After years of covering the sexuality wars in America’s oldline denominations, I am well aware that different camps within these churches interpret the rites and vows of their traditions in different ways. The wordings in their rites have been known to change from decade to decade, as well.
Still, one can state with certainty that in the rite in which he was ordained as a minister in the United Methodist Church, the Rev. Frank Schaefer spoke the following words or words very similar to them:
Are you persuaded that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments contain all things necessary for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and are the unique and authoritative standard for the church’s faith and life?
I am so persuaded, by God’s grace. …
Will you be loyal to The United Methodist Church, accepting its order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline, defending it against all doctrines contrary to God’s Holy Word, and committing yourself to be accountable with those serving with you, and to the bishop and those who are appointed to supervise your ministry?
I will, with the help of God.
Now, there’s a ton of tradition and content packed into those crucial words “order, liturgy, doctrine, and discipline” and, yes, there are plenty of people in the highly diverse local, regional, national and global reality that is United Methodism that interpret these words in radically different ways.
Nevertheless, it is a factual statement that United Methodist ministers, including Schaefer, vow — at the very least — to accept and defend the church’s doctrines.
Thus, the language used at the top of the following Washington Post story is loaded, to say the least. Also, the headline frames the story in a way that favors one side of this bitter global debate, as well, stating: “Methodist pastor found guilty at church trial for officiating at gay son’s wedding.”
Well, yes, that was the act that was at the heart of the trial. That fact as never in dispute.
The key to the trial — at the level of arguments and facts — was that this minister was found guilty of violating the vows that he willingly took when he chose to be ordained into a specific religious tradition. He was found guilty of breaking his own vow to defend the doctrines of the faith.
Nevertheless, here is the Post lede: