Charges filed against Methodist bishop in lesbian wedding dispute

Posted: Friday, April 28, 2000

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- United Methodist parishioners have called for an investigation of Bishop Melvin Talbert following a church tribunal's decision to take no action against 68 ministers who jointly conducted a lesbian wedding last year.

At issue in two letters from church members requesting the probe is whether the Sacramento bishop disregarded Methodist law, which forbids clergy to participate in same-sex unions.

Bishop Elias Galvan of Seattle said the college of bishops of the denomination's Western region would consider whether the case merits formal complaint status. If so, a separate committee would investigate whether Talbert should be tried by a church court, which would have power to impose various penalties up to expulsion.

John Stumbo, a Fort Valley, Ga. lawyer with the Coalition for United Methodist Accountability, a newly formed conservative caucus, said the complaints centered on Talbert's comments in February that the church tribunal had found no basis for a trial.

Talbert said the clergy appeared to violate Methodist rules, but that a local commitment to ''inclusiveness and justice'' had ''precedence over this one narrow focus of law'' in the national church. Talbert has urged the denomination to adopt a liberal policy toward gays and lesbians.

Talbert had no immediate comment on the parishioners' filings.

The denomination's quadrennial General Conference in Cleveland beginning Tuesday will discuss what to do about bishops and clergy who oppose the church policy against same-sex ceremonies and ordaining women and homosexuals.

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