United Methodist Bishop Will Officiate Wedding of Same-Sex Couple in Birmingham, Alabama

by HRC Staff

WASHINGTON – The Human Rights Campaign congratulates Bobby Prince and Joe Openshaw on their upcoming marriage in Birmingham, Alabama, and salutes Bishop Melvin Talbert of The United Methodist Church (UMC) for his willingness to religiously bless this union despite opposition within the United Methodist denomination.

On October 26, 2013, Bishop Talbert, a retired bishop in the United Methodist Church (UMC) will be performing a holy wedding ceremony in Birmingham, Alabama, for Bobby Prince and Joe Openshaw, two members of The UMC.

Openshaw was born into the Methodist faith, and Prince has been Methodist for a number of years. They were legally married in Washington, DC, but want the sacredness of their vows to each other honored religiously by their denomination and in their community.  They believe that marriage strengthens their relationship in ways that benefit the entire community. They have been together for 12 years.

Bishop Talbert takes the work for LGBT justice in the UMC very seriously. As a younger man, he sat in jail with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for three days and was arrested in Atlanta for lunch counter sit‐ins. Since that time, he has taken, and continues to take, very bold stances for LGBT persons. He will be the first UMC bishop to publically perform a marriage for a same-sex couple. Bishop Talbert joins many UMC clergy who have signed the Altar for All (http://www.rmnetwork.org/act-now/altar-for-all/), pledging to officiate weddings for all couples ready for marriage across the country.

Talbert and supportive clergy adhere to Biblical Obedience, a belief based on scripture and the fullness of UMC law which calls on clergy to offer all ministries to all people, and to act as if the immoral, unjust, discriminatory laws that forbid clergy from officiating same sex marriage do not exist.

Whereas The UMC law book, known as the Book of Discipline, say that “The UMC does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching,” and it forbids clergy from officiating same-sex weddings or churches from allowing weddings to happen in their sanctuaries, other parts of church law contradict these restrictions. The whole of church law leans not toward rigid restriction, but instead toward openness, acceptance, love, grace, and equality as it acknowledges in their writings on Human Sexuality that “all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God.”

“For far too long, LGBT and their families have felt that they could not find a home in a faith community. This wedding, in the heart of the religious South, is first and foremost a celebration of love. But secondly, it says to the nation that such love should be celebrated in all our faith communities," said Dr. Sharon Groves, director of the HRC Religion and Faith Program.

The United Methodist Church is the second largest protestant denomination in North America. Other Protestant denominations, including Episcopal, Presbyterian (PCUSA), Lutheran (ELCA), and United Church of Christ, fully accept the LGBT community, including supporting marriage equality.

The Reconciling Ministries Network (RMN) Reconciling Ministries Network, which advocates for full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the United Methodist denomination, has been a powerful presence in supporting the wedding of Openshaw and Prince.  You can read more about their coverage of this story and their powerful work to create more welcoming places for LGBT people at www.rmnetwork.org/openshaw‐prince

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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