By Ann Craig, Founder of Craig Media ActionOn April 12, 1963 two Methodist Bishops issued a public statement requesting that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. end the demonstrations for racial justice in Birmingham. Rev. Gil Caldwell sees this same dynamic playing out again today in the effort by some clergy to censure Bishop Melvin G. Talbert.
At the close of General conference, Bishop Talbert made history when he declared the prohibitions and condemnations of LGBT people “immoral and unjust”:
I stand before you here this afternoon and I declare that God has already settled this matter: all human beings are created in the image of God. There are no exceptions, no exclusions. We belong to the family of God. At the same time, I declare to you that the derogatory language and restrictive laws in the Book of Discipline are immoral, and unjust and no longer deserve our loyalty and obedience.
In response, 70 conservative United Methodists wrote a letter to the United Methodist Council of Bishops, in August, demanding censure of Bishop Talbert; they claimed he went against the Book of Discipline. But the tide has turned and people are standing up.
The Rev. Caldwell wrote a powerful commentary in support of Bishop Talbert and compared the 70 to the Methodist bishops and pastors in the 1960’s who called for bishops, Black pastors and the churches to reject the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King responded with his letter Letter From a Birmingham Jail:
You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is rather strange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws. One may well ask, "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "An unjust law is no law at all."
Faithful America launched a massive sign-on campaign and garnered 14,000 signers who stand with Bishop Talbert and called on the Bishops to support biblical obedience to the Gospel. Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) went on record in support of Bishop Talbert. The Advocate, an LGBT publication, picked up the story and GLAAD wrote a great blog in support of Bishop Talbert.
This movement of the Spirit is of biblical proportions and is faithful to the Gospel. When religious leaders in Jesus’ day heard the Gospel, they wanted to squash it—but one wise sage said, “If this movement is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy it; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38-39)
This movement is about love; it is about Jesus who died for ALL, not just for some. The curtain has been torn, the doors are open and the Spirit is moving. No matter how many setbacks we face, we are loved, we are faithful and we are moving forward.
Craig is the Founder of Craig Media Action.Caldwell is a retired United Methodist pastor. He was part of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Massachusetts and participated in the civil-rights movement throughout the nation. He was the co-founder of United Methodists of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church, is working on the documentary Truth in Progress, and published his book, Something Within, through Church Within a Church. He is a national board member of PFLAG, Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.