General Conference 2008: Bishop Talbert Tells General Conference, 'This is Wrong; Please Re-Consider'

May 01, 2008

By Bruce Pettit

California-Nevada News Service


FORT WORTH, May 1, 2008 – Bishop Melvin Talbert, leader of the California-Nevada Annual Conference from 1988-2000 and now retired, this morning told the 3,000 people gathered here in holy conferencing: "General Conference, General Conference. This is wrong. I invite you to reconsider."


On Wednesday this General Conference of 2008 adopted several items to keep the status quo on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender issues. About 200 people, with the permission of several bishops, marched onto the floor of this convention center arena, protesting the church in silent, spoken, and sung witness for half an hour.


The theme of this General Conference – "A Future With Hope" – that the bishops had carefully shaped and promoted, and hoped would send out a message different from past sessions – appeared shattered.


Bishop Talbert compared the actions here to what the Methodist Church did in 1939, when it ended its Civil War division but put blacks into a separate Central Jurisdiction. "That action was wrong and a sin against God. Thank God we have moved past that segregated structure. But, my sisters and brothers, here we go again. We have taken an action that is wrong," he said.


After achieving their places on both sides of the long center aisle of the plenary floor and around the perimeter, the group sang, "Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?" and were joined by several bishops and several delegates standing in their places. Many others sat without comment. California-Nevada Bishop Beverly Shamana joined those standing from her official position among the bishops, located behind the presiding officer and staff table on the stage.


Reconciling Ministries Network prepared a lengthy statement, which was read during the half-hour witness. It said, in part, "Our United Methodist Church refuses to accept what God has already done." The statement deplored "cruel scapegoating of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people on the altar of so-called unity: The world notices, we notice, and God notices," it read.


Bishop Gregory Palmer from Iowa promised that some of the bishops would work with the LBGT community, in keeping with the Wesleyan admonition: do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.


The half hour concluded with conference worship director Marcia McFee and music director Mark Miller leading delegates in singing, "Jesus, Remember Me, When You Come Into Your Kingdom," and "His Eye Is on the Sparrow."