Good News response to Schaefer trial verdict

Good News welcomes the verdict and penalty issued to the Rev. Frank Schaefer in a trial concluded November 19, 2013, for performing the same-sex wedding of his son in violation of the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church. Found guilty of performing the prohibited ceremony and of disobedience to the order and discipline of the church, the Rev. Schaefer was unapologetic. “I cannot go back to being a silent supporter, I am an advocate,” he stated during testimony regarding a potential penalty. “I must continue to speak for my LGBT brothers and sisters. I cannot repent [for performing the same-sex service]. I cannot make the statement that I will not do any more services.”

The trial court consisting of 13 ordained clergy of the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference took Schaefer’s testimony to heart in their penalty. He will be suspended for 30 days, effective immediately. During that time, any violation of the Book of Discipline will result in immediate surrender of credentials to the annual conference. During the 30-day suspension, the Rev. Schaefer will be asked to discern his newly found calling to the LGBT community. If by the end of the 30 days he feels he cannot uphold the Book of Discipline in its entirety, he must surrender his credentials. The presiding officer interpreted this to mean that the Rev. Schaefer must commit to doing no more same-sex services in order to maintain his credentials.

This verdict and penalty demonstrate the seriousness of the Rev. Schaefer’s breach of the clergy covenant. It gives him a grace period in which to reconsider and potentially repent of his actions and intentions to violate the provisions of the Discipline. The verdict and penalty decisively held the Rev. Schaefer accountable, while also demonstrating grace. The penalty reflects the fact that the Rev. Schaefer had moved from performing a loving service for his son to declaring his willingness to continue violating the Discipline. 

Although eminently appropriate, this penalty marks a sad moment in our church’s life. No one enjoys the difficult process of holding a colleague accountable. However, without such clear and firm accountability, our clergy covenant and our churchwide connection is in grave danger. Indeed, because of the recent spate of violators performing same-sex weddings, our church’s unity and trust are beginning to crumble.

The Eastern Pennsylvania trial court is to be commended for its clarity of thought and decisiveness of action. The outcome of this trial sets a good example for other trials to come, and encourages our clergy to reconsider their avowed intent to break the Discipline in the process of breaking apart our church.

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Comments

  1. Felix R. Mendez says:

    If he cannot promise to stop performing such “marriages,” let him go somewhere else out of the UMC.

  2. Ray Worsham says:

    Amen.

  3. The Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference must have affirmation that they rendered the correct verdict; as Good News affirms that rendering. They did so with compassion and a time for renewal and deliberation for Rev. Schaefer. His outcome is now at his own discretion and he will own that decision. Jesus answered the young rich ruler in a way that did not condemn him but left the decision to him for his outcome. A circle has two sides, an inside and an outside. Rev. Schaefer may find himself outside of the Methodist Church by his own choosing. He did at one time vow, to God and witnesses, to uphold the tenets of the Methodist Church, as well as Biblical ones.

  4. Disappointed in the Good News Magazine says:

    Friends, I am very disappointed that the first sentence says, “Good News welcomes the verdict and penalty”. To use the word “welcome” in this context is insensitive to the cause. We are all in this together and when our brothers and sisters are weeping, so should we. I fear that the Goodnews has become us vs them. This article reflects more of a “demonization” of “our” brother. Please, for the sake of Jesus’ love to all, remember we are a united church in spirit, even if we have serious disagreement with our brother. Frank Shaeffer deserves better and I believe God expects better from all of us in the UMC.

    • To the person who wrote that, “This article reflects more of a ‘demonization’ of ‘our’ brother”, Please include the quote from this article that demonizes him beyond presenting the facts of the situation. I do not see what you are talking about! Not sure how you accuse those who are pleased that our connectional covenant was upheld as being divisive? Do you share the same opinion of Rev. Schafer and bishop Talbert as being divisive? The article also mentioned that Good News recognizes the whole situation as painful . I quote, “Although eminently appropriate, this penalty marks a sad moment in our church’s life. No one enjoys the difficult process of holding a colleague accountable. However, without such clear and firm accountability, our clergy covenant and our churchwide connection is in grave danger. Indeed, because of the recent spate of violators performing same-sex weddings, our church’s unity and trust are beginning to crumble ” It appears you did not read the article carefully!

      • Maralee Renner says:

        AMEN! You said it well and some times call for standing on the beliefs of the Bible and the United Methodist Church’s stand on issues of this nature. I can’t understand why people keep challenging the Bible and the UMC and just change to a church that will line up with their beliefs.

  5. AMEN !!

  6. As a former EUB and United Methodist, I have followed this situation with great interest. In the mid-late 1960’s, our conference superintendent and bishop assured our relatively conservative conference that the pending unification of the EUB and Methodist churches would result in a stronger overall denomination. Our concerns about liberalism and adjusting church discipline to accommodate modern society were disregarded as the desperate cries of those hopelessly out-of-step with the real world. In this same time-frame, the Good News movement began to speak up for similar concerns within the UM connection. The ebb and flow of almost five decades of pluralism has brought the church to our present circumstance.

