiant bishop in New York — have surrendered their right to the title “bishop.” They clearly have abandoned the mission of the Church — to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ – and are, instead, intent on destroying the Church. Please, for the sake of the sake of maintaining any semblance of a biblically based church, kick them out of their clergy positions.

  7. To answer your question, “black.” And please do not presume that I’m the only one who opposes gay marriage. Far from it.

    But it’s not about “nastiness”, Gilhcan. Not even about “goodness” or “not-goodness” of religion. It’s about urgency. While you and I are sitting and typing our respective opinions, the Methodist Church is literally splitting and dying. Why? Because these non-bishops are doing the gay activists’ dirty work, doing evil and calling it good.

    Both Mr. Talbert and Mr. McLee (of New York) are doing real damage to the Methodists. If John Wesley was alive, both non-bishops would have been totally defrocked by now, or worse. There’s no more time for this gay-marriage mess, if the Methodist Church wants to survive.

  8. Going against biblical church teachings should always result in being thrown out. Or at least some serious disciplinary consequences.

  9. Scott writes: “They clearly have abandoned the mission of the Church — to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ –”

    Unlike many Christians who seem not to have a clue what is in the bible, I have actually read it, which led me to become an atheist. Perhaps Scott can help me out here. What exactly did Jesus have to say about homosexuality? I can’t seem to find anything in the New Testament.

    I know what the Old Testament said. According to that lovely work, we should hunt down and kill some 15 million or so gay and lesbians living in America.

    Oh wait! I think I’ve discovered the answer to my own question. Jesus said he didn’t come to refute the old laws but to affirm them…..every jot and tittle. Run for your lives all you gay people! The good Christians in this country are coming after you armed with wooden stakes.

  10. We SO need another John Wesley today, to call the brethren back from all the footsie-playing with our corrupt secular culture, exactly as he did in the immoral morass that was his own day.

  11. In Matthew 15 Jesus spoke of “sexual immorality” (a term that all of his listeners understood as referring to a number of behaviors including same-sex ones) and how it is one of many things that proceed from the unregenerate heart and make us unclean.

    In other words, one of the things that He would be dying to save us from.

  12. The Bible is man’s witness to what he understands as God’s message and God’s acts in history.

    The above does not imply: “literalism”, “inerrancy”, or even “accuracy”.

  13. In other words you have to stretch and twist the meaning of a term which does not directly address the issue in order to make it fit. Your response is pure weasel-wording. Because the Fundamentalist’s interpretation is the only correct one to a Fundamentalist.

    Your take on Charlie’s argument is the same kind which makes ridiculous non-arguments of slippery slopes. That gay marriage will lead to people marrying their siblings, multiple simultaneous partners or their livestock.

  14. It doesn’t imply it at all. It states it outright!

    As do his prior statements:
    “What is apparent, is that you are wholly unqualified both intellectually and spiritually to comment here, The Word of God is the basis for the Christian faith, one cannot pick and choose those doctrines which they will accept or reject; as if the life of faith were a twelve dollar buffet.”

    If it isn’t Edward’s take on the Bible, its not the real deal according to him. God’s word always agrees with him. How convenient.

  15. There is no stretch or twist whatsoever. Consult any Greek lexicon and you will find that the term “porneia” used in Matthew 15 is a general term that is inclusive of several behaviors. Just because you’re not informed doesn’t mean that Jesus’ listeners (Torah scholars) were not.

  16. You admitted you do not have a direct reference and had to use a generalized term which encompasses it only in a circuitous and suggestive sense. Much like saying something is a clear violation of one of the ten commandments can mean anything from mass murder to not saying “please” to your parents in a polite manner.

    “It is understood” meaning it is an interpretation subject to however you wish to take it. Certainly nothing as unequivocal or unambiguous as you would want people to believe.

  17. James, Jude, Peter, and Paul, each made reference to the incompatibility of homosexuality and Christianity. All are authors in the New Testament.

  18. You, and Atheist Max have a common problem, you either do not understand, or fail to apply the proper principles of literary interpretation. They are not my principles, they are the accepted principles that literary scholars use to determine what a given text is actually saying irrespective of genre. I do not claim inerrancy for my views, however, they conform to the generally accepted views of the vast majority of bible scholars for nearly two thousand years. It has only been within the last one hundred years or so that the moral precepts of the past have come under assault from ‘within’ the church…The efforts of so called ‘progressives. I bear hatred towards no one, but I accept what the authors of the New Testament clearly taught; The incompatibility of active homosexuality and membership in the Body of Christ. If we are Christians we can not set aside the foundation laid by the earliest leaders of the church i.e. the Apostles. The Bible is the written basis for our faith. Read the Bible, understand the distinction between the New and Old Covenants, apply the proper rules of literary interpretation (They can be found in any reputable volume on the forensic approach to language), then make your arguments. I apply a simple rule to disagreement among genuine disciples of Christ…As none of us are perfect: In fundamentals (Yes, fundamentals) concord, on secondary questions, forebearance, on tertiary issues, liberty. Moral precepts are not secondary or tertiary issues. Christians have been wrong on race, they have been wrong to war upon one another and other religious groups. But on the plain language of moral behavior they have not been wrong. I repeat I am not a ‘homophobe,’ I am afraid FOR them, not OF them.

