Disappointment in Schaefer decision

Good News strongly disagrees with the October 27 decision of the Judicial Council to uphold the appeals committee and restore the Rev. Frank Schaefer to ordained ministry. Schaefer was found guilty last year of violating church law by performing a same-sex wedding for his son in 2007.

The new decision overturns the good faith effort of the trial court to craft a penalty that tempered justice with grace. The decision will push future trial courts in a more punitive direction.

One result of the decision is that the Rev. Schaefer experienced no legal consequences for violating the Book of Discipline. His penalty was reduced to a 30-day paid suspension, which does not sufficiently reflect the seriousness of Schaefer’s disobedience and his subsequent highly public advocacy on behalf of that disobedience.

A further consequence of the decision is that an ordained elder who has stated publicly that he cannot uphold the covenant that governs our life together as United Methodist clergy is still actively serving in ministry. Such an outcome betrays the dysfunction in our denomination and the inability to hold members accountable to the vows they have made.


The Rev. Frank Schaefer (third from right) stands with family and supporters during a prayer service for unity at Court Square Park in Memphis, Tennessee, prior to the Oct. 22 oral hearing on his case by the United Methodist Judicial Council. Mike Dubose, UMNS.

We understand the frustration that this decision will cause grassroots members of the church. We hear regularly from persons who have left The United Methodist Church because of the lack of integrity displayed by those who hold positions in the church but are unwilling to live by its covenant. The only way to stop the ongoing damage posed by our deep theological divisions is to arrive at a negotiated solution that protects the consciences of orthodox and evangelical members who are unable to spiritually and financially underwrite an agenda they believe is contrary to Scripture.

Good News will continue to advocate scriptural doctrinal and moral teachings and be a voice for those whose evangelical faith is often discounted by the leadership of our church. In continuity with 2,000 years of church history, we continue to support our worldwide church’s democratically adopted statement that defines marriage as “the union of one man and one woman,” while requiring that “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”

Thomas Lambrecht is a United Methodist clergyperson and the vice president of Good News. 


  1. 2000 years of Church history did not think or speak about homosexuality, since the concept and word did not exist until the 19th century. For the same reason Scripture does not consider or speak about homosexuality. Jesus’s attitude toward people to accept them as they are — whores, tax collectors, all people — speaks clearly to me to accept and embrace my LGBTQ brothers and sisters as together we all with similar needs approach the throne of grace. I believe we all have much to learn about sexuality and being human.

    • And what, pray tell, did Jesus ask of all of these whores, tax collectors, and so forth? To the whore, he said “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). He referred to the tax collectors and sinners as “they that are sick” and in need of a physician (Mark 2:17). He did not condemn them to damnation or death (and neither do traditionalists), but He did in fact consider them in need of healing from lives tarnished by sin and taught that sin must be avoided to become whole.

      • Yes..why don’t we get this as you so plainly and clearly stated. And this is not judgmental. But speaking and in a healthy way proclaiming truth in love. God help us.

    • Vickie Bonawitz says

      I agree that we all approach the throne, but not from similar needs. They are from the same need. I will stand up against anyone who is mistreating someone who is practicing a homosexual lifestyle. My reason for doing so is found in John 3:16. If “God so loved the world”, then I am called to love the world “that whosoever, believes in Him will be be saved.” That means being saved from the penalty and bondage of sin. However, if we embrace the sin above the salvation, how are we following Christ. He said “go and sin no more” to the woman caught in adultery. The Gospel requires a crucification of my way and a submission to God’s way. That is not depended on how I personal feel about a sin or how much I love someone who is living in a sin. The Bible is not ambiguous about homosexual activity. This not a new behavior. It is condemned by God very clearly in the Old and New Testament. To think that we are more enlightened than the word of God is to be turning away from God.

      • Pastor Rick Duncan says

        I do believe that some evangelicals have handled this issue badly, although some have handled it well, to the point of loving those who struggle with sexuality issues. The key word be struggle! I have compassion for anyone who struggles with sinful behavior, including the LGBTQ community. Send 100 to my church from the LGBTQ community that are struggling, and they will be accepted and loved. Yes, we will disagree with their lifestyle preference, but without malice.

        • theenemyhatesclarity says

          Amen, Pastor Rick.

