Bishop Melvin Talbert has spent more than half a century in social justice ministry. He has served in top leadership positions throughout the United Methodist Church and yet has always remained an outspoken advocate for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the life of the church.
Bishop Talbert received a BA in 1959 from Southern University and his MDiv from Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1962. As a divinity student he became involved with the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and helped plan the first student sit-in demonstrations in Atlanta in 1960. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. accepted the invitation to join the students in the sit-in demonstrations and was arrested with them. Thus, Talbert spent three days and nights in the same jail cell with Dr. King, an experience that shaped his life forever.
He served as Secretary of Council of Bishops and President of NCCCUSA and attended every General Conference since 1968. In 1973, Talbert was elected General Secretary for the General Board of Discipleship of The United Methodist Church. He was first elected bishop in 1980 and served as a bishop for 20 years in the Western Jurisdiction until his retirement in 2000. In retirement he has continued to serve in many capacities, including as the national executive director of Black Methodists for Church Renewal (BMCR) from 2004 to 2007.
At the close of General Conference 2012 Bishop Talbert gave voice to the growing movement across the UMC to act in “biblical obedience” and defy the church’s unjust exclusion of gays and lesbians. His remarks earned him the wrath of conservatives in the denomination, who demanded that the Council of Bishops censure him. MIND is proud to honor him as our 2013 annual conference speaker.