Renegade United Methodist Pastor Suspended

on November 19, 2013

In another closely watched development in our denomination’s increasingly deep theological divide, United Methodist pastor Frank Schaefer of Eastern Pennsylvania was charged for performing a same-sex union for his own gay son.

The trial by his clergy peers has now concluded. On Monday, he was found guilty of the two counts of (1) conducting a ceremony which celebrated a homosexual union, and (2) disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church, which very explicitly, repeatedly forbids such behavior on the part of our clergy.

It seemed a bit odd how Rev. Schaefer insisted on tying up so much of the church’s time and resources to get these folk to determine that he did indeed do what he very openly acknowledged he had done.

This evening, the jury determined the penalty for Mr. Schaefer: For both counts, he is to be suspended for 30 days. If at the end of this period, he still refuses to abide by the UMC’s disciplinary covenant, he is to permanently surrender his credentials as a United Methodist minister.

In response to a request from the trial’s presiding bishop, Al Gwinn, for information about how this will be implemented, the jury reported back that this process will be supervised by the District Superintendent “of record” and will include Schaefer testifying about his decision-making to the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.

Given the pridefully defiant note Schaefer decided to take – so that he was described by the Rev. Chris Fisher, counsel for the church, as being very explicitly “unapologetic and committed to disobeying the Book of Discipline again in the future – this penalty amounts to a permanent defrocking of Schaefer, unless he has a sudden, dramatic change of heart. But the penalty is also structured to make it clear that if he is permanently defrocked, it is his own choice.

This penalty sets an important precedent for other pending church trials in the UMC.

United Methodists wishing to express their support for biblical teaching and Christian marriage may do so by signing IRD/UMAction‘s petition:

  1. Comment by Rev. Robert Fulton on November 20, 2013 at 7:43 am

    The jury made a wise decision in the penalty phase. It extends grace one more time and makes the decision on keeping or losing his credentials fall squarely on his shoulders.

  2. Comment by Pastor Mike on November 20, 2013 at 7:53 am

    This decision is like the boyfriend who wants to break up with his girlfriend, but rather than doing what he needs to, he does all he can to make her end the bad relationship. Breakups are never easy. But sometimes its better to just do what is needed.

  3. Comment by John S on November 20, 2013 at 8:57 am

    I’m just surprised a real punishment was levied. I fear some grand, face saving deal will still be brokered.

  4. Comment by gary on November 20, 2013 at 9:08 am

    I still think this is a slap on the wrist with a wink and nod from the church saying “we had to do something Frankie”. If he continues to be defiant of the BOD after his suspension (or even during his suspension – which he has said he would be) then I will be very surprised if his credentials are removed. This is what you get when you let a heretical view into the church – you can’t serve two masters – God and the world!

  5. Comment by Jarrod Johnston on November 20, 2013 at 9:50 am

    How is it that “Rev. Schaefer insisted on tying up so much of the church’s time and resources to get these folk to determine that he did indeed do what he very openly acknowledged he had done”? He didn’t decide for these resources to be wasted. The church did that.

    Our favorite thing to do is waste funds. Our apportionments at work.

  6. Comment by Jeff Allen on November 20, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    He tied up the church’s time and resources because he didn’t just step down from the ministry without a trial.

  7. Comment by Pudentiana on November 20, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    Frank Shaeffer created a great publicity stunt for more shameful displays of rainbow draped activists to dance around, carry signs, sing “We shall overcome” one more time before the cold winter comes. It was expensive, but only to those who pay their apportionments and long for the “party” to end.

  8. Comment by Revanneosl on November 20, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    He ““insisted on tying up so much of the church’s time and resources to get these folk to determine that he did indeed do what he very openly acknowledged he had done” pretty much exactly like Jan Hus did at the Council of Constance.

  9. Comment by Bob Hooson on November 21, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    Since the “United” Methodist Church” is really not united at all on the issue (of homosexuality), one wonders what the ultimate fate of such a defrocked minister might be in the case where the next quadrennial conference reverses the present (barely) unanimous decision? Hmmm, what would Jesus do?

  10. Comment by John S on November 22, 2013 at 8:02 am

    The chances of the GC reversing this are very small. The only way it happens is if it is slipped into a pile of motions which are passed without debate.

  11. Comment by Jon Benton on November 26, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Jesus seemed to focus attention on love, compassion & caring instead of punitive rigidity to a relentless past that may not be current, understood or even relevant. Don’t you think the Bible..The Word – are living documents..that guide to love of all?

  12. Comment by Adrian Croft on November 26, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    I hope no one will deride this passionate pastor by calling him a “publicity ho.”

    Oops. I just did.

    Oh, well, might as well let it stand.

  13. Comment by Decimononicus on December 9, 2013 at 6:10 am

    Anyone reading the coverage of the Schaefer case would know that almost six years elapsed between when he performed the marriage of his gay son, and when he was put on trial. So how is that a publicity stunt?

    Anyone who knows about the way UMC churches work also knows that there is always a fractious and stiff-necked group in any congregation that is ready to bolt, and is just waiting for an excuse (an organ project, a parking lot expansion, whatever). It seems pretty likely that Schaefer ran afoul of the partisans of a disaffected church faction. (Note how the case was brought mere months before the statute of limitations expired). Afterwards, the disaffected persons justified themselves by saying that he was imposing his “agenda” on them.

    As a UMC PK, I was married by my ordained UMC minister father, and so was my brother. I will leave it up to the fevered imagination of the gay-obsessed thread commenters here to contemplate whether someone should call the Book of Discipline Fire Brigade.

  14. Comment by John Lomperis on December 10, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    To be fair, Rev. (soon to be Mr.) Schaefer doing what he did in secret several years ago was not a publicity stunt. However, his recent behavior and bravado about bragging about it, vowing to keep breaking covenant, his behavior at the trial and his media self-promotion are certainly an ongoing “publicity stunt” or else the phrase has no meaning.

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