SOURCE: Pastor Frank Schaefer

October 16, 2014 08:00 ET

Defrocked Pastor Frank Schaefer's Case to Be Heard by UMC's Highest Court

MEMPHIS, TN--(Marketwired - October 16, 2014) - Frank Schaefer, the United Methodist Church (UMC) minister who was defrocked for officiating a same sex marriage for his son, will have his case heard one last time by the UMC Judicial Council on Oct. 22, 2014 to determine whether his defrocking was legal according to church law and whether he will retain his standing as a UM minister. Though Schaefer appealed his defrocking and was reinstated by the church in June, the UMC is now appealing his reinstatement to the "supreme court" of the Methodist Church, an event that will have global ramifications in the UMC and possibly deepen the division.

"Since the Judicial Council includes members from around the world, this is a real test as to where the church stands globally on LGBTQ equality within the church," says Schaefer. "If they defrock me again, it would indicate that change may not be coming soon. My hope is for the council to allow me to continue as a UM clergy because it would keep the discussion going. If you exclude those who disagree, you close the door to a much-needed dialogue which, in turn, invites a schism."

The UMC maintains that same sex marriage is in violation of its church doctrine and laws. Schaefer, a minister of 20 years, defied the Church's rules in 2007 when he performed his son's marriage to another man. Following a highly publicized church trial last November, Schaefer was stripped of his credentials, and terminated from his ministry at the Zion Iona UMC in Lebanon County Pa., because he refused to uphold church law that progressives within the Church call homophobic and discriminatory.

"I have three gay children," Schaefer says. "I believe God gave them to me so I would get the message. Gay or straight, we are all created in God's image. Gay or straight, God blesses our love relationships."

Dr. Christopher Fisher, on behalf of a more conservative faction within the UMC, is appealing the outcome of Schaefer's reinstatement and is pushing for the original defrocking to be ratified and made the final and undisputable penalty. But since Schaefer's trial last year, no other clergy members whose cases were on the church docket have been brought to trial. In fact, on Oct. 3, 2014 a group of 36 clergy, known as the Philly 36, had their complaints resolved quietly by the Eastern PA conference (the same conference that defrocked Schaefer).

Schaefer is one of thousands of clergy who have vowed to offer ministry to all UMC members on an equal basis, a position that has found enormous support within the church.

"Both parties claim this is a matter of conscience," says Schaefer, "and because of that, I want to reach out to those traditionalists who honestly see themselves as the defenders of the truth, and hopefully get them to understand that there is another way to read those Scriptures in historical and cultural context. We don't have to throw out the bible -- the proverbial baby with the bathwater -- just because we accept homosexuality and gay marriage as something God blesses."

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