Methodist Pastor Convicted of Gay Marriage Ceremony

    November 18, 2013
    Mike Tuttle
    Comments are off for this post.

When United Methodist Church Reverend Frank Scaheffer’s son, Tim, came to him at the age of 17 and revealed that he was gay, the pastor and his wife had to make a decision. Tim told them that he had considered suicide because he could not reconcile the fact that he was gay with the church’s stance against homosexuality. The parents were united in their message to their son.

“He had heard messages that were hateful from the church, from the culture around him, that told him you’re not normal, you’re not valid, you’re a freak,” Schaeffer said. They told him he was “a beloved child of God.”

Six years later, the pastor’s son came to his father again. This time he asked the Reverend to marry him and his partner, a ceremony that the United Methodist Church forbids.

“To say no to his request would have negated all the affirmations I gave him over the years,” Schaeffer said. He officiated the ceremony in 2007.

Nearly six years passed. Schaeffer says he told church authorities that he had conducted the ceremony, but did not reveal it to others in the church for fear of causing a disturbance.

“I did not want to make this a protest about the doctrine of the church. I wasn’t trying to be an advocate,” Schaefer said. “I just wanted this to be a beautiful family affair, and it was that.”

But some people did find out. Jon Boger — a member of Schaeffer’s congregation — filed an official complaint. The church has a judicial process for such complaints. There are lawyers, trials, and verdicts involved. And now, according to the L.A. Times, Rev. Schaeffer stands accused and could be defrocked for his actions in violation of church doctrine.

The prohibition against gay marriage is a staunch one, especially in the Pennsylvania communities where the whole drama played out. These rules are outlines in The Book of Discipline, which governs such behavior, even though the UMC uses the phrase “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.” in their website materials.

“I love the United Methodist Church. I’ve been a minister for almost 20 years and there are so many good things about the United Methodist Church except for that one rule,” said Schaefer.

An especially interesting point to the story is that Schaeffer could have avoided a trial altogether if he had simply promised to never perform another same-sex union ceremony again. He refused because, as he explained, 3 of his 4 children are gay.

The trial was Monday, and Scaheaffer now awaits the jury’s decision. In closing arguments, the attorney for the prosecution told the jury that they had no choice but to find the pastor guilty. “You’ll give an account for that at the last day, as we all will,” he told the jury.

image via: umc.org

  • Merri B

    This is SO ridiculous. The church has NO, absolutely NO, legal standing. I get that this is within the church, and nothing really legally happens to the pastor. This is a major reason why I have no problem with my belief in God, but I have a MAJOR problem with organized religion. What an absolutely HATEFUL (therefore UN christian) church. These frauds actually use the phrase, “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.” which is a patent lie. This church is anything but what that phrase claims. Are they playing the old bait-and-switch? Can the church itself be put on trial for false advertising?? To top things off, they try to make it like a real legal proceeding just to make themselves seem way more important than they really are. Shame on them. They need to step back and look at their conduct, and realize that this kind of hypocrisy is EXACTLY why many young people are leaving the church (regardless of denomination) and shunning the absolute hypocrisy of it all. They are truly hateful people. Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors., INDEED. Only if you are stamped out of the same cookie cutter so they don’t actually have to go to the effort of opening ANYTHING – like their hearts, their minds, or their doors. I find it truly amazing that a pastor can be defrocked for NOT being a two-faced hypocrite.

    • Larry

      I am in agreement.Marri B

    • Betrayed

      He’s doing a real disservice to his son and further confuses him by 1) condoning his behavior and at the same time 2) trying to stay with the church. Why does Frank try to continue to stay with the church if he’s in such strong disagreement? He alone said it would be divisive if he had told the congregation, so he knows full well he is in the wrong. The church needs to send a strong message now that pastors that don’t follow the rules and teachings will be removed. Instead of condoning his behavior, Frank should have actually ministered to his son and affirmed the church! Love the sinner hate the sin! Why are 3/4 of his children homosexual? Because their father condoned it in the first child! After all, they want to be accepted too. We all fall short; however it is to rectify our shortcomings that we grow in Christ, not by mandating that the church accept our sin as moral. That is the total opposite of “progressive”.

      • Terr

        This man stood up for what he believes in above all else and that’s God’s universal love for people from all walks of life, all colours, orientations and backgrounds and he paid a price for those beliefs. If you truly believe that gay people can be ‘set back on track’ (turned straight) through parental or societal pressure, you are very very sadly mistaken.

        All people who seek not to harm others deserve to be happy and they deserve to seek happiness in their own way without intervention or judgment from their peers. If you would argue that your Church disagrees, then it’s not a Church I would want to speak on my behalf or associate myself with.

        I hope this pastor finds a place in a Church that is truly welcoming of all people and doesn’t speak only for a phallocentric, heterocentric yesterday.

        • Betrayed

          Let’s be very clear: The pastor stood up for his son, not the church. The pastor was not a gay activist until he was aware of his son’s homosexuality. Then suddenly homosexuality is ok. The son was supposedly hurt to the point of being suicidal becuase of the church’s stance, yet he asks his father to officiate, knowing his father represents the church. The son is very confused indeed. Also I can’t believe suicidal is anywher near the neighborhood of “happy”.

          • Merri B

            Let’s be VERY clear. The pastor stood up for his son, and the teachings of GOD (not the church). God teaches universal love for people from all walks of life, all colours, and all orientations, as Terr so rightly posted. THIS church, though not all churches, is very exclusionary and bigoted. It dares to use the saying, “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors.”, which is exactly what they are against. As I stated in my previous post, they only believe that saying if everyone they encounter is stamped out of the same cookie cutter (THEIR cookie cutter) thus making it quite unnecessary for them to open ANYTHING – especially their hearts, minds, or doors. Very UNChristian of them. I believe that God is all inclusive. If God made you, then the church should want you. They like to preach, “hate the sin, not the sinner.” BUT that is exactly the opposite of what this church does. I repeat: I find it appalling that a pastor can be defrocked for refusing to be a two-faced hypocrite.

  • Larry

    SEEMS TO ME AS A METHODIST I THINK THERE ARE OTHER THINGS OF GREATER IMPORTANCE THAT THE CHURCH SHOULD PRESCRIBE TO. This is an issue since time immemorial befor mans bible and translations. After many years as a METHODIST, I’m about to usurp.

    • Betrayed

      What would be greater than the foundation for which you stand?