Jan. 5, 2015
Christ is our peace; he has broken down the dividing wall that is between us.
Ephesians 2: 14
Nearly a year ago I received complaints against Bishop Melvin G. Talbert for blessing the marriage of Bobby Prince and Joe Openshaw. According to the Book of Discipline, I initiated a supervisory response to the complaints, including a facilitated just resolution process. I have accepted a Just Resolution Agreement signed by the parties. Therefore, I have determined that a just resolution has been achieved, the complaints are resolved and the matter is closed.
The United Methodist Church is searching to understand how God’s love is expressed in human relationships, even as scientific and social understandings sometimes diverge from traditional biblical teaching. The official position of The United Methodist Church prohibits unions between people of the same sex, though laws in many places now allow these marriages.
The Church struggles to discern whether God is calling it to protect traditional biblical teachings and norms, or to recognize and bless expressions of love that it has not recognized in the past. Out of conscience, some clergy and churches have defied the official position of the Church by blessing relationships that the Church does not recognize. Others, also out of conscience, have brought complaints against those they believe to have acted beyond what the Church allows. The resulting conflict raises a question faced in every human relationship: how do people live together despite their differences? How can the people with opposing views remain in one Church?
The Just Resolution Agreement achieved by the complainants and Bishop Talbert is a reminder that United Methodists don’t have to be divided by their differences. The conflicted parties came together, prayerfully listened to one another, challenged one another, and searched for God’s guidance for themselves and for the Church. Their conversation produced an agreement that acknowledges their differences, allows each their distinctive voice, and creates a framework for staying in relationship. The ability to recognize one another as members of the household of faith, and to remain in community while continuing to grow in the knowledge and love of Christ together, is at the core of the Christian life in the Church.
I was a privileged to sit with brothers and sisters in Christ – colleague bishops of the Church – as they humbly and respectfully sought the reconciling guidance of the Holy Spirit to mediate their differences and heal their relationships. Their patience and confidence that God was present in their conversations is a witness to the Church of the reconciling power of God at work when two or three gather together and gives hope for the future of United Methodism.
View the full press release online at United Methodist Communications.