AN "OPEN LETTER" to BISHOP MELVIN G. TALBERT

 From: Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell, a long-time friend and colleague

Dear Mel,

Years ago you and I and other black colleagues formed the black caucus in the United Methodist Church (UMC), Black Methodists for Church Renewal. I have always felt that "Church Renewal" represented the most important words in the name of our organization/movement.

The UMC, since the 1972 General Conference voted language and legislation that declared "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching," has been on the downside of renewal. The words of Martin Luther King, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," have been disregarded by our denomination. The integration of those of us who are black into the UMC through its organization in 1968, became suspect when in 1972 the church turned from discriminating against blacks to discriminating against same-gender loving persons.

The unwillingness of United Methodism to affirm and encourage marriage equality, to publicly endorse the God-given love that same-gender couples share, will forever be a blight on the denomination. And, the charges against and trials of UM clergy who perform same-gender marriages like the Salem Witch Trials, will in time be viewed as unbelievable and unexplainable. 

Bishop Oxnam

Bishop Oxnam

I have been re-reading, Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam, Paladin of Liberal Protestantism by Robert Moats Miller (Abingdon Press, 1990). Oxnam is noted for his challenge of the House Un-American Activities Committee. The chapter in the book that describes Oxnam's encounter begins this way, "In calling the Committee to account, Oxnam was not tickling a tabby cat." Many of us remember this committee and the viciousness of Joseph McCarthy as they sought to declare Bishop Oxnam and other Americans as Communists or Communist sympathizers.

Sadly without intending to, there are those in our denomination who remind me of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). They believe they are being faithful to Scripture and the God and Jesus of Scripture by defining LGBTQ persons, same-gender loving persons, and clergy who marry them as being Un-Christian and at variance with the UMC. You and I have known white Methodists who thought that interracial marriages were wrong. We remember when bishops were denied entrance to Methodist churches because they sought to challenge the racial segregation of those churches. And now most Methodists look at racial segregation, as being Un-Christian, just as most Americans view the activities of the HUAC as being Un-American.

Gil and Marilyn on a film location for the documentary FROM SELMA TO STONEWALL.

Gil and Marilyn on a film location for the documentary FROM SELMA TO STONEWALL.

Mel, my Truth in Progress colleague, Marilyn Bennett, and I will remember and mention you when we engage in question and answer sessions following showings of our just-released documentary, "From Selma to Stonewall: Are we there yet?" Your participation in a same-gender wedding in my home state of North Carolina will, I pray, encourage the delegates at the UMC General Conference as it convenes on May 10th to rescind the anti-LGBTQ language/legislation in our UMC Book of Discipline.

Thanks for your witness Mel. May the delegates at the 2016General Conference dare in their
legislation to, "Let go and let God!" May they follow the leading of the Spirit as you have.

Gil Caldwell
Asbury Park, New Jersey/USA