by Rev. Andy Oliver

biblical-obedience-a-conversation-with-bishop-talbertRecently, I took part in a small group discussion with RMN Board member Bishop Talbert to discuss the Biblical Obedience movement. Here is what he had to say:

I never intended to lead a movement. As a Bishop, I needed to make some declaratory observations. I accept a call for us to claim our identity as it relates to the Bible, to speak truth to power, and decide that laws that govern LGBTQ persons and allies in the life of the Church are immoral and unjust and are no longer deserving of our loyalty and support. Those of us who believe that way need to declare our beliefs and start doing the right thing.

Jesus was asked by a scribe, “Which is the greatest of all the commandments?” Jesus simply said, “There is only one God. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” It is time for us as people of faith to live into those commandments. It is time to see ALL human beings as our neighbors. That is what I mean by Biblical Obedience.

It is time to be welcoming to all people. Find ways in your congregation to say Sunday after Sunday after Sunday that ALL are welcome; a vocal expression that all are welcome in this place. It is time to be in conversation with individual pastors about your belief in Biblical Obedience. Tell them that you believe the position of the church is wrong, and you can no longer, with integrity, continue to support the discrimination against LGBTQ persons. There are consequences to taking such a stand, but there comes a time when you have to decide to whom are you accountable. Are you accountable only to The UMC or are you also accountable to God? One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. argued in the language of St. Augustine, “an unjust law is no law at all.”

When I sat at lunch counters during The Civil Rights Movement, I had to commit myself to non-violence as a way of life. I was prepared to offer my very life to draw attention to the injustices that were occurring. When we were jailed, the people in our communities came to our rescue. That is the very same response we need today. Your best strategy might not be to be a lone-ranger; your best strategy might be to go back to your congregation and talk to them about what is on your heart as their pastor. Get your people to buy into a strategy about how they as the church can move marriage equality forward with integrity and be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. I believe we are called to take that stand and invite others to join us.

The Discipline is clear, you are to be in ministry to everybody. Clergy have a decision to make… Are you ready to put your future in The United Methodist Church on the line? If the answer is no, that is okay… Only you can make the decision what you are willing to lay your life down for. It is not a time to shame others into making this decision, but it is a time for a heart searching process where clergy have to come to that decision on their own. Clergy still might be at the point where they are willing to say that they believe marriage inequality is wrong even if they aren’t willing to officiate a wedding yet. Clergy have a decision to make.

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A day of Biblical Obedience is on the horizon. It is springing forth in every Conference from the deep South of Alabama to the great plains of Iowa, and from the bustling city of New York to the beaches of California… A Day of Biblical Obedience is coming. When that day comes, will you take part?