United Methodist Rev. Frank Schaefer serves communion to his supporters at the end of his two-day church trial. Photo by Kathy L. Gilbert/United Methodist News Service

The Rev. Frank Schaefer serves Communion to his supporters at the end of his two-day church trial. Photo by Kathy L. Gilbert/United Methodist News Service


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(RNS) The Rev. Frank Schaefer was defrocked by United Methodist officials in Pennsylvania on Thursday (Dec. 19), after he refused to conform to denominational rules that prohibit ministers from officiating at same-sex weddings.

Schaefer, who pastors a church in Lebanon, Pa., said he plans to appeal the decision.

The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Board of Ordained Ministry had no choice, Bishop Peggy A. Johnson said in a statement. A two-day church trial last month found Schaefer guilty of violating church law by performing the 2007 same-sex wedding of his son.

A jury suspended him for 30 days, during which he was asked to decide whether he could comply with church law; if not, he was to surrender his clergy credentials.

Earlier this week, Schaefer said he would not voluntarily leave the ministry. He has said his actions were motivated by love, not defiance.

The United Methodist Church accepts gay and lesbian members, but its Book of Discipline calls the practice of homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching” and bars clergy from performing same-sex unions.

Schaefer’s trial is the first since the United Methodists’ 2012 General Conference upheld the denomination’s 40-year-old rules on the issue. At least four additional clergy face trials amid a growing wave of public disobedience to church law. The church’s rule cannot change until the next General Conference, in 2016.

“I would hope as these other cases come up, it might lead more folks in the church to really dialogue about how we deal with difficult issues and begin to understand who we are as children of God,” said the Rev. Gary MacDonald, a Methodist minister and director of advanced ministerial studies at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology.

John Lomperis, Methodist program director of the conservative Institute on Religion & Democracy, praised the conference leaders for “upholding our biblical standards.”

“He was not the first United Methodist minister to be defrocked for crossing these lines and will not be the last,” he said.

Schaefer’s bishop this week said sections in the church rulebook discriminate against LGBT people.

“There appear to be contradictions between the many affirming statements and these statements,” Johnson said. “This has led to confusion by many from the outside of the church wondering how we can talk out of two sides of our mouth.”

Her comments came in response to a letter from 44 Pennsylvania clergy calling for her “to take a stand” supporting gays.

She also said church trials on the issue “are not helpful,” and she would try to prevent them in the future.

YS/MG END GADOUA

28 Comments

    • This was always going to be the outcome and Rev. Frank Schaefer knew it. He stood up for what he believed just as many have done in the past. It wasn’t that long ago when Christians supported slavery with scripture and we still have churches today that subordinate women. The question I have is will we see a split in the UMC? Rev. Frank Schaefer is not alone. This has been a hot topic in UMC even before Rev. Frank Schaefer officiated his son’s wedding.

      • Slavery is a separate issue entirely. Anyone who tries to conflate the two only expose their ignorance on the subject.

        Everyone is welcome to stand up for what they believe and accept the consequences. He openly rejected what his church and Gods Word teaches. There are consequences that are far more dangerous than simply being defrocked.

        As for the split, a separation of the wheat from the chaff was predicted and is necessary.

        • Frank,

          Women Leadership may be closer to the issue, but even in that case Dr. Demetrius K Williams relates the issue to slavery when he asks his African American brothers how can they oppress women when it took so long to be freed from their own oppression in “An End to This Strife: The Politics of Gender in African American Churches.” With that said, there is no denying how Philemon has been used to justify slavery.
          In the end I guess it all comes down to how we view and interpret scripture.

    • No! The right conclusion would be for the Methodists to study, learn, and catch up with science, history, sociology, and psychology and change third ignorant, bigoted rules that prevent any two people from beginning a life together with the blessing of their church. They can obtain legal approval otherwise, elsewhere, or just ignore it, but is is sad that any church people prefer to remain mired in old ignorance and prejudice rather than bring their religious beliefs, regulations, and rituals up to date. Compare such ignorant, hateful, bigoted Methodists–or any other people like them–to the precepts of Jesus.

      All old writings must be recognized for their embedding in their culture. Even given that, Jesus would have nothing to do with current Methodist rules. You might recall that Jesus was a Jew who ran afoul of his own out-dated “denomination” and its high priests and the mobs they contrived to urge the Roman emperor to pass his crucifixion sentence on Jesus.

      • Psalms 19:7- The law of God is perfect
        Malachi 3:6- God does not change
        John 17:17- God’s word is truth
        Deuteronomy 4:2- You must not add (nor take away) from God’s commands
        1 John 4:1- Beloved ones, do not believe every inspired expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world.
        After reading these Bible verses, do you think God must change to accommodate man and changing society? God is perfect and his word and laws are perfect in every time period… God doesn’t care about human philosophies. His thoughts are HIGHER than man’s thoughts and HIS ways are HIGHER than man’s ways. (Isaiah 55:8-9) Not all people who speak TRUTH are bigoted, ignorant or “on the wrong side of history”.

