Minister Found Guilty of Humanity

A Methodist minister from Pennsylvania, Frank Schaefer (no apparent relation to Frank Schaeffer, son of infamous evangelical scholar Francis Schaeffer), was found guilty by a jury at a church trial of being a decent human being and conducting a same-sex marriage ceremony for his son.

On Monday, the United Methodist Church convicted Rev. Frank Schaefer on two counts against the Church for officiating his son’s same-sex wedding. On Tuesday, the impaneled jury determined his sentence: Schaefer is suspended for 30 days, and if it at the end of that time he has not renounced his support for marriage equality, he will be defrocked.

Schaefer is not about to back down:

SCHAEFER: [The Church] needs to stop judging people based on their sexual orientation. We have to stop the hate speech. We have to stop treating them as second-class Christians. […]

I will never be silent again. This is what I have to do. […]

I have to minister to those who hurt and that’s what I’m doing.

I have several different thoughts on this.

1. Kudos to him for refusing to give in to bigotry. He’s doing the right thing.

2. I think the church should go right on doing what it’s doing. Not only do they have that right, they will succeed only in chasing younger, more tolerant people away from the church. Keep up the good work, folks.

3. But theologically, I think the church is right. I have never bought into all the fanciful readings of the Bible that purport to make it sound less anti-gay than it is. No one can seriously doubt that the Bible is a very, very anti-gay book. Those who wrote it despised homosexuals and wanted them put to death and all the strained reinterpretations of it can’t change that. This is one of a great many reasons to reject the Bible, not to play pretend and make it say something it doesn’t say.

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  • jnorris

    I remember walking past a UMC campus a few years ago and seeing their yard sign advertising that the UMC had an open door for all. My guess the homosexuals used the back door.

  • Michael Heath

    When faced with an organization practicing evil like we see from most (nearly all?) U.S. conservative Christian denominations who promote the institutionalized dehumanization, ostracism, and bigotry towards gays and their families, I think an authentically moral person has two choices. They can either leave the institution or they can effectively work for reform.

    I think those who stay and work for reform in organizations we assume will live on for a long time are often heroic, even if they support other policies within those institutions that are harmful to others. But only if their contributions are effective; then they’re making the world a better place. Of course that doesn’t negate their culpability on the other harmful policies they enable and support.

    Polling reports an increase of conservative Christians become more tolerant of gay people and their families when it comes to public policy, and not just from the old dying out and being replaced by younger people. Instead we’re seeing changed minds, and that’s awesome. But that does not eradicate these particular Christians’ culpability when it comes to the harm they cause as congregants of conservative Christian denominations who have anti-gay policies. I think only leaving or successfully striving for reform reveals authentic repentance for the incredible harm these Christians have done to other human beings.

    Frank Schaefer demonstrates an objectively moral position that’s consistent and defensible. He’s up against another objectively moral position which not only can not defend itself on moral, empirical, or rational grounds, but these institutions and their congregants practicing religion in a way that has them determinedly avoiding and denying the necessary set of facts to property weigh the harm they do.

    Here we have good vs. evil; let the psychological projection begin.

  • Modusoperandi

    If there’s one thing Protestantism can’t abide, it’s protest.

  • cottonnero

    I work for a United Methodist church. There’s a lot of rumbling going on about how unjust this thing is, and I wouldn’t be surprised for this to be the catalyst for some major change. The United Methodist Church is officially pretty conservative (on a lot of things – it’s even still officially anti-alcohol), but there are quite a few very liberal congregations, especially in the north, who are pretty spitting mad about this whole thing. I call the UMC the tofu church, because it takes on the flavor of its surroundings- in the South Methodists are Baptists who don’t like the local Baptist minister, in the North they tend to be theological and political liberals.

    When Iowa legalized gay marriage, a couple in our congregation made a trip out there to get married and asked one of our pastors to do the ceremony. She wouldn’t, but she recorded a speech and a blessing, being careful to stay within the letter of the church law. I wished she had gone out there and done it; I was hoping that this sort of kerfuffle would have started here and earlier.

    I’m an atheist; a fair portion of the congregation knows that. (I grew up in the church, and my own atheism happened with that backdrop, with those people. One of my co-workers was my Sunday school teacher and the first person to hear an out-loud profession of disbelief from me.) It’s my own form of evangelism, although they’re not particularly the ones who need to hear that.

  • Trebuchet

    And this is considered a LIBERAL denomination. I’m actually a little surprised.

  • netamigo

    I discussed this very issue with the senior pastor of the First Methodist Church in Sacramento. He was actively supporting the marriage equality. I noted that the Methodist Church generally has a liberal reputation. He said the problem comes from the southern branches of the Church in the Bible Belt. They have a lot of members and prevail when it comes to such issues.

  • schism

    And this is considered a LIBERAL denomination.

    “Liberal,” in this case, means they don’t hate homeless people and immigrants on principle. It’s sort of like how Glenn Beck can claim that everyone but him is a progressive; it’s a technically accurate, but realistically useless comparison.

  • hunter

    “Those who wrote it despised homosexuals and wanted them put to death and all the strained reinterpretations of it can’t change that. This is one of a great many reasons to reject the Bible, not to play pretend and make it say something it doesn’t say.”

    Given that all Christians (and not just “Christians”) pick and choose which parts of the Bible they will observe and follow, this is sort of moot.

  • Childermass

    One of the UMCs near me is liberal and quite actively pro-gay. I am fairly sure that the only things keeping them from conducting same-sex marriages is state law and the law of the UMC. So even in extremely conservative states things are changing.

    There is group of UMC congregations that wish to change UMC policy: Reconciling Ministries Network.

    I think it is a matter of time before UMC either accepts equality and/or schisms over the issue.

  • danrobinson

    I think cottonnero has hit on something with the “Tofu” analogy. I grew up going to a Methodist church in northern Illinois. (Yay Illinois!) and it was a very liberal church even a few decades ago. Never got the fear of hell drummed into me, at least not overtly. It was more about loving your neighbor and the golden rule. Not that it didn’t twist my mind a bit. Any church would do that. To this day it’s the only church I can walk into and not feel extremely creepy. I don’t attend but my best friend is the sexton and I drop in now and then. Never for services.

  • tuibguy

    The UMC in Minneapolis is active in gay rights functions, and is very near Loring Park which is the host site of the Pride festivities. They advertise to GLBT as being welcoming, so it seems as the “tofu” comparison is spot-on.

    I am sure that Schaefer would be welcome to move up to Minneapolis if he wishes to continue in the UMC.