Rev. Frank Schaefer was found "guilty" of performing his son's wedding to another man by the United Methodist Church on November 19. He was given a 30-day suspension, at the end of which he was given the choice to either completely renounce his ministry to the LGBT community and pledge to never perform another same-sex wedding, or to be defrocked as a United Methodist Church pastor.
Those 30 days will be up on December 19, and Rev. Schaefer has given Reconciling Ministries Network a preview of what he plans to say to the Board of Ordained Ministry.
Rev. Schaefer intends to stand by his ministry to the LGBT community. He recognizes that by vowing to abstain from ministry or weddings, he violates the Book of Discipline, the United Methodist book that governs the denomination.
My honest answer has to be: No, I cannot uphold the Book of Discipline in its entirety. In fact, I don’t believe anybody can. It’s impossible to uphold the Discipline in its entirety because it is filled with competing and contradictory statements. It reflects the diversity of convictions we hold as United Methodists. In the words of Prof. Thomas Frank: “The UMC is a big tent!” And that’s reflected in the Discipline.
Frankly, my conscience does not allow me to uphold the entire Discipline because it contains discriminatory provisions and language that is hurtful and harmful to our homosexual brothers and sisters. It denies them their full humanity. I simply cannot uphold those parts of the Discipline.
Rev. Schaefer also does not intend to surrender his credentials willingly. To do so, he states, would violate his conscience and his calling from God.
I also cannot in good conscience surrender my credentials voluntarily as I feel called to represent, minister to, and advocate for tens of thousands of LGBT members and their families within the United Methodist Church. I have received hundreds of petitions from LGBT members, colleagues, and even three bishops, not to surrender my credentials. By surrendering my credentials, I feel as though I would abandon those under my spiritual care and especially those I feel called to advocate for.
You can read Rev. Schaefer's entire statement at the Reconciling Ministries Network web site.
Rev. Schaefer joins many other clergy in performing weddings for same-sex couples. The Rev. Dr. Thomas W. Ogletree, a United Methodist scholar and leader, who helped to write portions of the Book of Discipline, has also been put on trial for performing his son's wedding. The Rev. Melvin Talbert, former bishop of San Francisco recently presided at the wedding of two men in Alabama. More than 30 members of the clergy in the Eastern Pennsylvania Synod tested the church's official policy by presiding at the wedding of an LGBT couple in November.
"Rev. Frank Schaefer has been a bold witness to the United Methodist Church on ministry with LGBT people, calling on the denomination to fulfill the calling to embrace all God's children," said Ross Murray, GLAAD's Director of News. "GLAAD continues to support Rev. Schaefer and the thousands of United Methodists who are pledging to support the marriages of all loving couples, despite the denomination's discriminatory ban on LGBT people. As time goes forward, we will see continued and growing support from across the United Methodist Church for marriage equality, both within the denomination, as well as in wider society."