(Photo: Melissa Lauber)
A former Pennsylvania United Methodist Church pastor who was defrocked for not accepting the denomination's ban on officiating gay weddings has joined a pro-gay congregation in Washington, D.C.
Frank Schaefer, who was suspended by the UMC for officiating his gay son's same-sex wedding, recently joined Foundry UMC and preached a sermon there Sunday.
Dean Snyder, senior pastor at Foundry, told The Christian Post about how Schaefer became a member of his congregation.
"Pastors' church membership resides in the annual conference they belong to. When a minister's credentials are taken away he or she no longer is a member of the conference," said Snyder.
"We invited Frank to join Foundry so that he could remain a United Methodist and have a loving and supportive church home."
Snyder, whose church averages about 600 in weekly attendance, also told CP about future involvement that Schaefer will have at Foundry's pulpit.
"Frank preached at Foundry last Sunday, the Sunday after the Eastern Pennsylvania Board of Ordained Ministry revoked his ministerial credentials," said Snyder. "He will speak again Sunday Jan. 26 when he will be joined by two other defrocked pastors – Beth Stroud and Jimmy Creech – as well as Bishop Mel Talbert."
Previously head pastor at Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in Pennsylvania, Schaefer was found guilty of violating the UMC Book of Discipline regarding its rules on same-sex unions.
A United Methodist Jury suspended Schaefer for 30 days and told him that to remain an ordained UMC pastor he had to never again officiate a gay wedding.
Schaefer refused to agree to those terms and so earlier this month the UMC officially defrocked him.
In response to the news of being defrocked, Schaefer was offered a position in the UMC California-Pacific Annual Conference by Bishop Minerva Carcaño last week.
"I acknowledge that I do not have the authority to restore the ministerial credentials that Frank Schaefer has lost," stated Carcaño. "What I can do, however, is invite and welcome others to love and serve Christ Jesus among us, accompany those who choose to be faithful, and exhort us all to be biblically obedient."
Foundry belongs to the Reconciling Ministries Network, a pro-LGBT Methodist group having adopted a resolution stating it is accepting of all "sexual orientations and gender identities."
The congregation is one of 10 UMC churches and ministries in the District of Columbia to pass such a resolution. That is only three fewer than the total number for Schaefer's former home state of Pennsylvania.
Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, told The Christian Post that he was unsurprised by Schaefer's move.
"There is no great surprise that Schaefer landed at Foundry UMC, which has long been a very liberal congregation aggressively touting LGBTQI causes within the UMC and beyond," said Tooley.
"Having Schaefer as a member is one more way for Foundry to raise its profile of dissent within the UMC."
Regarding the Carcaño offer, Tooley told CP that he believed it was "one more way for her to wave the flag of dissent within the UMC without specifically breaking church law."
"Of course, it might be logically asked why the liberal bishop who presides over membership loses, in a liberal conference that has long been losing members, invites into service a defrocked liberal minister who broke up his own congregation," said Tooley.
"The answer seems to be that for some advocating liberationist social causes is more important than proclaiming the saving transformative Gospel or the overall health of the church."