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Nashville Bishop Faces Scrutiny From Methodist Council Over Gay Wedding

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LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (AP) - The United Methodist Council of Bishops on Friday said it plans to file a complaint against a retired bishop who performed a wedding for two gay men in Alabama.


Bishop Melvin G. Talbert of Nashville, Tenn., performed the wedding last month, even though the local bishop and other leaders asked him not to, saying it violated church law.


The council said in a statement that it addressed the issue at its annual meeting this week in North Carolina. It said that it asked its president, Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, to file the complaint against Talbert for "undermining the ministry of a colleague and conducting a ceremony to celebrate the marriage of a same gender couple."


Talbert did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.


The council said in its statement that Talbert's actions gave rise to a lot of conversation, reflection and prayer among its members.


"The Council recognizes the deep divisions and pain in our church over these issues," the statement says. "United Methodists are not of one mind, and followers of Christ and people of conscience hold conflicting views. These issues require continuing honest and respectful conversation as well as prayer throughout the church."


The council also said it recommended that a task force be formed "to lead honest and respectful conversations regarding human sexuality, race and gender in a worldwide perspective in our shared commitment to clear theological understanding of the mission and polity of the United Methodist Church."


Joe Openshaw said he and longtime partner Bobby Prince asked Talbert to marry them when they were refused permission to marry in their United Methodist church. Talbert performed the wedding Oct. 26 at the Covenant Community Church, a United Church of Christ congregation.


Talbert and other Methodist supporters of same-sex rights have been encouraging their denomination to recognize gay marriages for years. Alabama does not recognize same-sex marriage.


The men wed legally in Washington, D.C., in September, but Prince said he and his partner wanted a religious ceremony as well.
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