      • gilhcan, what does science have to say about marriage. We know what history says about it, and it doesn’t call same-gender coupling marriage. Sociology only describes what happens in societies.

        It is up to the individual churches to bless, condemn, or ignore these relationships. A major concern for many is the redefinition of marriage in order to make some people feel good about themselves, just as sex reassignment surgery does no more than make the individual feel better.

    • Mell, give us your definition of “bigoted.” I’ll bet it defies any dictionary definition. That is a hallmark of contemporary liberalism; it defines terms to suit itself and that makes its own judgment calls regarding the rest of the world.

      The crowd you identify with wants to redefine the concept of marriage.

      Your crowd has alredy redefined abortion as “women’s health.”

      Your crowd defines a bigot as anyone who does not meet its demands.

      A hurtful remark is one that a liberal disagrees with, even if the remark is a statement of fact. What is “hurtful” about a statement about the physiology of homosexual sex? Facts are facts, man.

      Don’t jump to the conclusion that I dislike gays. I’ve worked for them and with them and number some among my friends. Because we do not know enough about the origins of sexual orientation, I do not believe that we can suggest that gays choose their identity any more than straights choose theirs. We should not discriminate against anyone merely on the basis of their identy, radical Islamists excepted.

      There is no doubt, however, that in terms of the preservation and propagation of the species, homosexuality is a non-starter. But that does not mean we should discriminate in our relations with gays.

      Take note of this: This country, through its federal government, has come nowhere near solving the problems of uinemployment and poverty despite spending trillions of dollars pretending to address these issues over half a century. The poor constitute a significant percentage of people in this country, far above the 2% that are LGBT. The media is very much interesed in the 2% only. We know why, given what the media have over the years demonstrated to be their perspective and agenda. (Most of them, by the way, live nowhere near any of the poor.)

      Shall we call you bigoted and hateful because you dislike orgainzed religion? Do you evaluate any organization on its principles or on the behavior of a few wayward members? Do you fear religion? Why? Just askin’.

  1. First, God loves all people, straight and gay alike. God does not condemn people for being gay but He condemns homosexual acts. He also condemns heterosexual acts outside of marriage. Homosexual behavior and illicit heterosexual behavior are against Gods law and are not compatible with the Christian life. God’s law has remained the same and will not change; preaching otherwise is NOT love!

    • David- Well said and in line with Bible TRUTH… EVERY person who fears God and WORKS righteousness is acceptable to Him. GOD is the One who sets the standard of right and wrong, not man.

    • Mr. Trouten, it can be argued that Schaefer did not officiate at the wedding of his son because marriage is between a male and a female. Perhaps if he had devised some other recognition for this cohabitation, he might not have incurred suspension.

        • There is concern about redefining marriage so that some people’s feelings are not hurt. Many will insist that Schaefer did not officiate at a wedding between two males because this is an impossibility and that the state issuing pieces of paper to the contrary is nothing more than another illustration of a readily observable fact that our society is in a state of decay.

          • If they didn’t get married, then he shouldn’t have been defrocked, eh?

            My husband and I were married twice — once back in 1997 at our church and a second time back in 2010 because the state of Iowa allowed same-sex couples to legally marry. You might have problems with such families, but say that it was impossible for us to get married doesn’t make it so.

            We didn’t get married so that our feeling wouldn’t be hurt. We got married for lots of personal reasons — same as anyone else. But hurt feelings had nothing to do with it.

            Hoping you had a wonderful celebration of the New Year. -jon

  2. The Methodists did the right thing, but the war goes on. There are other Methodist “ministers” out there who have already promised to do the very same messed-up mess as what Schaefer did. The war is not over.

    Methodists will have to decide, once and for all, whether “God is Lord” or “Gay is Lord.” Can’t serve both masters.

  3. I respect your view. I even respect your view that because I follow a God of Love and support homosexuals I will go to hell. This debate is no different than any of the other debates that have taken place throughout church history with the exception that we are not killing each other or cutting the tongues out of those who speak contrary to the “church” teachings. In the end we all have to make our own decision. These decision will define how and why we interpret scripture in a specific way.

  1. […] On Sunday (Dec. 22), Snyder’s church welcomed Frank Schaefer, a former Lebanon, Pa., United Methodist minister, to his Washington congregation. Schaefer was found guilty last month of violating church law for performing a 2007 same-sex wedding of his son to another man. When he said he would refuse to quit performing additional same-sex weddings, church officials in Pennsylvania stripped him of his clergy credentials. […]

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