Defrocked Methodist Pastor Who Officiated Son's Same-Sex Wedding to Appeal Punishment
Defrocked United Methodist Church pastor Frank Schaefer, who went against doctrine and officiated his son's same-sex wedding, has said that he will argue before a church panel on Friday that his punishment was illegal.
"I would like to get my credentials back," said Schaefer, 52, according to The Associated Press on Wednesday. "I'm hoping for a 're-frocking.'"
The pastor was officially defrocked by UMC in December after he refused to turn over his credentials following a meeting with the Board of Ordained Ministry. He was accused of violating his pastoral vows by performing his son's marriage to another man at a 2007 ceremony in Massachusetts.
A nine-member Committee on Appeals will hear his argument on Friday, and will have to decide whether his defrocking was indeed improper because it is based on an assumption that he would break church law in the future when it comes to officiating same-sex marriages.
"His return from suspension cannot be conditioned on his good behavior," said his clergy counsel, the Rev. Scott Campbell. "You cannot penalize people for what they might do. The penalty needs to be related to what he has done."
Schaefer said that he felt he "lost everything" following the defrocking. "There was a moment of pain and depression and the next thing I knew, I was catapulted. I have more opportunities now than I ever did."
The minister initially hid the wedding from his conservative Pennsylvania congregation, but in the midst of the high-profile church trial he became an advocate for gay rights. AP noted that he has been speaking to audiences around the country, recalling how his son, who had contemplated suicide, came out to him as a teenager.
His convictions on gay marriage clashed with the UMC Book of Discipline, however, which prohibits clergy from overseeing same-sex weddings. While UMC accepts gay and lesbian members, it says that sex outside of heterosexual marriage is "incompatible with Christian teaching," and prohibits openly gay members from serving as clergy.
"True love draws boundaries. Scripture says that true love does not rejoice in evil," said the Rev. Dr. Christopher Fisher, arguing as counsel for the church. "Cheap grace does not lead to being conformed to the image and likeness of Christ. We ought not turn the grace of God into immorality. Is it true to tell young people that their identity can be determined by something like our sexuality?"
The Rev. Thomas A. Lambrecht, vice president and general manager of Good News, an evangelical Methodist group, added back in November that ministers who go against church teachings "have decided to take the law into their own hands, so to speak, and go ahead and violate the requirements of our (Book of) Discipline."
"They have in a sense renounced the process that we use to determine what the church believes about things. I don't think that is the appropriate way to handle disagreement," Lambrecht said.
The long-standing issue has been a point of conflict for the Methodist church, with hundreds of ministers reportedly rejecting the church's stance on homosexuality, while conservatives have insisted that doctrine cannot be broken.
The Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of Good News, noted that the outcome of the case will not change the "chaos" in which UMC finds itself in.
"It's not going to stop progressives from breaking the Book of Discipline, and it's not going to lure traditionalists into any false sense that this is taken care of," Renfroe said.