A United Methodist pastor recently defrocked for violating the denomination’s Book of Discipline has joined a prominent Washington, D.C. congregation. Frank Schaefer was found guilty in November of conducting a same-sex marriage and was deemed to have surrendered his clergy credentials last week due to an unwillingness to submit to the entire Discipline.
On Sunday, Schaefer was guest preacher at prominent Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C., where he, his wife and two youngest sons officially joined the activist congregation at the conclusion of the service.
The defrocked pastor found strong support at Foundry, whose own pastor, Dean Snyder, has claimed to preside over twenty same-sex marriages since 2010. Schaefer received a standing ovation when Snyder told the congregation that the Pennsylvania minister had refused to repent for conducting his son’s same-sex wedding.
Recalling how he felt “sick to my stomach when I heard the verdict,” Snyder shared how he was discouraged at the state of the United Methodist Church, but eager to welcome Schaefer to Foundry.
Despite expressing discouragement at his own defrocking, Schaefer struck a defiant tone in his sermon message, refusing to promise not to conduct further same-sex weddings and declaring “this is not the time to give up the fight – this is the time to intensify the fight.”
Initially preaching on Joseph’s treatment of Mary in Matthew Chapter 1, Schaefer quickly pivoted to his own story and recent church trial experience.
Saying that he had hoped the church would “be like Joseph and show grace and love,” Schaefer recounted putting on a rainbow stole “in advocacy of LGBT persons” while testifying at trial.
“I had to confess in my heart what I knew was true and stand against the institutions of the United Methodist Church,” the Pennsylvania pastor declared. “I can no longer be a silent supporter. I will tell the church that these laws are discriminatory.”
Describing his experience at the church trial, Schaefer revealed how he “felt the power of God enter into me at a moment where I felt weak.” Quoting Matthew Chapter 10:19-20, Schaefer read “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
“I was disappointed the church trial found me guilty,” Schaefer revealed. “I was devastated when they took my credentials away.”
Schaefer’s message on Sunday morning was also a plea to those persons who had departed the United Methodist Church over homosexuality language found in the Discipline.
“Please come back, we need you,” Schaefer said to those who had departed, adding that he was “committed to doing everything in my power to taking back the United Methodist Church.”
Describing a moment of discouragement the day after his defrocking, Schaefer told of a sudden phone call from a number he didn’t recognize.
“[California-Pacific Annual Conference Bishop] Minerva Carcaño herself called me on my cell phone and said ‘we are proud of what you did and want you to minister in our annual conference,’” Schaefer reported. “When bishop Carcaño called, I felt my heart strangely warmed,” he said echoing John Wesley’s language of conversion.
Closing the service, a guitar-playing Schaefer led the congregation in a closing hymn of ‘We Shall Overcome’ in which congregants joined hands and swayed while singing.
Schaefer will return to preach at Foundry on January 26th, as originally planned.