Speaking at a three-day Multicultural Conference, Bishop Melvin Talbert related the struggle to eliminate church language disparaging to gays to the struggle for striking racism in the United Methodist Church.
“There will be times when you will be called and challenged to choose between God and your church, because the church does not always do the right thing,” Talbert said Dec. 1 at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center.
Talbert was the closing keynote speaker at the Nov. 29-Dec. 1 gathering of about 130 church leaders representing 13 annual conferences of the Southeastern Jurisdiction. He is a retired bishop of the Western Jurisdiction, recently criticized for urging disobedience to the denomination’s homosexuality stance.
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Talbert read the “greatest commandments” from Mark 12 (Love God, love your neighbor) and John Wesley’s “three simple rules” (Do no harm, do good, stay in love with God).
He spoke of national strife when Muslims, Latino immigrants, and even the President are subject to racism and threats of violence, while the denominational mission is “make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
“But we aren’t going to do much transforming out there unless we do some transforming of ourselves,” he said.
Talbert said he was thankful for the Judicial Council's decision against the “Call to Action” restructuring proposal at General Conference 2012, which had “no commitment to diversity, none whatsoever.”
However, he declared as “immoral and unjust” the General Conference’s decision to retain language establishing homosexuality as incompatible with Christian teaching.
Reading excerpts of a controversial statement he made in May, Talbert said “derogatory and restrictive laws” in the Book of Discipline “no longer deserve our loyalty and obedience” and that he plans to perform same-sex unions if requested to do so.
“I plan to do it because I intend to do the right thing, and may I say I am at peace with myself and with God for doing it,” he said.
Talbert challenged Multicultural Conference participants to also “do the right thing.”
“Stop implementing immoral and unjust laws against those who dare to do what is right by being in ministry to and with all persons, especially our sisters and brothers of a different sexual orientation and sexual identity,” he said.
Referring to the Multicultural Conference theme (“Creating a Church for All People”), Talbert said the church must “give life” to the meaning of “all people.”
“No matter what community you live in, you will find people suffering and facing acts of discrimination and oppression,” he said.
“In the name of Jesus Christ, I declare to you take authority. Take authority to do the right thing ... This is what you are required to do to create a church for all people.”
"Bishop Linda Lee: 'Rise up' to change structures perpetuating racism" (The Call, 12/3/12)