There is no doubt that the subject of homosexuality and same-sex marriage is a hot topic in the church these days, and it have hit fever pitch for some in the United Methodist Church.
Yesterday, suspended UMC pastor Frank Schaefer was reinstated as a pastor. The Pennsylvania minister was suspended about six months ago after officiating his son’s same-sex marriage.
The move had some cheering; and others mad as, well, you know.
First, he was just suspended by a jury of Methodist pastors… for just 30 days.
But when he refused to promise that he would not ever perform another same-sex marriage, he was defrocked.
This is personal for Schaefer. Three of his four children are gay.
Now, according to the LA Times, a nine-person panel of clergy and lay members has determined that that ‘defrocking’ was unlawful. Here’s why: Revoking his credentials “cannot be squared with the well-established principle that our clergy can only be punished for what they have been convicted of doing in the past, not for what they may or may not do in the future” according to the panel.
Schaefer will be moved from PA to the California-Pacific conference where he will work in Student Ministry.
You can tell the amount of acrimony in sectors of the UMC just by reading the Bishop of the California-Pacific Conference’s release on Schaefer’s reinstatement and move to her conference:
I am aware of the fact that these steps on our journey to wholeness may be troubling to some among us. This burdens my heart, but we must be the church of Jesus that excludes no one. I will continue to hold up for all of us the need to be servants of Christ of the highest moral character whether we are straight or gay. At the same time, we must not judge each other on the basis of our gender identity, for we are all created by God and loved by God with the very gender identity God has graciously bestowed upon us.
Rev. Schaefer has much to teach us about what it means to love the children God gives us who happen to be gay. I pray that we will make space for him and his family in our lives and in our hearts as he comes to labor among us.
For those on the other side of this issue, I doubt they feel that Schaefer has anything to teach them. She doesn’t seem to understand that there are a good share of her tribe that feel that it is not possible to live under the highest moral character if you are a practicing homosexual.
We have a lot of United Methodists that read this blog… many on both sides of the issue.
My question… will the Schaefer case turn into some kind of a tipping point ultimately for or against gay marriage in the UMC?