  19. It’s always so sad to see the vicious personal attacks anti-gays make on anyone who won’t help them hurt LGBT Americans.

  20. Not quite. More someone referencing the Ten Commandments and being told that murder is OK because it wasn’t mentioned specifically.

    Nothing circuitous about the term “sexual immorality,” Larry.

  21. No, we just don’t take your authority on the subject seriously nor have any reason to.

    You make a blanket appeal to authority and wild claims that your view is the only possible acceptable interpretation. You take the nonsense stance that anyone who disagrees with you must be ignorant or not reading it all (or correctly). It is comforting to your sense of pride to say such things and gives you a false sense of superiority but it is complete nonsense. Pure egomania on your part.

    The type one sees with fundamentalists. Everyone else is just reading it wrong, the fundie is always correct and has God on their side. You make disingenuous claims that interpretation of the Bible has been unchanging and its principles inflexible with changing times. Of course that is a load of bull. We do not live according to the standards or in the manner of Iron age herdsmen.

    Much of the “moral precepts” in the Biblical times would be considered criminal acts or at least extremely anti-social today. As much as you would deny it, picking and choosing sections to take seriously is as much part of your belief as the people you denigrate as “progressives”.

    You gladly support the discrimination, ostracism and (sub rosa) violent actions against people who are gay. That is hateful. The fact that you look for socially sanctioned excuses for it in religion is just cowardice on your part.

  22. None of them made a direct reference to it.

    Meaning consensual adult same sex relations. They refer to pederasty, rape as a temple rite, God makes Romans gay as punishment for idolatry, referencing Sodom & Gommorah (whose sins were inhospitable behavior to strangers) or the catch all “perversions” which is as non-specific a reference as one can get.

  23. Nothing in any ancient Jewish writing on the subject during the general time of Christ indicates that consensuality was in any way relevant to the prohibitions on same-sex behavior.

    I asked you before and you never answered: why exactly should be NOT lump same-sex behavior in with all of the other forms of sexual immorality, since that is exactly what the Torah did, as well as all Jewish commentary on the Torah, as being that Jesus gave no indication that we should do otherwise?

  24. You never asked the question. But consensual adult relations are not perversions or immorality. All other forms that people like yourself lump into that category are either harmful to another, involve acting without consent. The Torah prohibited many things for reasons having nothing to do with morality.

  25. I didn’t ask you what YOU consider moral or immoral–that’s neither here nor there. I’m asking why we shouldn’t include same-sex in the Biblical understanding of sexual immorality, since all evidence from the general NT time indicates that we should. What you appear to insisting on is simply misrepresenting what history and common-sense indicates the biblical poistion to be, for the sake of conformity to modern-day secular notions of morality.

    As I’ve said before, feel fee to repudiate biblical moral guidelines, but do so honestly.

  26. Actually Larry, yours are among the most hateful comments made in these threads. I make no claims to inerrancy. I defend the traditional view of the Bible as it has come down through the centuries. Luther, Calvin, Arminius, et. al. did not agree on every point of doctrine, but they did agree on the fundamentals…it is not a dirty word. There is no reason to suppose that we who have come later, and are casuals, will have greater insights than these brilliant individuals who spent their entire lives deeply engrossed in scripture. And you are wrong about specific references to homosexuality in the New Testament by the authors, but I’m not going to list chapter and Vs. here, you would simply twist the meaning of the text. As I pointed out to Max, this forum is virtually useless. There are no seekers here.

  27. Interesting take on this argument. The Christian Post has posted an article in which the views of several (6) pro gay marriage commentators have decried the attitude of the most rabid advocates of gay rights. Andrew Sullivan and Douglas Laycock are among those who are dismayed that certain proponents of gay marriage would crush the rights of dissenters. They, among others argue, that however disagreeable the points of view of those who refuse to perform business services on behalf of gay marriage partners, such persons are within their conscience rights. Further, on a practical level, however inconvienient or irritating, one can always find a vendor nearby who will gladly perform the service without qualms. Is this not also a measure of tolerance and respect for different points of view?

