In 2013, Rev. Frank Schaefer was found “guilty” by the United Methodist Church for officiating the wedding of his son, Tim, to his same-sex partner. Today’s news comes from the Judicial Council, the denomination’s highest court.
I bring you great news: the Judicial Council has affirmed the reinstatement of Rev. Frank Schaefer to ordained ministry in The United Methodist Church!
This is a win for not only Frank and the movement, but truly a win for the entire church.
The UMC has taken a step on the journey toward justice in the reinstatement of Rev. Frank Schaefer, but still has a long way to go to reconcile with God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer children whose desire is to stay in love with God and one another. Bonhoeffer writes in The Cost of Discipleship, “Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating.” My prayer is that no matter the cost, the people called Methodists will join Rev. Schaefer in committing acts of biblical obedience and ministry without fear, illuminating God’s love within ourselves, the LGBTQ community, the church, and the entire world. Even though bigotry remains codified in our church’s immoral laws, love will continue to find a way to shape all of God’s people.
In addition to Frank’s case, there were many other important decisions the Judicial Council made that impact the movement for full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the life of The UMC, which we will be reporting on later in the day. Please take the time to read statements below from others around the movement and celebrate this step forward for justice:
Rev. Frank Schaefer:
“Today, we are witnessing a small, but significant step toward taking another look at the exclusionary policies of The United Methodist Church. With its decision to validate my reinstatement, the Judicial Council has acted justly and wisely. Their decision signals hope to our LGBTQ community that has not always seen the rule of love and grace winning over the letter of the archaic law the church still subscribes to. Today’s decision also signals a willingness to continue dialogue and to seek solutions that will hopefully lead to a change in these archaic and harmful policies. The UM Church needs to find a way toward reconciliation, full inclusion of our LGBTQ community and an open altar for all God’s beloved children. I will continue the fight alongside thousands of others in the reconciling movement for full inclusion and an open altar for all. I know the day is coming when this dream will be reality and I don’t think it is that far in the future.”
Rev. Scott Campbell, counsel to Rev. Schaefer:
“The wonderful thing about the judicial legacy of our United Methodist Church is that it has preserved an understanding of fairness that is not always apparent in the heated controversies of the day. The Judicial Council did its job. It wisely and fairly interpreted principles that have been laid down over the generations to arrive at a just and gratifying decision. Relying upon the best that is in the past offers us hope for the future.”
UMC Bishop Melvin Talbert:
“Today I celebrate justice that has been affirmed by the Judicial Council in Rev. Frank Schaefer’s reinstatement in The United Methodist Church. Jesus shows us that choosing the way of love and biblical obedience always has consequences. The church has been persecuting prophets since the very beginning. In the book of Acts, just before Stephen was stoned, he asked, ‘Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him.’ Jesus the Righteous One is here in the love of Rev. Schaefer and others who practice ministry without fear to God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer children. The church will one day repent of the violence done to Rev. Schaefer this past year, and more importantly, the violence done to all LGBTQ persons who, despite The UMC’s discriminatory, immoral laws, are following their call to ordination, marriage, and ministry in the full life of The UMC. How long, O God, will the church try to martyr love?”
Rev. Amy DeLong:
“I will begin by saying that it grieves my heart that words like ‘church trial,’ ‘appeals,’ and ‘court decisions’ occupy so much of the vocabulary and landscape of our United Methodist Church. These words roll off our tongues with such ease and we forget what an insult they are to the spirit of Jesus’s life and ministry. They are a sign of our failure as Christians to treat each other as beloved children of God. With that said, I rejoice in the Judicial Council’s decision to uphold the Jurisdictional Appeals Committee’s attempt to right a grievous wrong. The disproportionality of the trial court’s original penalty was simply unconscionable. This decision signals yet another small step forward in this way-too-long journey toward full inclusion.”
“I celebrate the Judicial Council’s decision to uphold the Northeastern Jurisdictional Committee on Appeals’ invalidation of the removal of the Rev. Frank Schaefer’s credentials of ordination. This extraordinary pastor can now continue his service to The United Methodist Church and, through it, the world. The Council’s decision is based on The Book of Discipline, a reasoned decision based on church law. It is important to understand that, with this decision, the Judicial Council did not change or soften the anti-gay policies of The United Methodist Church. Its institutional bigotry against lesbian, gay and bisexual children of God continues. Until the General Conference removes the harmful policies that demean and exclude same-gender loving people, The United Methodist Church remains a source of hatred and fear instead of the gracious body of Christ it claims to be.”
Dr. Dorothee Benz, advisor to Rev. Schaefer:
“The Judicial Council decision upholding Rev. Frank Schaefer’s reinstatement may pull The United Methodist Church back from the brink of self-destruction. It restores some measure of integrity to our judicial system, which has been increasingly used for the sole purpose of punishing those who would dare to minister to their LGBTQ parishioners. It signals that even while the church’s discriminatory rules remain on the books, there is some room for pastoral faithfulness and acts of conscience. I am grateful that Frank’s ministry will be able to continue within The UMC; his compassion, integrity and faithfulness to the Greatest Commandment are exactly what our church needs. He is part of our movement of love, a movement that will some day prevail and lead the institution to follow and reclaim its Wesleyan heritage.”