Rev. Frank Schaefer was found guilty by The United Methodist Church for officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding. Schaefer was given the following penalty: Suspend Rev. Frank Schaefer from all ministerial duties effective immediately for 30 days. If there are any violations of the Discipline during these 30 days, his credentials will be surrendered to the annual conference. During these 30 days, Rev. Schaefer must take the opportunity to discern his newly discovered calling for the LGBT community. If at the end of these 30 days Rev. Schaefer has determined that he cannot uphold the Discipline in its entirety, he must surrender his credentials. The District Superintendent of record shall monitor the progress. Rev. Frank Schaefer will provide a written report to and interview with the Board of Ordained Ministry within 30 days regarding his call and his willingness to uphold the Book of Discipline in its entirety.
The following is a statement prepared for a press conference December 16, 2013, explaining to the press what he plans to say to the church concerning his penalty.
Statement by Rev. Frank Schaefer
As most of you know, I was found guilty of violating the Discipline of The UMC on account of performing the wedding of my son, Tim, to another man by the UM trial at Spring City, PA last month.
The penalty given to me by the trial court on Nov. 19th was a 30-day suspension at the end of which I was charged to come up with a decision. If, at the end of the 30 days, I determined that I cannot uphold the UM Book of Discipline in its entirety (which contains the ban on UM ministers to perform same-sex unions), I was asked to surrender my credentials.
I have had many conversations with many friends and supporters over the last month, many of them urging me to simply say: “Yes, I can uphold the Church’s law book in it’s entirety.” Many said that I could interpret that in my own mind as I wanted. And I gave that serious consideration. I wanted to find a way of answering truthfully and still keep my credentials in the church. I have really wrestled and agonized over this, but finally came to the conclusion that…
1. My honest answer has to be: No, I cannot uphold the Book of Discipline in its entirety. In fact, I don’t believe anybody can. It’s impossible to uphold the Discipline in it’s entirety because it is filled with competing and contradictory statements. It reflects the diversity of convictions we hold as United Methodists. In the words of Prof. Thomas Frank: “The UMC is a big tent!” And that’s reflected in the Discipline.
For instance, those who perform same-sex weddings are in violation of para. 2702, but those pastors who refuse ministry to same-sex couples are also in violation of other provisions of the Discipline that demand of our pastors to be inclusive and to provide equal ministry to all people (para. 140, 161).
Frankly, my conscience does not allow me to uphold the entire Discipline because it contains discriminatory provisions and language that is hurtful and harmful to our homosexual brothers and sisters. It denies them their full humanity. I simply cannot uphold those parts of the Discipline.
2. I also cannot in good conscience surrender my credentials voluntarily as I feel called to represent, minister to, and advocate for tens of thousands of LGBT members and their families within the United Methodist Church. I have received hundreds of petitions from LGBT members, colleagues, and even three bishops, not to surrender my credentials. By surrendering my credentials, I feel as though I would abandon those under my spiritual care and especially those I feel called to advocate for.
I also believe that the jury’s penalty stipulation is against the Book of Discipline. In my understanding, a trial court does not have the right to require of a defendant to voluntarily surrender his credentials based on a conditional or a future action that has not yet occurred.
3. On Thursday, Dec. 19, I will meet with The Board of Ordained Ministry. This body could decide to leave my credentials in place and affirm me as a voice for the LGBT community—a decision which would demonstrate a willingness to engage in a new dialogue and discernment process and a path toward healing. Or the Board could decide to defrock me.
If allowed, I would like to continue to be a minister in The United Methodist Church,
a. committed to providing a ministry to all people under my care,
b. continuing to advocate for our LGBT community within The UM Church
c. while working toward changing the discriminatory language and provisions in our Book of Discipline.
I am hopeful that we can and will accomplish these changes. It’s only a matter of time!
. . .