  28. Yes, you do claim inerrancy. Your response to anyone who disagrees with you is to call them ignorant or unschooled in the proper readings of the Bible. You pretend to cite to authority but really are just blowing hot air and massaging your ego. Your argument is a load of crap. What I am saying is not hateful. Just hurtful to that overinflated sense of pride you have.

    Even fundamentalists have accepted changes to Biblical interpretations and concepts because it is necessary to live in a modern society. Your “Cafeteria Christian” argument applies to yourself as well. You have to. We live in a society where you have to co-exist with those of different beliefs than your own. Where laws are determined by the mandate of our peers (as opposed to claiming it is brought from on high), where people are not chattel property.

    But it doesn’t give you that sense of smug superiority to acknowledge that in an honest fashion.

    You are afraid of me “twisting the text”, because the text is not subject to just your interpretation. You just don’t want to admit, your view is not the only one which can exist on the subject.

  29. Those business owners wanted to violate laws which have been established for over 50 years in order to engage in hateful, harmful conduct. It is not an exercise of religious freedom or conscience to engage in business discrimination. Its malicious behavior which undermines free enterprise.

    You also seem to mistake disagreement with attacks on liberties. Nobody is attacking your right to give your views. You just can’t handle the fact that people are responding with their own.

    There is nothing more pathetic that the “you have to tolerate my intolerance” and “you are the real bullies” arguments. Especially in response to people who want to give prejudices the color of law and engage in discriminatory behavior. I don’t have to give respect to views which do not deserve them. We are not in a polite discussion on esoteric subjects. We are talking about things which affect the lives of others in real tangible ways.

  30. “Even fundamentalists have accepted changes to Biblical interpretations and concepts because it is necessary to live in a modern society.”

    So in other words, we have to agree that the biblical position on same-sex relations is something which history and all ancient commentary on the subject clearly indicate it was not, in order conform to the preferences of “modern society?” Geez, Larry, why not just eliminate that dishonest step and simply repudiate the biblical guidelines because you don’t like them? That’s all it really comes down to anyway.

    “Your response to anyone who disagrees with you is to call them ignorant or unschooled in the proper readings of the Bible…. Your argument is a load of crap.”

    This irony of this speaks for itself far better than I could. Priceless!

  31. Larry,
    Right now the Lord is thinking about you.
    Supposed you were to die and you were standing before God, and He asked you why should I let you into heaven? What would you say?

  32. Larry,
    Have you ever lied? I have.
    Have you ever stolen anything? I have.
    Have you ever lusted after someone? I have.
    Heterosexual lust is equal to homosexual.
    Have you ever hated someone? I have.
    Because of this I am a lying, thieving, adulteress, murderer and I have hurt God.

    This is why I need His forgiveness. All sin leads to death. But God sent His Son to save us from that death. All we have to do is take Him up on His offer to believe that He died to save us from “our” sins.

    God loves you and me both even though we have sinned against Him. But we must repent to gain salvation and live eternally in heaven with the Father who was the only “perfect” person to ever walk on this earth.

    Christians don’t think they are better than nonchristians. Christians see themselves as better off than they used to be. Don’t judge God by the actions of sinful, imperfect “christians” among you, because they will continue to fall short.

    Take God up on His offer and try it for yourself. If it doesn’t change your life for the better than cross it off the list. But if it does work, you will find the most rewarding life you could ever imagine. Plus eternity in heaven won’t be to bad either.

    I pray God works in your heart through His Spirit and you are able to see past the imperfections of the humans of this world and that He will draw you to Himself with an embrace like you’ve never felt before.

  33. Sorry Shawnie, no matter how desperately you want to believe Jesus was homophobic, Jesus demonstrated he wasn’t. Jesus affirmed a gay couple. Read Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10. Many of us are familiar with the Gospel story where Jesus healed the servant of a Roman centurion. In the original Greek, the word that the Roman centurion uses in this passage to describe the sick man – pais – is the same word used in ancient Greek to refer to a same-gender partner.

    And please don’t tell me you don’t accept that part of the Bible. We already know anti-gays only want to use the Bible as a weapon.

  34. Shawnie, you should consider what Jesus Himself said is the second most important Commandment, to love your neighbor as yourself, and stop looking for “biblical excuses” and fake Bible passages to justify your attacks on LGBT Americans.

  35. It’s so sad to see anti-gays insist again and again that no one else has a right to our beliefs and to express them, especially while anti-gays themselves were actively trying to force their cruel and unAmerican “beliefs” as recently as May 2012 in North Carolina with that state’s anti-gay Hate Vote.

