Defrocked Lebanon Pastor Invited to Join California Methodist Church; Preaches Today in Washington

By Central Voice
Updated 12/22/13, 8:52 a.m.

Rev. Frank Schaefer, a United Methodist Church pastor, defrocked Dec. 19 for officiating at his gay son’s wedding has been invited to join the California Methodist Church, according to The Associated Press.

Schaefer is deciding whether to accept the offer from Bishop Minerva G. Carcano. The church’s region includes California, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands. Carcano does not have the authority to restore his credentials but he says he would have the same rights.

Today Schaefer preaches in Washington, DC. at historic Foundry United Methodist Church. Rev. Dean Snyder, Foundry senior minister, issued the invitation to Schaefer after learning of the Dec. 19 decision by his church to defrock Schaefer.

He plans to appeal his church’s decision.

Rev. Frank Schaefer, a United Methodist Church pastor, was defrocked yesterday (12/19/13) for officiating at his gay son’s wedding. He plans to appeal his church’s decision.

Schaefer had been advised by the church’s to resign from the clergy if he felt could not follow the denomination’s policy of not allowing same-sex marriages.

Schaefer has said the rule book discriminates against gay people and he would not voluntarily surrender his credentials.

While The United Methodist Church calls on its congregation members to accept lesbians and gays as members, its position on homosexuality is that, “it is incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Central Voice Cartoon

Central Voice Cartoon

Nonetheless, Schaefer has been invited to preach this Sunday (12/22/13) at historic Foundry United Methodist Church, Washington, DC. Rev. Dean Snyder, Foundry senior minister, issued the invitation to Schaefer after learning of yesterday’s (12/19/13) decision by his church to defrock Schaefer.

Snyder attended the church trial last month in Lebanon supporting Schaefer throughout the trial, sentencing and now stripping of his ministerial credentials. He has led national efforts to end the discriminatory language in the Book of Discipline. Foundry is on the forefront of full inclusion of the LGBTQ community in the life of the church.

Excerpt of Foundry UMC statement that follwed Schaefer’s November church trial.

…Like Rev. Schaefer, we believe in marriage equality as a biblical principle. We believe in the full inclusion of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in the life of the church. We believe this because we believe in Christ’s message of love and inclusion. We believe the long United Methodist history and tradition also leads us to the same conclusion.

As United Methodists, we are committed to walking with our brothers and sisters across the globe to reach more people, to touch more lives and to continue growing to be a catalyst for change by responding to God’s call. Including LGBT people in the lives of the church is a key part of that mission. It demonstrates our commitment to fulfill Jesus’ commandment to love our neighbors.

LGBT Christians are and have always been a part of The United Methodist Church. They are a big part of our community at Foundry, and we are stronger—much stronger—because of them. We strive to be a community that welcomes all of God’s children. We are committed to ending the pain inflicted by Christians on our LGBT brothers and sisters.

Schaefer calls what happened to him an “outing”.

Nov. 18 a jury of 13 United Methodist pastors determined that he had violated church law when he performed a marriage ceremony for his eldest son, Tim, and his male partner in 2007.

The jury ordered Rev. Frank Schaefer suspended from his ministerial duties for 30 days.

“At the end of the 30 days I must respond in writing about whether or not I can adhere to church laws regarding same-sex marriage,” Schaefer told Central Voice. Dec. 19 was his deadline.

“I think the church was very smart in how they made their decision. They treated me like I was an honest man but deferred judgment to me. I will decide if I can abide by the rules. They also know the eyes of the world are upon them,” Schaefer said.

By being an honest man, Schaefer is referring to how he originally handled marrying his son Tim and his partner.

“In the fall of 2006 I put in writing to the Bishop and the church that I would be performing the marriage of my son to his partner,” Schaefer explained.

“I received no response from church leadership.” The wedding actually took place in 2007. However, the formal complaint to the church hierarchy from then-fellow parishioner and now former church member Jon Boger did not come until late in 2013.

Boger testified at Schaefer’s hearing. He broke down on the witness stand when questioned by church counsel, describing Schaefer’s marrying his son and those who support his action as taking “the law into their own hands” and undermining the church’s credibility and integrity. Although Boger meant church law, Pennsylvania law does not allow same-sex couples to marry, a law that is currently being challenged from a multitude of legal directions. In that regard both the United Methodist Church and Pennsylvania state law mimic each other.

In an interesting backstory, Boger testified during the church trial that six weeks before filing his complaint that his mother, who was employed as the church’s choir director, felt as if she were forced to submit her resignation to the church. “He said the two events were unrelated,” Schaefer said.

Regardless of the sequence of the events, Schaefer sounds like a man undaunted in his resolve to do what he thinks is right.

“What propels me to be a public, outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ community is that I was asked to answer for my actions. I see it as ‘outing,'” he explains. Schaefer had long been a silent supporter of gay civil rights but, as he explained, “I did not want to divide my church.” As he said during the proceeding, “I cannot go back to being a silent supporter. I must continue to be in ministry with all people and speak for LGBTQ people.”

If he decides to leave his church, he does not lose his Princeton Seminary degree. His upset church can only set rules for ministers ordained into their ranks, not all ministers or other organized religions.

“Should I decide to seek membership in the United Church of Christ, or as Central Voice has asked about, the Metropolitan Community Church of the Spirit, like any other candidate I would have to complete their ordination requirements,” Schaefer explains.

Reflecting upon what has been a draining experience for him, Schaefer says, “I remain inspired by so many people. The outpouring of support, handwritten notes, social network communications, there are so many people out there who understand what is happening.”

The day following the church jury’s decision to suspend Schaefer, a group called Faithful America was planning to deliver more than 19,000 petition signatures to United Methodist Bishop Peggy Johnson.

The petition reads: “Bishop Peggy Johnson, please join with the growing number of United Methodists who are obeying Jesus’ command to love our neighbors and disregarding the church’s immoral anti-gay rules. Don’t allow any more trials for pastors who officiate at gay weddings.”

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