If you pay attention to issues relating to homosexuality and Christianity, you probably know about Frank Schaefer, the United Methodist minister who was defrocked in 2013 for performing his son’s same-sex wedding. But unless you were directly involved with those events, you probably don’t know the details surrounding Schaefer’s trial or the deeply personal struggle his family faced.
The new documentary film An Act of Love brings the personal side of Schaefer’s story to the screen, casting valuable light on what was–depending on your perspective–either a valiant fight for orthodoxy, or a pivotal moment in Christianity’s move toward a more progressive stance on human sexuality.
Through candid and often touching interviews with Schaefer, his wife and children, members of his former church, and leaders within the United Methodist community, director Scott Sheppard examines Schaefer’s story as well as the ongoing divide over LGBT issues within the UMC denomination.
Particularly troubling, but sadly all too believable, is the revelation that the initial rancor within Schaefer’s congregation that ultimately led to his ouster had nothing to do a same-sex wedding, but instead stemmed from conflicts over contemporary versus traditional worship services. If we can’t negotiate compromise when it comes to choosing a guitar or a choir, how can we expect to reasonably deal with far more serious issues?
As the film makes clear, Schaefer is not alone in his struggle for a more open and loving Christianity. He wasn’t the first UMC minister to perform a same-sex wedding, and he isn’t the last. Homosexuality is an issue that will continue to confront the church, but unfortunately the church isn’t always ready for that confrontation. Last Friday, the United Methodist General Conference concluded its quadrennial meeting, and chose to postpone the discussion of homosexuality to a later date.
An Act of Love is a gently provocative telling of one pastor’s struggle to negotiate the demands of family, faith, community, love, and conscience. In presenting the reality of that struggle, the film leaves us with unsettling, but crucial questions: How much should we value family over career? Personal conscience over tradition? Unity over doctrine? Love over dogma?
If you care about these questions, and if you care about the future of Christianity’s relationship with LGBT people, An Act of Love is essential viewing.
Watch the trailer for An Act of Love:
Find out more about An Act of Love, including upcoming screenings, at AnActofLoveFilm.com.
Dan is the Executive Editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians blog. He is a writer, graphic designer and IT specialist. He lives in Montana, is married and has at least two cats.