The story behind a case that made headlines a few months back, from The New York Times:
Father and son had always been close, from the moment Tim Schaefer was born, six weeks premature, with blood poisoning, a weak heart and lungs, and a doctor who thought he would not make it through the night.
His father, the Rev. Frank Schaefer, a United Methodist minister, thought of his eldest son as a miracle child, saved by some combination of medicine and prayer, saved for something special.
“We couldn’t even touch him; he was in an incubator, and we had to reach in with latex gloves through those holes in the sides,” Mr. Schaefer said. “I begged God to please save his life.”
Their bond was such that, years later, facing a choice between upholding his church’s teaching and affirming his son’s sexual orientation, Frank chose to endanger his own career by officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding. The actions that followed — a rebellion in his congregation, a church trial, a defrocking and then, last month,a reinstatement — have made the Schaefers symbols of the conundrum facing much of American Christianity: How does religious doctrine on homosexuality respond to the longings for spirituality and community from congregants and family members who are gay?
In a series of recent interviews, by telephone and in Washington, where they attended a gay pride event with President Obama at the White House, father and son described their separate and shared crises of love and faith, which began in 2001 when Tim, then in high school, acknowledged to his parents that he was gay.
Frank, now 52, had grown up in a conservative Baptist church in West Germany, believing homosexuality was a sin, but had quietly become more accepting. Tim, now 30, had grown up in his father’s conservative United Methodist church in Pennsylvania, becoming depressed and contemplating throwing himself off the roof of a parsonage when he realized he was gay.
“I would pray at night, ‘God, get me through this phase, make me normal,’ but as time went on, it was not changing,” the younger Schaefer said. “I didn’t want to be gay, and I didn’t want to go to hell.”
UPDATE: A reader on Facebook posted this in the comments section—about a father who responded very differently, eventually leading the son to the gay apostolate Courage and, ultimately, conversion:
My parents kept communication open as well as they could, even when I was at my prickliest, and they continued to tell me they loved me. Eventually their prayers showed visible results, but it’s important that my mother didn’t give up even after many years of seeing no improvement. In that, she was rather like St Monica, the mother of St Augustine.
On Father’s Day, I honour my father for one of the hardest and most thankless tasks a parent can carry out, namely, saying no. Fathers generally try to provide for what their children need, as Jesus remarks by way of illustration of the even greater love shown by our heavenly Father: “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” (Luke 11:11-12). But when the son is confused enough to ask for a scorpion, as I did in seeking my father’s blessing upon the way I was misusing my body, who will be man enough to say, “No, son, out of love I cannot give you that”?