John M. Becker

Methodist Church Affirms Reinstatement of Pro-Gay Pastor

Filed By John M. Becker | October 27, 2014 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Frank Schaefer, gay marriage, marriage equality, Methodists, same-sex marriage, United Methodist Church

frank-schaefer-closing-statement-methodist.jpgThe top court in the United Methodist Church has allowed Rev. Frank Schaefer to remain a pastor, upholding a June ruling from a lower court that reinstated Schaefer after he was defrocked for the "offense" of officiating at the 2007 wedding of his gay son.

The United Methodist News Service reports:

In a ruling made public Oct. 27, the denomination's top court upheld a June decision by a regional appeals committee to reinstate Schaefer's ministerial credentials, modifying the penalty imposed upon the Pennsylvania pastor after he was found guilty last November of violating church law by performing a same-sex wedding for his son in 2007.

"The Judicial Council upon careful review of the decision of the Northeastern Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals in the matter of the Rev. Frank Schaefer and the questions of law presented by the counsel for the church finds there are no errors in the application of the church law and judicial decisions," said Decision 1270. "The penalty as modified by the Committee on Appeals stands."

In its decision, Judicial Council also recognized the fact that "some within the church do not support this outcome today."

More, after the break.

Schaefer applauded the ruling:

"Today, we are witnessing a small, but significant step toward taking another look at the exclusionary policies of the United Methodist Church. With its decision to validate my reinstatement, the Judicial Council has acted justly and wisely. Their decision signals hope to our LGBTQ community that has not always seen the rule of love and grace winning over the letter of the archaic law the church still subscribes to. Today's decision also signals a willingness to continue dialogue and to seek solutions that will hopefully lead to a change in these archaic and harmful policies. The UM Church needs to find a way toward reconciliation, full inclusion of our LGBTQ community and an open altar for all God's beloved children.

"I will continue the fight alongside thousands of others in the reconciling movement for full inclusion and an open altar for all. I know the day is coming when this dream will be reality and I don't think it is that far in the future."

As Rev. Schaefer indicated, the topic of marriage equality remains a contentious one in the United Methodist Church. After an extremely contentious debate at its last General Conference in 2012, delegates voted to preserve anti-gay passages in their Book of Discipline that call LGBT orientations/identities "incompatible with Christian teaching" and exclusively approves opposite-sex marriages.

The vote pitted supporters of LGBT inclusion against delegates from sexually conservative countries, including African nations. (One African delegate conflated homosexuality and bestiality and denied that God creates any gay or lesbian people.)

The United Methodist Church is expected to revisit the issue at its next General Conference in 2016. In the meantime, other Methodist pastors have protested their church's exclusionary teachings on marriage by performing wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples, and some bishops have publicly declared that they will no longer prosecute pastors who do so.

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