Heretic? Do people still use that word? Well, somebody did in their response to one of my posts about Rev. Frank Schaefer, the Methodist minister who has been suspended for 30 days from his Pennsylvania congregation for performing a same-sex marriage. Apparently, while the church supposedly welcomes gay people, it does not support same-sex marriage — some welcome, huh. Mr. Schaefer decided to stand up against the rule, and was put through a church “trial by jury,” found guilty, and then after much deliberation by the jury, was suspended. The case has drawn much media attention around the world — Mr. Schaefer’s stand against his church’s injustice has touched many hearts.

So, back to that word again. I confess I don’t remember every coming across it in a contemporary news story in my long career as a copy editor. So, I was surprised to see it pop up again in a reader response. Yes, apparently, some people do think in terms of heresy, as in “a belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs.” (See Wikipedia entry) But not many.

According to Wikipedia, the term is not used often by religious institutions anymore because of its “many negative connotations.” Wikipedia also says this: “The subject of Christian heresy opens up broader questions as to who has a monopoly on spiritual truth.”

Indeed, as the Theosophists say, “there is no religion higher than truth.” And Mr. Schaefer seems to have pointed that fact out to this church, if not in those words. Still, while he can be credited for planting the seeds of change in the organization, one wonders if he can actually remain there. News reports (see Lebanon Daily News) say that he is unrepentant and could not promise his inquisitors that he would not officiate at more same-sex marriages. So he has 30 days to make up his mind: follow his conscience and his heart, or the Methodist’s, umm, method to their madness, the Book of Discipline.

Some day, perhaps, the Methodists will evolve on the issue of same-sex marriage, but for now, Mr. Schaefer may be yet another sacrificial lamb in the quest for equality for LGBT people. But he can still minister to them, because ya gotta know that there are many congregations in other churches who would welcome him with open arms. And there are books to be written, and TV and radio talk shows upon which to appear to share the essential message of love. In fact, he might be reaching many more people than he ever imagined when he first answered the call to serve.

You know what they say: The Lord works in mysterious ways.