Bishop Melvin George Talbert dies at 89

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Bishop Melvin George Talbert (June 14, 1934 - August 3, 2023)

 Bishop Melvin George Talbert, a retired bishop of The United Methodist Church, died  August 3, 2023.
Bishop Talbert was elected to the episcopacy by the Western Jurisdictional Conference of The United Methodist Church in 1980 and assigned to the Seattle Area. He was assigned to the San Francisco Area in 1988, where he retired August 31, 2000.

Bishop Talbert was born on June 14, 1934, in Clinton, Louisiana, United States. He was one of seven children of sharecropper parents, Nettles and Florence (George) Talbert.
After attending public schools and working various jobs, Melvin received a BA degree from Southern University, Baton Rouge, LA, and an M.Div. degree from Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC)/Gammon Theological Seminary, Atlanta, GA. While at ITC, Talbert became President of the student body during his middle year, while serving a two-point charge in Tennessee.
He once spent time in jail with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King personally, noting that they spent “three nights in jail with him after we were arrested in Atlanta at a sit-in demonstration in 1960. We shared the same jail cell. I got a chance to talk to him and really experience the kind of human being he was. I consider myself a disciple of King. I believe in his commitment to nonviolence and believe that is how we must work in the church. That's the truest expression of what it means to be Christian.”
He was ordained deacon by Bishop Willis J. King, Jr., and was ordained elder by Bishop Gerald H. Kennedy. After serving as interim at St. John's (Watts), Associate at Wesley, Los Angeles, and pastor at Hamilton, Los Angeles, Talbert was named Associate Council Director, Southern California-Arizona Conference. One year later, he was appointed District Superintendent for the Long Beach District. In 1973, Talbert was elected General Secretary for the General Board of Discipleship, Nashville, where he served until he was elected to the episcopacy.
Among the various positions he held in his career were as:
  • Member of the General Council on Ministries, and was Chair of its Missional Priority Coordinating Committee 1976-84;
  • Member of the General Commission on Religion and Race, 1980-88, and served as its President 1983-88;
  • Member of the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns 1988-96 and 2000-04;
  • Director of the National Council of Churches (NCCCUSA) from mid 1970s August 2004, and served as its President 1996-97;
  • Member of the World Methodist Council Executive Committee, and the World Council of Churches Central Committee (its Executive Committee and Finance Committee);
  • Honored as a Distinguished Alumnus of his seminary in 1990;
  • Secretary for the Council of Bishops (COB) for two quadrennia 1988-92 and 1992-96, during which time he carried the title Head of Communion;
  • One of forty Presidential Guests to accompany US President Bill Clinton on his peace pilgrimage to Northern Ireland and Ireland December 1995;
  • Visited the White House on several occasions representing the NCCCUSA and the Council of Bishops;
  • Was the Ecumenical Officer for the Council of Bishops 2000-04;
  • Served as Interim Executive Director of Black Methodists for Church Renewal, Inc.
Bishop Talbert was married to Ethelou Douglas for thirty-eight years prior to her death in February 1999.  They had one daughter, Evangeline Violet, married to James H. Sifford, Sr. They have three children: Kaetlin, James, Jr. and Melvin Douglas. Bishop Talbert married Marilyn W. Magee on April 1, 2000.

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