Good news for Pastor Frank Schaefer and his supporters. He has won his appeal after being defrocked by the Methodist Church for presiding at a same-sex wedding in the United States. Essentially, the panel did not question his guilt, but ruled the initial penalty was too harsh and lessened the penalty to a 30-day suspension, according to a New York Times report.
After he was expelled from the organization, he went on to become a vocal supporter of gay rights, according to the N.Y. Times report, and there has been “widespread civil disobedience within the denomination — hundreds of Methodist ministers have signed a statement saying they are willing to officiate at same-sex marriages, and multiple clergy have done so; there are also clergy who have declared themselves to be gay.”
Still, one has to wonder about how much of a victory this is for the pastor: it doesn’t seem that the church has changed its position on same-sex marriage. And as I wondered in a previous post — called Apostasy equals liberation for some — at what point should one simply leave an organization he or she has outgrown? In the pastor’s case, if the Methodist Church fervently believes its ministers should not be performing same-sex weddings and simply will not allow its ministers to do so, how long will it be before he is forced out again? And can he in good conscience return to the fold of an organization he may believe is still discriminating against gay people? Perhaps he is hoping the church will change its policy — but as I wondered in the preceding post, it is questionable to what extent people should try to reform religious organizations.
Whatever the case, I wish Pastor Frank Schaefer well.