By Rev. Gil Caldwell

Bishop Talbert is quoted as saying following the resolution of the complaint against him, “I believe
embracing Biblical Obedience offers the best way…” The resolution that involved other Bishops including the one who brought charges, offers a new opportunity to consider, maybe reconsider, our understanding of “Biblical Obedience.”

Once there were Methodists who believed that the following represented Biblical Obedience:

Prohibitions against the ordination of women
The owning of slaves and the practice of slavery
Prohibitions against divorce
Prohibitions against the consumption of alcohol
The practice of the segregation of blacks in church and society
Prohibitions against interracial marriage

But now:

The United Methodist Church ordains women
Slavery is no longer justified by church or society
Divorce is viewed by The UMC for clergy and lay people as being at times valid
Although The UMC values abstinence from the consumption of alcohol, it allows for discernment and decision-making for those who do consume alcohol.
Racial segregation is no longer viewed as being Biblical or Constitution based and valid
Interracial marriage “is now compatible with Christian teaching.”

This week, when the movie “Selma” is released, we remember Martin Luther King’s book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos Or Community.

How do we move from our current UMC chaos to community?

“Community” for The United Methodist Church, now that the decision in response to Bishop Talbert has been reached, is to acknowledge that out denominational history is a history of some Methodists believing that their support for Bible-based prohibitions was appropriate. Later, these same folks realized that “New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,” to quote James Russell Lowell, and therefore decided to honor Scripture by “living it.” Living it in the “new occasion.”

The United Methodist Church, now that 36 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same sex marriage, can no longer diminish the inclusive leadership of Jesus, nor the power of Scripture, by refusing to be in full mission and ministry to same sex couples.

I remember when the practice of racial segregation stood in the way of black persons who needed the medical care of “white only hospitals,” but were denied entrance because of their race.

I cannot believe that there are United Methodists who would deny same sex couples the ministry of marriage by a United Methodist clergyperson in a United Methodist Church, even if they themselves do not support such marriages.

We are at “an ending the Central Jurisdiction moment in United Methodism.” The full inclusion of same-sex couples is in the mission and ministry of The UMC, now and in the future.

There were those who resisted the ending of racial segregation in the denomination.

They were our siblings in Christ, and we prayed that they would walk with us into God’s new call to ministry. We allowed and enabled them to slowly make the transition from the old to the new. But, we could not deny, nor delay our responding to the hymn, “Where he leads me I will follow, where he leads me I will follow, where he leads me I will follow; I’ll go with him all the way.” (UM Hymnal #338)

“11 o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America,” said Martin Luther King. There may be some Churches and ministers that view themselves as “traditional marriage only” churches or pastors, and the denomination may affirm their stance. But, I believe that even those churches and pastors, as they observe the God-sanctioned love of same sex couples in and beyond United Methodist churches, as they now are married, would not stand in the way of United Methodist ministry to those couples.

My grandmother used to say about those who resisted racial integration, “If God is for it, who can be against it?”

I believe the “Just Resolution” of the complaint against Bishop Talbert, is “of God.” I cannot believe the God of my foremothers and fathers is against it, and neither am I.

The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwellis a retired United Methodist Minister who lives in Asbury Park, N.J. He was active in the Massachusetts unit of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and participated in the civil-rights movement throughout the nation. In 2000, he, with others, organized the RMN Extension ministry United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church (UMOC), an organization committed to the full inclusion of LGBT people in every aspect of church and society. His recent book, Something Within: Works by Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell is available from Church Within A Church.

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