(Photo: Reuters screen grab)
Following the United Methodist Church's decision last week to defrock the Rev. Frank Schaefer for officiating his gay son's wedding in 2007, a California-based Methodist bishop has offered Schaefer to join her ministry.
Bishop Minerva Carcaño offered Schaefer the opportunity to become a part of the California-Pacific Annual Conference soon after the church made its verdict last week because he would not retract his stance on same-sex marriage and refused to voluntarily give up his credentials.
"Frank Schaefer chose to stand with Jesus as he extended love and care to his gay son and his partner. We should stand with him and others who show such courage and faithfulness," said Carcaño, in a statement.
Although she would not be able to restore Schaefer's credentials, because only an ordained clergy can determine that decision, Carcaño said she would support his views and would welcome him to serve alongside others who are "faithful and Biblically obedient."
His future position in the ministry, which is a regional body of Methodist churches made up of 80,000 members in Southern California, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, remains unknown. However, according to The Detroit News, Schaefer would not be guaranteed an appointment and before taking up the offer, he and his wife Brigitte have decided to pray and discern whether they should join the conference.
"I'm actually leaning toward it right now, but I can't make that decision myself because it involves my entire family. We are considering it very, very seriously," said Schaefer, reports the Detroit News.
He added, "It was such a feeling of welcome I sensed from her and just understanding and comfort. For somebody like her, a bishop, to reach out to me and say, 'you know what you did was absolutely right and we are proud of you,' it just felt great."
Carcaño, who believes the United Methodist Church's position on homosexuality is "wrong," stated that she had offered the invitation to Schaefer with the support of his current bishop, Peggy Johnson.
Currently, the Methodist Church adheres to the Book of Discipline that bans the ordination of LGBT individuals and prohibits clergy members from officiating same-sex weddings. The denomination states: "Although all persons are sexual beings whether or not they are married, sexual relations are affirmed only with the covenant of monogamous, heterosexual marriage … The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God's grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends."
Prior to being defrocked, Schaefer's son's ceremony – which was legally officiated in Massachusetts – went unchallenged until a member of his own congregation in Lebanon, Penn., brought the complaint before the church's board. He was suspended last month for breaking his pastoral vow and later defrocked for refusing to comply with the denomination's rules on homosexuality.