Dear Executive Committee of the Council of Bishops:
I write to you on behalf of the Reconciling Ministries Network to express our deep disappointment with the letter issued by the Executive Committee of the Council of Bishops on 23 October 2013.
In formally urging Bishop Melvin Talbert not to perform the wedding of Bobby Prince and Joe Openshaw, members of the North Alabama Conference of The United Methodist Church, the Committee rests its authority on the existence of a “special covenant with all other bishops.” While we can understand the benefit and necessity of such a covenant, we are suspicious when the covenant is not measured against its consistency with the Covenant of God’s love for the whole of creation expressed in Jesus Christ. We are concerned that the covenant shared among the bishops does not allow room for critique and seems to require allegiance at the expense of the gospel for which it was created to support and embody. As expressed in the letter, the bishops’ covenant is structured in such a way that censures dissenting parties and silences the voice of the prophet. We cannot imagine how a covenant of this kind serves the church since the unity and peace it seeks to preserve is bereft of justice and therefore not true peace at all.
It is clear that the Holy Spirit is active among her people in liberating them for acts of ministry for the sake of Biblical Obedience. While the church awaits prophetic leadership from among the Council of Bishops on matters pertaining to LGBTQ inclusion in The United Methodist Church, the Spirit has found a willing participant in Bishop Melvin Talbert whose recent announcements and acts of ministry are reflections of his allegiance to the Covenant which rises above all other covenants. We support him and honor his obedience to the Covenant he has made with God even where this obedience is neither acknowledged nor supported by the bishops or the Church.
You rightly acknowledge in your letter that we are not all of one mind and you also acknowledge that we are united in believing together in the sacred worth of all people. To that end, we call on all bishops in The United Methodist Church to lead us toward the creation of a church where the sacred worth of all people is fully realized in our communities and similarly, where all who are called to ministry in the church are equipped and enabled to fulfill their covenant with God in Christ.
In the peace of Christ,
The Reconciling Ministries Network