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Talbert values guide institute

 
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Bishop Melvin G. Talbert
Bishop Melvin G. Talbert

Retired Bishop Melvin G. Talbert has served The United Methodist Church as a mentor, pastor, conference staff member, district superintendent, general secretary and bishop. An institute was created in his name by Black Methodists for Church Renewal to engage and encourage young lay and clergy to reach their leadership potential.

Talbert has been an advocate for peace and for the oppressed and marginalized. He has fought to help The United Methodist Church and society address racism. He is committed to racial, gender and sexual orientation inclusiveness, stating that there is room at God’s table for everyone.

He has identified eight values that have guided him throughout his life: timeliness, preparation, respect, advocacy, “from ‘me’ to ‘we,’” ecumenical focus, courage and radical inclusivity. The young people selected for the institute will complete a two-year curriculum based on those values.

In an interview with United Methodist News Service, Talbert explained his values.

Timeliness

This is a value instilled in me by my dad. He told me to always be on time … value the time of others. The theology behind this is that time is all that you have, you can’t postpone it for later. … You need to be intentional about how you use it.

Preparation

I hear people talk about -- particularly when it comes to preaching and leading -- ‘I’m guided by the spirit.’ What they do is simply come to a gathering, have not done any preparation and indicate to those who are there, ‘I’m going to let the spirit speak to me.’ I think the spirit speaks to us when we are struggling, sitting behind our desks, preparing for what we are to do when we are leading God’s people. Don’t abuse others; make sure you are prepared to guide and provide the kind of leadership they deserve.

Respect

Speaks for itself. We are all humans created in the image of God, and I will respect you even though you don’t respect me. I acknowledge and respect you as a human being.

Advocacy

You have to take a stand on the issues you are facing in life. There is no such thing as a neutral position. If you don’t take a stand, it means you are in support of the status quo. If there is an issue that needs to be lifted up, you need to take responsibility and advocate for it and not assume that it is going to get dealt with simply because you want it to be.

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From ‘me’ to ‘we’

It is not about “me,” it is about “us.” We are all God’s people and we are in this together. We are in this together, and if it is important, there are some others that are excited about it too.

Ecumenical focus

The United Methodist Church is not the only Christian expression going; there are many others, and we are all on the same journey. Rather than assuming that I have the answer, what we need to do is bring to the table all of our understanding of who we think God is but be prepared to listen to what others say as well, and realize that we are all a part of the Christian family of God.

I would expand that to not only include Christian churches but other faiths as well. I don’t believe that God can be boxed by a particular theology that’s called Christianity. I don’t need to judge who is going to get in; God is going to make that decision.

Courage

It simply means don’t be afraid; take courage and act and serve and do. Life is too short for me to worry about how others are going to think about what I am doing. I need to think through clearly where I am and venture.

Radical inclusivity

God’s table is large enough to include everybody. God does not exclude anyone. Each person is welcome to the table of God, and each person has the responsibility to claim that place.

That is why I am so disturbed by how our church is dealing with the issue of GBLT (gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgender) people. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and yet somehow we have decided we need to become God and therefore decide, “You can serve and you can’t serve.” (Talbert is referring to The United Methodist Church’s official position that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” shall not be ordained as United Methodist clergy.)

If people come in and say they believe in God and Jesus Christ they are welcome. We have no right to exclude anyone on the basis of their status in life -- race, gender, economic. No matter what it is, we are all one.

Back to: Young leaders begin new Talbert class

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