From The United Methodist Reporter, Nov.20, 2013
Schaefer Jury: 30 day suspension and possible surrender
November 19, 2013 By Erik Alsgaard, UMR Correspondent 5 Comments
SPRING CITY, Pa. — The jury in the trial of the Rev. Frank Schaefer has ordered that Schaefer be suspended immediately from the practice of ministry for 30 days, during which time he must decide whether he is willing to comply with the United Methodist Book of Discipline “in it’s entirety” or surrender his ministerial credentials.
The jury, which had found Schaefer guilty yesterday of performing a same-sex wedding (for his son Tim) and disobedience to the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church, said that if Schaefer violates the provisions of the Book of Discipline during that 30 day period, he will immediately be asked to surrender his ministerial credentials. During the 30 day period Schaefer is to engage in reflection about his calling to the GLBTQ community. If he determines at the end of that period that he cannot uphold the Book of Discipline in whole, he is to turn in his credentials, thus removing himself from the pastoral office.
Following a sidebar conversation between presiding Bishop Alfred Gwinn and the parties in the trial, Gwinn asked the jury how they intended for the verdict to be implemented. The jury stated that Schaefer’s district superintendent, the Rev. James Todd, will be responsible for supervising the implementation of the verdict. At the end of the 30 day period, Schaefer is to meet with the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry to report on the results of his period of discernment.
The counsel for the church, the Rev. Christopher Fisher, said that he believed the penalty to be “gracious,” for it put the responsibility of determining the outcome ultimately upon Schaefer.
The responses on Twitter from supporters of Schaefer were generally less gracious, suggesting that the jury had failed to decisive in their verdict. Love Prevails UMC, a group advocating for full participation of GLBTQ persons in the life of the church tweeted: “The jury did not have the integrity to kick Frank Schaefer out. They’re making him decide himself.”
Schaefer said earlier in the day that he could not say that he he could be obedient to the UM Book of Discipline. “I feel called to minister to everybody,” he said. “This experience has transformed me. I am now an advocate, a spokesperson for a cause.”
UMR Correspondent The Rev. Erik Alsgaard is a member of the Detroit Conference, on loan to the Baltimore-Washington Conference, serving in the Ministry of Communications there as Editor of the UMConnection newspaper.