Is there a madness to their Methodists?

A few weeks back I wrote In landmark move, Methodist bishop defies church law and colleagues to marry gay couple, about how Methodist bishop Melvin G. Talbert, in defiance of the Methodists’ scary-sounding Council of Bishops, was going to come out of his retirement in Tennessee, and travel to Alabama in order to officiate in the wedding of a Methodist gay couple, Bobby Prince and Joe Openshaw.

And, on October 26th, that’s just what he did. That’s Bishop Talbert above, marrying the happy couple. (Photo completely snagged off this great newspaper article about the whole thing.)

Not everybody was as pleased as, say, NALT Christians were about this wedding. Debra Wallace-Padgett, the Methodist Bishop whose jurisdiction includes the part of Alabama where the wedding took place, was downright p.o.’ed about it. So much so that (contrary to the Methodist custom of working out such things in private) she decided to publicly chastise Bishop Talbert for daring to come into her territory to perform a wedding that she personally wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot staff.

So she wrote a big letter (here) complaining about Talbert, in which she essentially warned him to stay in Tennessee and mind his business. Lamely, the Methodists’ Council of Bishops endorsed her attempt to keep Bishop Talbert from coming to officiate at the wedding.

Talbert, being a mature adult, did it anyway.


In normal life, this affair would now be over. But in the world of Anti-Gay Christians Forever Spazzing Out About Gay People, such things die hard.

To wit: today comes news from The United Methodist Reporter that the Methodists’ Council of Bishops, along with Bishop Wallace-Padgett, will be filing a complaint of misconduct against Bishop Talbert, for “undermining the ministry of a colleague and conducting a ceremony to celebrate the marriage of a same gender couple.”

You can read their whole … pre-complaint here. (I say “pre”-complaint, because it’s actually a statement wherein the council requests that their own president file the complaint. Yikes. Bureaucratic much?)


I get it. I understand that such things as … the right of gay people to be considered human, takes a while, apparently. Okay. Yes. Things don’t change over night; people have to be lovingly ushered from wherever they are to wherever they should be; we can’t rush these things; the Bible’s a big book with a long history; there aren’t enough pictures in the thing; everyone’s super-sensitive about anything having to do with the general crotchal zone; it’s entrancing to belong to a majority that gets to persecute a minority for not being as moral as you are, etc., etc.

I get all that. I do. I’m an Episcopalian. You can’t dust underneath a pew in an Episcopal church without first holding fourteen meetings in order to thoroughly discuss and discern every last variable relating to the proper shepherding of dust bunnies.

And in truth, the COB’s statement is a touching document. It shows a lot of heart. It’s like … a bully crying as he pushes you around instead of just punching you out.

No, but it really is a movingly humble document; it’s got some real … admirable and even inspiring resonance.

I actually think it’s worth saving, as a historical document, because it so perfectly captures exactly where, at this moment in time, the gay issue is, was, and will inevitably be.

But holy cow it’s like watching a glacier melt, isn’t it? Except instead of dripping water we’re getting the dripping blood of LGBT teenagers who continue taking their own lives because they can no longer stand being bullied by other kids who feel justified in treating them like they’re not really human at all.

C’mon, people. Touching process or not, can we please speed this up already?

* * * * * * * *

(If you’re not in the mood to have exasperated every last bit of your patience with the Methodists’ powers-that-be, do not read this story about Frank Schaefer, a Methodist reverend who is currently in the process of being defrocked for officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding in 2007. But if you do read that story, as an antidote follow it up with this awesome story: More than 50 United Methodist clergy show support of marriage of gay couple. UPDATE: Annnnd back down again we go: Methodist jury convicts Pa. pastor [being Frank Schaefer] for gay wedding. Sigh … )

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