  7. Sadly, the time is drawing nearer when I sense a schism will occur within the UMC. It has already happened within The Episcopal Church after 2003 and liberal theology is now taking its toll within UMC. Thank God for the Good News movement. I hope and pray we can be true to Biblical interpretation and discerning the sinful nature in humanity, without kowtowing to special interests in the name of inclusivity. It’s one thing to show the love of God to all; it’s quite another when we use “loving others” as an excuse to condone sin within the church.

    • Sadly, I have to agree. The word “United” has become almost a contradiction to the reality. Bill Hinson was probably right when he said we have reached a place that we mat no longer be able to reconcile our differences. (paraphrase mine) In reality, what besides the itinerancy is the “glue” that holds us together? I’ve looked hard… but I’m not finding it.

    • Betty Gray says:

      The only sin within the church is the sin that supposedly Christian people fail to realize that God loves all of her creation and God made everyone including gay, lesbian, trangender, bi gender and queer people. To have people interepret the Bible to meet theit own views us wrong. Do you know what Jesus had to say about Gay people (what we call homosexual) ??? NOTHING> Does that tell you SOMETHING? The UMC does not have open minds, open hearts and open doors, but I keep praying that it will not be too much longer than that is really what we stand for.

      • Thank you for your post, Betty. We do not accept your premise that God created gay and lesbian people the way they are. There is ample evidence that environmental factors (“nurture”) plays a key role in same-sex attraction. We further do not agree that we are interpreting the Bible to meet our own views. Rather, we seek to understand the plain meaning of Scripture, and note that it has been understood to teach this perspective by the Church for 2,000 years.

        • I would only add to the comment, that if homosexual attraction is in some fashion genetic, that such genetic predisposition is not the same as “God created me this way” or God’s approval of such behavior. There is ample evidence that addictive tendencies, from gambling to chemical dependence, has a genetic predisposition. However, we do not say that “Because God created me with these destructive addictive tendencies, that means God approves of them and I am not responsible for my behavior.” No, we realize that there is a 4 part sequence to the Christian metanarrative: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Consummation. We are in an “Already-Not Yet” period between Fall and Consummation called Redemption. Our behavior is still subject to the Fall, but by God’s grace we can be and are redeemed from that life; there is transformation! So when someone is addicted to alcohol, even if there is a genetic predisposition within their family to being so, we say, “No, God did not create you that way. Sin has brought into this world many evils, including the brokenness of our bodies as manifest in your genetic predisposition. But God’s grace is greater! You cannot do it on your own, but depend on God’s strength and seek His face. He can do it in you. Your brothers and sisters in Christ are here to support you in this walk.”

          I can accept the idea, though the evidence is still out (the last study I am aware of that “proved” it was seriously flawed and quietly debunked by mainstream media), that there is a genetic predisposition to homosexuality. I reject that a genetic predisposition means God created anyone that way. I reject that a genetic predisposition to homosexuality negates personal responsibility. Your test is different than my test; not harder, not easier. Focus more on Christ than trying to compare yourself to others.

          • Sonja Kerr says:

            Can someone tell me, where in the Bible, there is anything condemning homosexuality? I hear you talk about the Book of Discipline but I am asking, where is it in the Bible. Thank you.

      • Betty, as I ponder your assertion and follow you logic further — I now wonder if should also embrace Pedophilia because I don’t remember Jesus saying ANYTHING about that either. And further along those lines could one assume that there should be no stigma associated with this because they were “made” by God like that?
        I think when we begin to “Stretch” our interpretation of Scriptures to satisfy a certain agenda we then open them up to any interpretation. Perhaps that is what Mr. Wesley meant when also said Tradition, experience AND REASON.
        God’s grace is all inclusive I am thankful and mindful of that. But using the argument of what was NOT said, simply is NO argument at all.

      • Bill Prentice says:

        Sorry Betty, but Jesus DID have something to say about the sin. You might like to read Matthew 15:16-20, and you will discover that he proclaimed ALL immoral sexual activity as coming from “an unclean heart”. He knew very well what the law said about immoral sexual activity (see Leviticus 18 & 20), and he allowed NO exceptions whatsoever!! The only acceptable sexual contact is that between 1 man and 1 woman who are united in marriage. Homosexuality, by Jesus own words, is unclean, and that means that it is a sin!
        Move on!

  8. I commend the jurists for having to do a particularly tough job. If a minister of the UMC says he/she cannot comply with the rules in the book of discipline, then there is the door. But why do they ask to be physically removed against their will?

    Btw: he had no deep concerns for those who he put in a very difficult position. No, he defiantly reveled in it.

  9. Why don’t these people just go away there are Lutherans and Presbyterians just to mention two go there and leave us awful umc people alone!

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