By Central Voice
Like any organization, secular or religious, churches cannot exist without rules.
They also cannot exist without members.
Last issue (Jan.-Fe. 2014), we reported that “outing” was not just for gay people anymore, after Lebanon’s Rev. Frank Schaefer used that word to describe what happened to him.
Schaefer was defrocked by the United Methodist Church for violating church rules when he performed a marriage ceremony for his eldest son, Tim, and his male partner in 2007. He is appealing the church’s decision because he disagrees with his church’s policy on LGBT individuals.
Now we can add the word “quitting” to the gay-versus-church vocabulary.
According to The Herald Bulletin, an Indiana church has seen about 80% of its members leave after a gay choral director was forced out over his sexual orientation.
Adam Fraley told the newspaper that he worked for the United Methodist Church in Alexandria for six years and attended with his partner. When a new minister took over the church last year, Fraley said that he resigned because of pressure about his sexual orientation.
With a twist only fate could provide Schaefer’s local situation began after the resignation of his congregation’s choir director. The choir director is also the mother of Jon Borger, the individual who made the formal complaint that led to his being defrocked because he married his son.
At the time of her resignation, Boger’s mother said she felt forced to leave, although not over anything to do with Schaefer and his son’s marriage or LGBT issues. About six weeks after his mother left her choir director’s post, her son registered his complaint against Schaefer – five years after Schaefer performed the ceremony.
The back story:
Schaefer told Central Voice that “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. 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 Boger did not come until late in 2013.
Boger testified at Schaefer’s hearing, a procedure that in many ways mimics a formal court proceeding but is, in fact, a church proceeding that has no standing in the church-and-state separated legal system rooted in the nation’s history.
Boger, according to media reports, 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.
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.
And there you have it.
You can be “outed” for being gay.
You can “quit” if you disagree with your church’s policy regarding LGBT congregants.
You can be “defrocked” if your conscience tells you not to follow your church’s policy.