A United Methodist clergyman who conducted a same-sex wedding in violation of denominational rules has been defrocked. Pastor Frank Schaefer's clergy credentials were revoked by church officials following his decision to not adhere to the United Methodist Book of Discipline by promising not to conduct further same-sex ceremonies.
The move follows a 30-day suspension that Schaefer was issued at the conclusion of a clergy trial in November.
The Institute on Religion and Democracy's United Methodist action director, John Lomperis, says in the penalty that the jury of Schaefer's clergy peers was very gracious, giving him a 30-day suspension period to either recommit to following the church's biblical covenant or to surrender his credentials as a United Methodist minister.
"I commend Eastern Pennsylvania UMC officials for upholding our biblical standards and protecting the vitality of local churches from further destruction like what Mr. Schaefer brought to his former congregation," Lomperis says. "Church officials acted with integrity, dignity and grace through this process. I lament that the same cannot be truthfully said about Schaefer and many of his supporters. I invite my fellow evangelical United Methodists to pray for Frank Schaefer as he enters this time of transition."
This outcome should surprise no one who understands how United Methodism works, Lomperis continues, as conference officials did the only thing they could do, after bending over backward to be gracious to Schaefer and offer him opportunities for restoration.
As Lomperis sees it, Schaefer was not the first United Methodist minister to be defrocked for crossing these lines and will not be the last.
"The United Methodist Book of Discipline is very clear that we do not allow our ministers to bless same-sex unions, yet Schaefer's supporters supposedly cannot believe that Schaefer would face any consequences for violating the Discipline," Lomperis says. "His sentence was clear, but they are acting shocked that its terms were followed with integrity.
"This episode highlights the importance of churches in all traditions protecting themselves and the cause of Christ by carefully screening would-be pastors for biblical grounding and moral character and having effective means of accountability."