When a pastor went on trial this fall for officiating at his gay son's 2007 wedding, I thought surely love would win the day. But nope! That was naive of me, and anyone else who thought the same. Pennsylvania pastor Frank Schaefer has been defrocked. United Methodist officials told Schaefer to either resign from the clergy or follow the church's Book of Discipline to the letter. The pastor refused both, saying the Book of Discipline discriminates against gay people. He doesn't want to give up on his church, either.
Rather than walk away, Schaefer is determined to make change from within his church. "I am actively committing to having those discriminatory laws changed and banished from our Book of Discipline. That's the only way I can reconcile being a United Methodist at this point." Not only that, Schaefer is taking Jesus' teachings to heart in his refusal to resign.
At a press conference Monday, Schaefer explained why he refused to resign: "I cannot voluntarily surrender my credentials because I am a voice now for many -- for tens of thousands -- of LGBT members in our church." That reminds me of Jesus' teaching about the shepherd, and how he searches for the lost sheep and refuses to give up on them (not that LGBT members are lost, but the church does seem to want to leave them behind). The United Methodist church accepts gay and lesbian members but rejects the practice of homosexuality as "incompatible" with the teachings of Christ.
Wow, Schaefer is showing a true definition of a pastor. He could quit and join another church. He could resign his role and but stay a member of his church and an objector. But neither of these options is good enough. He recognizes that people need his leadership, and he's responding to that.
I don't know what will happen now that he's been stripped of his role, though. I think it probably means a lot to Schaefer's parishioners that he refused to resign, but he's no longer their pastor. I'm sure he'll continue fighting for change within his church, though.
When we first heard Schaefer's story, we said he stood to lose his job for being a good parent. Now it's clear he went beyond just being a good parent. He lost his job for being a good parent and a good pastor. It's a shame -- the world doesn't have enough committed leaders who sincerely care about everyone under their leadership. I think it's a mistake to defrock this pastor. But then, I also think it's a mistake to take such a hard line against gay marriage.
Schaefer married his son in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal. He says he told officials about the wedding when it happened and they did nothing; it wasn't until someone complained this year that they took action.
Do you think the United Methodist church was right to defrock Schaefer?
Image via ABC News