(RNS) In a surprising reversal, a Pennsylvania pastor who was defrocked last year for violating United Methodist law after he officiated at his son’s same-sex wedding has been reinstated.

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

United Methodist Rev. Frank Schaefer serves communion to his supporters during the end of his two-day church trial in 2013. Photo by Kathy L. Gilbert/United Methodist News Service


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The Rev. Frank Schaefer learned Tuesday (June 24) his ministerial credentials will be restored after the church’s Northeastern Jurisdictional Committee on Appeals voted 8-1 in his favor.

The committee, which held a hearing June 20 near Baltimore, found that “errors of Church law” had been used in imposing the penalty against Schaefer.

“I was wrongfully punished for standing with those who are discriminated against,” Schaefer said in a statement. “Today’s decision is a sign that the church is starting to listen.”

Schaefer said he and his family will move to California as early as next week to accept an invitation to serve in the church’s California-Pacific Conference.

That conference recently passed a resolution calling for an end to trials in cases of clergy violating policy connected with gay rights.

“I will not refuse ministry to anyone,” he said. “I will never be silent again. I will always speak for my LGBTQ brothers and sisters.”

The decision to reinstate Schaefer comes as the world’s 12 million United Methodists appear headed toward a split over the denomination’s rules on ministering to gays and lesbians.

“The events over the last nine months make the division in our church much more clear,” said the Rev. Tom Lambrecht, vice president and general manager of Good News, a conservative group within the United Methodist Church. “I have not seen a realistic option that will allow us to live together in one church.”

More than 80 pastors recently signed a statement saying the United Methodists have irreconcilable differences on the issue of homosexuality and a split is imminent. More than 2,500 United Methodist leaders have signed “A Way Forward,” a proposal calling for local decisions on gay clergy and same-sex marriage.

Several other United Methodist clergy, including a retired bishop, are awaiting news of formal church complaints or trials for defying Methodist policy on ministering to gays. A group of 10 retired clergy said earlier this month they would preside at same-sex marriages.

Schaefer, formerly pastor of Zion United Methodist Church in Iona, was found guilty of violating the church’s Book of Discipline in a November 2013 trial. A church jury suspended him for 30 days, during which he was told to decide whether he could comply with church law. If he could not, the jury said he was to surrender his clergy credentials.

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.

But the appeals committee ruled that the penalty was beyond those outlined in church law. It also said the penalty “could not be predicated on a future possibility.”

The committee also ruled that the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference must compensate Schaefer for all lost salary and benefits from the date he lost his credentials, Dec. 19, 2013.

The committee’s decision could be appealed to the Judicial Council, the church’s highest court.

YS/AMB END GADOUA

23 Comments

  1. Wow. It’s game over for Methodism. They’re defeated. They’ve surrendered. They done messed up.

    It’s time to abandon the Titanic. It’s time to abandon Methodism.

  2. It’s hypocritical that when the Mormon church kicked out two moderate activists from their church, the conservative Christians on this site complained about how they should leave the church if they disagree with the rules but it seems it’s ok to disagree with a church’s rules if they decide to accept homosexuality.

    • Who said that? A church is entitled to make ther own rules. But that does not mean they are immune to criticism.

      If they want to shed their members and clergy just to be spiteful and bigoted, that is their problem.

  3. The UMC’s decision simply means that more Christians are beginning to understand that Biblical writers had no understanding of why a small percentage of our brothers and sisters are born that way, with no more control over this then the minority who are born left-handed, autistic or with some other variation. The formation of a fetus is a delicate chemical balance that scientists are only now understanding. In other words, Biblical writers and commentators were only reflecting the culture of their time as to their view of homosexuality. If one believes that somehow God was standing over the writers telling them what to write, then this leads elsewhere into Biblical scholarship and understanding of what the Bible is and what it isn’t.

    • Questioning the word of God is nothing new. I seem to recall some very ancient conversation that started with “Did God actually say,..”

      How’d that turn out for you.

      • Centuries ago the Methodists, like other Christian groups, decided that when it comes to finding truth we should use Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience. So when reading the Bible we use the other three to help us make sense of it. The net effect is that understanding evolves, changes over time, but Tradition (in this case the Church’s understanding down through time) seems to serve as an anchor, keeping the Church from simply following the “spirit of the age”. That being said, history has shown that relying on just one of these 4 has typically led to disaster, especially in the case of relying just on the Scripture for truth.

      • Claiming to speak for the word of God is nothing new either. It is especially tempting when one claims God agrees with their actions and views as well.

        The big lie of Fundamentalists are that they are following the entire scripture as written and as intended. The reality is they are doing the same picking, choosing and interpretations as everyone else. But their egos and culture have forced them into taking the ridiculous position of denying such things.

        There is a certain appeal to one’s ego to say, “I am following God’s word and you are not”.

  4. Today was a holy day in Methodism. Congratulations to Rev. Frank Schaefer and the United Methodist Church. Let us all end discrimination against LGBT persons inside and outside religious settings.Thanks for all you have done, Rev. Schaefer.

    • The problem is that now the Book of Discipline (and the Bible, of course) has been thrown out the window completely. Clergy can now violate either book with impunity, claiming that it’s the book that needs rewriting instead of the clergyperson needing repentance.

      Methodist credibility is therefore eliminated, since the clergyperson originally signed up to abide by, rather than publicly disobey, the Book of Discipline (and the Bible too, presumably).

      Meanwhile, out in the real world, if you publicly disobey the conditions/guidelines of employment of any secular employer, then you’re simply FIRED, with no “trials” and no media gigs. The next person who’s hungry for a job, simply takes your place and follows the rules. The seculars KEEP their credibility while the churches LOSE their credibility.

  5. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. 2 Tim 4:3

  6. Does nobody find it odd that 3 of his 4 kids are (apparently) gay? Reliable sources confirm that 1% – 2% of the population is gay, but 75% if this guys kids are? That seems very strange.

  7. in a time when agreement seems to be the desire, i pray for respect. may we respect each other as Jesus taught. i am grateful for all those who have gone many extra miles in the name of justice.

  8. JAMES ALLEN WYATT, JR.

    YET Another “HELL IN A HAND-BASKET’ DOWN HILL SLIDE TO SATIN DOMICILE. United Methodist further simply following the downhill slide of the Presbyterian Church, which is not unexpected. When the Methodist joined the National Council of Churches I cancelled my membership to that organization that had always been Dad’s folks’ church and when the Methodist subsequently affiliated themselves with the World Council of Churches, the decision was validated..

  9. JAMES ALLEN WYATT, JR.

    YET Another “HELL IN A HAND-BASKET’ DOWN HILL SLIDE TO SATAN’S ETERNAL DOMICILE. United Methodist further simply following the downhill slide of the Presbyterian Church, which is not unexpected. When the Methodist joined the National Council of Churches I cancelled my membership to that organization that had always been Dad’s folks’ church and when the Methodist subsequently affiliated themselves with the World Council of Churches, the decision was validated..

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