  36. No, Shawnie, no one will force you to agree that what Jesus Himself said is the second most important Commandment, to love your neighbors as yourself, but you should stop insisting everyone else be forced to agree with your hate-based “beliefs” by misusing the power of the law.

  37. William, it was wildly inappropriate of you to suggest that Larry’s comments on anti-discrimination laws mean he is somehow unworthy or immoral.

  38. I DON’T actually want the Bible to say what it says about same-sex relations. I don’t want it say what it says about divorce either. But there it is, and it avails you nothing to make believe it isn’t there.

    Please don’t start the “pais” nonsense. That is one of you guys’ silliest arguments of all. There is nothing that indicates that the centurion’s servant was his gay lover. “Pais” is a general term that most commonly means a child. Jesus addressed Jairus’ daughter as “pais.” Whose same-gender partner was she?

    It is highly likely, given the context and the similarity of this story to others in the gospel, that the centurion’s “pais” was his son by a de facto marriage to a slave woman.

  39. @CarrotCakeMan: Perhaps YOU should consider what He said was the FIRST most important commandment: Loving God with all of heart, soul, strength and mind–including acceptance of all of His designs and purposes for humanity, even if it interferes with our own little wants.

  40. It matters not at all to me what the law decides to allow. What DOES matter is people spreading nonsense about what the Bible says and doesn’t say and while the scripturally illiterate lap it up.,

  41. Why? What William said was absolutely correct, we are all sinners and in need of redemption. I would further add that Larry did not address the main point of that particular Post (mine); Are Andrew Sullivan and Douglas Laycock, among other gays and gay advocates, hateful because they take a more nuanced view of freedom of conscience?

  42. @ William

    I would say he has some very petty, hateful and dishonest supporters.

    If a God is more concerned with false praise, insincere displays of faith and acting out of fear rather than good acts and humanity, then I want no part of that whatsoever. You can have that God. Obviously your version of Heaven would be filled with people I could not stand to be with for a minute, let alone an eternity.

    Of course there is the Detective Deitrich answer as well. “Oops”

  43. That is nice that you need the crutch of religion to soothe your agonized conscience and to make you feel better than other people. It works for you. That’s nice. It is presumptive to assume it would be so for others.

    “Christians don’t think they are better than nonchristians”


    That is exactly what they think and how they act. They feel their religious belief trumps any consideration of other people, of laws, of any notion of civility. You trot out your beliefs and your notions of moral conduct in order to feel superior to others. That somehow you are touched by God and others are damned.

    Christians show disdain and hostility to religious beliefs besides their own. Christianity encourages its adherents to denigrate and attack other religions and their members.

    William, Edward, you are both dishonest and hateful in nature.

  44. Edward, I answered your point. I just thought it was dishonest and silly. Your point seems to rest on a view which is probably quote mined.

    I guess I have to repeat myself. It is not an act of conscience to engage in discrimination in open commerce. It is an act of malice. It is no more a principled act than businesses which engaged in racial or sectarian discrimination. Business level discrimination is already proven to be harmful and corrosive to our democratic open society.

  45. Why can’t we all just get along? But beside that point, I am currently a United Methodist seriously thinking of switching because of these hot-button issues. As for the ministers, if the Book of Discipline is not to their liking and can’t be changed fast enough, they should walk also.

  46. Rev. Bishop Talbert, surely The Lord will one day reward you for honoring with marriage a dedicated couple, regardless of official consequences. In your long life you have been obedient to God for many, long years; your discipline is still with you to do the right thing as God calls you. Bless you for this and for challenging unchristian judgmentalism. Bless you, kind good sir.

  47. Rev. Pineau, I respect your disagreement with me. However, my belief is just as valid, or maybe moreso, than yours. Watch what happens when gay marriage hits all 50 states. Other groups, such as bisexuals, will demand their “right” to be married all in the name of LOVE and the Supremes will be hard pressed not to go along. What do you say as a counterargument?

  48. Marriage is for one man with one woman, and if not, then the sun rises in the west and sets in the east. There are plenty of alternate ways two or more people can unite, using such legal instruments as personal contracts, agencies, partnershiops, life estates and joint tenancies, in which any sexual connection between the parties is private. Marriage, like driving a car, is not a right, it is a privilege, and it has always had restrictions, like not marrying close relatives, being of age not married to somebody else, and being of sound mind and free of venereal disease. Although gays need legal protections from employment discrimination and persecution by bullies, they do not need to force their private behavior upon the heterosexual majority, and especially not into childrens schools and into our churches.

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