|Bishop Melvin Talbert|
I’ve often said that change will come in the fight for LGBT rights when the change comes to the South. See, down here folks like to hold onto to tradition, and grudges; I mean, how else do we explain that some Southerners still complain about the Civil War, AKA The Act Of Northern Aggression? So, when change comes to the South, then change will most assuredly be coming everywhere, which is why this story makes me smile.
Down in Birmingham, Alabama — Birming-effing-ham, Ala-effing-bama — Melvin Talbert, a retired United Methodist Bishop, officiated at a same-sex wedding last weekend and used part of the ceremony to criticize the United Methodist Church anti-equality policy.
"This is a great day for the church and I hope it's something we can build on.”—Melvin Talbert
Talbert united in wedded bliss Joe Openshaw and Bobby Prince. Now the two men had already been legally married in September up in Washington DC, and since marriage equality has not yet come to Alabama this was a mostly symbolic ceremony, but it was a stance against intolerance and inequality that needed to be heard.
|L to R: Reverend Kevin Higgs, |
Bobby Prince, Reverend J.R. Finney,
Joe Openshaw and Bishop Melvin Talbert.
Openshaw and Prince are members of Discovery United Methodist Church, but were told the ceremony could not be done in a Methodist church, so they held their ceremony, for their friends and loved ones, at Covenant Community Church, which is affiliated with the United Church of Christ, one faith that does bless same-sex unions.
And Melvin Talbert agreed to officiate the wedding even after he received word from North Alabama Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett and other United Methodist bishops that he refrain from doing so because it’s against United Methodist church law. The United Methodist Book of Discipline says homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching" and Talbert talked about that ‘rule’ during the ceremony.
"It's wrong, evil, immoral.”—Melvin Talbert
And for his service in performing this ceremony—and let’s again remember that the ceremony he performed is not yet legal in Alabama—Melvin Talbert could be charged with breaking church law, but he says he chose doing the right thing over following archaic church laws.
Talbert, along with Openshaw and Prince, said he hopes his little ceremony would help the church to change. And it just might.
This Sunday Talbert will preach at the 10:30 AM service at Brownsville United Methodist Church, where the Reverend Kevin Higgs is pastor. Higgs was the pastoral counselor for Openshaw and Prince and he has pointed out that the Book of Discipline also has a rule that ministers must serve people of all kinds, including homosexuals.
"The Book of Discipline commands me to be in ministry for Joe and Bobby."—Pastor Kevin Higgs
Joe and Bobby, whose wedding ceremony in Birmingham looked like every other wedding done in that town, except there was no bride. There was family and friends, and flowers and pomp and circumstance; there were prayers and a reading of the "love is patient, love is kind" passage, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, and there was this:
"Why are we here? Joe and Bobby, two men created in the image of God, loyal and faithful United Methodists, servants of the church in Jesus Christ, are in love with each other."—Melvin Talbert
And isn’t that all that matters.