          In Christ,

          The enemy hates clarity

        • I agree whole-heartedly! I have always been taught to “love the sinner, but hate the sin”. The sexual acts performed by same sex couples (and others) are Biblically wrong. Just look at the act itself! Jesus died that you and I can have life abundantly – not sinfully. We must renounce sin in ALL its forms. I pray for our Council of Bishops daily that they, and we as a Church, will be able to clearly see what the Bible says (as well as the Book of Discipline) and pronounce sin wherever it is found. I believe that the UMC is losing members because we are not preaching the Gospel as John Wesley preached it. He preached against SIN in all its forms. Particular sins are not important to preach on. Sin Is Sin. God give us backbone!!!

    • “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.” Romans 1:24-27
      John F. Yeaman, i believe this passage is about the concept of homosexuality, that occurred during the early years of Christianity

  2. Question: Which incident of arrogance, what manifestation of detachment, how many acts of blatant disregard of our church discipline does Good News suggest we tolerate and endure, prior to invoking the scriptural injunction of not being yoked together with unbelievers? We’ve tip-toed around this issue for a great many years; holy conferencing, compromise and well-intended editorials have had little to no effect. In fact, our delay in insistence upon a viable solution seems to have made the social liberals in the church even bolder and more adamant about their agenda. There exists a moment in time where traditional Methodists must shake the dust from our feet and flee from them. Is this the day…or do we continue to press for a solution that enjoys support from only the traditionalists? If Good News continues to advocate a negotiated settlement to this doctrinal crisis, it may be held liable for the dissolution of the traditional core of UM church men and women. The liberal intent is clear. If we truly believe in God’s Word and the UM Discipline, why do we hesitate?

    • Vickie Bonawitz says

      I totally agree. We are at a crisis in our church. Stand on the Gospel of Jesus Christ or make up your own that will offend no one. Christ warned that the Gospel will always be an offense to many. I am for unity but not at the expense of the Gospel.

  3. Linda Zimmerman says

    Good morning Tom,
    I just read the results of the Schaefer case. How disappointing. More importantly it will the open the
    gates by using the same “justice with grace” technicality.

    I’m struggling here in Omaha and keeping you in my prayers.

    Thank you,
    Linda Zimmerman
    Living Faith UMC
    Omaha NE

  4. Tawn Battiste says

    Last evening, I asked my son if he thought I should change my mind or compromise on what I believe to be true about gay marriage. His response? “No”. When I asked ‘why’, he stated that he knew why I believed what I did….that the issue isn’t as much about homosexuality as it is the concept of what God ordained marriage to be–between a man and a woman. This may mean nothing to most, but to me, it meant much: for my son is gay.

    • Tawn,
      People like this will tell young people they have a right to follow their own desires. They just tell one side. God always loves us, but if we follow the rules God also protects us. Jesus said if your eye offends you, it’s better to pluck it out and go into life with one (than to have two and be left behind). You’ve kept the faith this far – so keep the faith! Praying for you and your family.

  5. God will not be mocked. You can substitute your own desires for His desires, but only for so long – as long as you are breathing. Ultimately, a perfect God demands the respect He deserves.

    The General Conference must resolve this failure of the system in a timely manner. That’s because huge cracks in the vessel are appearing and I want to be loyal to Christ. The UMC must choose who it will serve – God or something far less?

  6. Edwin Beale says

    What was the justification expressed by the Judicial Council in favoring the appeal?

    • The justification was that the Book of Discipline sets out three categories of penalties that can be imposed: removal of credentials, suspension, or some lesser penalty. Because of the (I believe artificial) distinction, they said the trial court could not impose penalties from more than one category. The could not both suspend Schaefer and defrock him. The appeals committee went with the lesser penalty–suspension.

  7. Steven H. Zinser says

    Being honest about it, we’re not ever coming together. Just not going to happen. Given that, is there not some creative way to maintain some level of unity but divide into different entities? Even corporations can have different businesses under the same corporate umbrella. What in the world is wrong with having an Evangelical UMC and a Progressive UMC under a single banner called the UMC? Each having their own DIFFERENT principles, bishops, articles of religion, missions, discipline would be GOOD. Sharing THE SAME pension, health, admin overhead would be GOOD. It would be cooperative, compassionate, caring, and hopeful. There would be happy, excited people.

    But, it’s far better to bash, batter, belittle, bemoan. Gump was a prophet: Stupid is as Stupid Does.


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