Frank Schaefer, a United Methodist minister in Philadelphia, has been suspended from the church and asked to hand over his religious credentials. Why? Because in 2007, Schaefer officiated his gay son’s wedding in Massachusetts.
Officially, the clergyman is on a thirty-day suspension and has until this Thursday to either adhere to church doctrine—which would mean repenting for being supportive of his son—or surrender his credentials. Schaefer says that neither of the choices given are options for him.
“I cannot voluntarily surrender my credentials because I am a force now for many, for tens of thousands of LGBT members in our church,” Schaefer during a Philadelphia news conference on Monday.
While the Methodist church allows LGBT people to worship as members in their church, they do not endorse the actual practice of homosexuality, citing conflict with their teaching. Schaefer argues that no one could ever uphold Christian teaching in its entirety due to its many inconsistencies. Furthermore, he cannot follow it if it means discriminating against his own son.
“I cannot uphold the United Methodist Book of Discipline in its entirety,” said Schaefer. “I just cannot. In fact, I don’t believe anyone can. In particular, I cannot uphold those discriminatory laws…that are hurtful and harmful to our homosexual brothers and sisters in the church.”
The United Methodist Church considers homosexuality to be incompatible with Christian principles, and forbids any “practicing homosexuals” from becoming ordained ministers. The Church also publically supports laws that outlaw same-sex marriage. In 1999, Rev. Jimmy Creech was defrocked after co-officiating a wedding ceremony between two women in Nebraska.
While other denominations have contacted Schaefer, he says he intends to hold strong and refuse to relinquish his credentials. The minister desires to stay with the Methodist Church, if allowed.
“They have the power to either defrock me, or keep my credentials in place, thus affirming me as an LGBT voice in the church,” he said. Schaefer believes the decision to do the latter would be a “path towards healing.”
“I’d prefer to remain a United Methodist minister so I can work towards dismantling discrimination.”