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Methodists Debate Gay Marriage
Mon March 24, 2014
UMC v LGBT
The United Methodist Church is in a heated internal debate over the issue of gay marriage. At the center of this conflict is the Methodist Book Of Discipline which guides the denomination’s practices and beliefs.
“I fear that this will lead to a splintering or a split of the church before it gets changed in the actual discipline.”
Rev. Frank Schaefer is at the center of this debate. He spoke in Aspen on Friday (3-21-2014.) APR's Roger Adams reports.
Frank Schaefer was the pastor of a small Methodist church in Pennsylvania for eleven years before he was stripped of his ministerial duties after performing a gay marriage ceremony. Schaefer spoke Friday at Aspen Community Church. The wedding ceremony he performed was seven years ago and it was for his gay son. The act split his congregation. Last December, Schaefer was put on trial by the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. He faced two charges; that he had performed the ceremony and that he had violated the Book of Discipline.
“So there was a judge; a retired bishop in this case who was appointed to be the presiding officer as we call it. There was a jury of my peers; all United Methodist ministers from my area, from my conference. And, you had a council for the church; the prosecution. Then there was the defense table.”
After two days the jury voted 9-4 to defrock Reverend Schaefer and he was removed from his ministry and lost his credentials to officially preach at his church.
“Since then a lot has happened. Though I lost my credentials, my official credentials and I was defrocked buy the church, the day after that happened I started getting phone calls from all around the country. And so its just amazing how one part of the church rejected me and another part of the church, the LGBT community, and supporters of the church said, ‘Not so fast.’”
Emboldened by this support, Schaefer appealed his defrocking and last week learned the appeal will be heard by church officials. No date has been set for the appeal. Since losing his ministry, Schaefer says he has been busier than ever before. He has been asked to deliver sermons every Sunday this year at churches around the country. He is also speaking, by invitation, at presentations like the one at Aspen Community Church. Schaefer told his Aspen audience that the church is debating much more than gay marriage. The United Methodist Church welcomes anyone as a member regardless of his or her sexual orientation yet it prohibits gay marriage. That contradiction says Schaefer is a result of the church straying from the actual teaching of Jesus; in particular, Jesus’ admonition to love God and to loveone’s neighbor.
“And that is the lens through which we should interpret all of the law. Because he said those are the most important laws and if you view all scripture through the lens of love for God and love for your neighbor, how can you come up with a law that discriminates against anybody?”
Schaefer hopes to win back the credentials to his ministry in the appeal of his defrocking. His greater hope is that through its councils and international conferences of bishops that the Methodist Book of Discipline will be modified. Likening gay rights to civil rights, Schaefer says it is time for the church to catch up with society’s changing attitudes towards gay marriage.
Entire Rev Frank Schaefer conversation with APR's Roger Adams at Aspen Community Church on 3-21-2014 is here:
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