Top United Methodist Council Affirms Reinstatement of Minister Who Officiated Same-Sex ‘Wedding’

SchaefferMEMPHIS — Citing procedural errors, a top United Methodist judicial council has affirmed the reinstatement of a Pennsylvania minister who was defrocked last year after he refused to neither repent for officiating a same-sex “marriage” or to relinquish his ministerial license over his rebellion against Church law.

As previously reported, Frank Schaefer, 51, who oversees Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in Lebanon, was found guilty in November of “conducting a ceremony that celebrates same-sex unions” and “disobedience to order and discipline of the Methodist Church.” In 2007, he traveled to Massachusetts to officiate a ceremony between his son Tim and Tim’s homosexual partner.

The United Methodist Book of Discipline outlines that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” may not be ordained as ministers in the denomination. It also forbids ministers from hosting or participating in “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions.”

Schaefer said that the knew what he was doing was against church law, but chose to proceed with the ceremony anyway.

“The love for my son took over the fear of losing my job with the United Methodist Church,” Schaefer told the Lebanon Daily News. “It was a tough decision in some sense, but I just knew I had to make it. I had to follow my heart.”

However, some in Schaefer’s church was not so supportive when they learned that their shepherd had officiated over the ceremony. One member, Jon Boger, filed a complaint with the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference just before the statute of limitations ran out, and Schaefer was ordered to stand trial.

During his church trial, Schaefer told a jury of thirteen United Methodist ministers that he would continue to advocate for homosexuality and wore a rainbow stole as a sign of his support.

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“I cannot go back to being silent,” he said. “I am now an advocate for LGBT people in the world and in the Church.”

At the end of the three-day trial, Schaefer was found guilty and given the ultimatum of repenting of his actions within 30 days or turning in his credentials. As he refused to repent and would neither relinquish his ministerial license, Schaefer was consequently defrocked.

Schaefer appealed the decision, and in June, the United Methodist’s Northeastern Jurisdictional Committee on Appeals voted 8-1 in to reinstate his credentials, citing “errors of Church law.” It also ruled that the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference must compensate Schaefer for the lost salary and benefits during the time that he had been defrocked.

Pastor Christopher Fisher, who had served as the “prosecutor” in the matter, then appealed to the United Methodist Judicial Council, the denomination’s top court. Following review during the Council’s meeting last week in Memphis, the panel has now announced that it has decided to affirm Schaefer’s reinstatement.

While it was essentially silent on the issue of homosexuality, the Council agreed that the “penalty imposed was illegal because Church law prohibits trial courts from imposing a penalty based on what a pastor may intend to do in the future.” Among other technicalities, it concluded that the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference should not have defrocked Schaefer solely because he refused to repent, and noted that the written penalty did not warn Schaefer that he would be defrocked if he did not change his mind.

Those within the United Methodist denomination remain split on the issue of homosexuality. In an article entitled “Why Many Methodists Still Oppose Same-Sex Marriage,” John Lemperis, the Director of the UM Action program of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, said that the Bible is crystal clear on the matter.

“Even liberal Biblical scholars now agree that the Old and New Testaments are very clear in their moral disapproval of homosexual practice,” he wrote. “More fundamentally, Scripture paints a beautiful picture of marriage as a holy covenant of intensely intimate, self-giving community between man and woman, uniting the two most basic, equal categories of humanity.”

“We submit to Jesus as Lord,” Lemperis stated. “If He is truly Lord, then no area of our lives can be off-limits to Him. Jesus spoke strongly about the centrality of self-denial in following Him, which often means dramatic personal sacrifices, including not acting on powerful desires for things outside of God’s best for us. … Jesus and new life in Him are more than worth it.”

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  • James Grimes

    The UMC is apostate. What difference does it make?

  • Jacob Myers


  • alnga

    Well this religious group as a body is still whole but those who support the perversion are in need of a Savior right now. Let us Pray that our merciful Lord will give heed to their need and speak to them as individuals through His written Word and the words of His Disciple Paul. They are otherwise are free to to do what ever they want but in the end God still reigns. Jesus Christ is Lord God Almighty.

  • jcrosby35

    I suspect John Wesly is turning over in his grave. The Methodist church has gone the way of the world as so many others have.

  • Lyle M Miller Sr

    This is a sad day for the so-called United Methodist church which is no longer united when it top governing body allows someone like Mr. Schaefer to disregard the discipline and make it clear that he will continue to violate it in the future> We are going down the path to destruction if we don’t have some serious changes in direction soon. As clergy we are called to be in the business of making disciples to transform the world, but instead we have become a church that is allowing the world to transform our doctrine and discipline.

  • Mary Kilbride

    So you seek the approval of the world over your God. Hopefully, you and your son both, repent of this and seek His forgiveness. I would NEVER go to any UMC. I was raised in that church, but left it many years ago. Glad I did. I want to be taught truth, not twists and distortions. I can’t see how anybody would continue in a church that is so far away from God’s Will.

  • MEP1101


  • Gary Schwab

    So the United Methodist church violates the Book of Discipline. Maybe I should violate my agreement to donate money.

  • Gary

    The United Methodists will eventually embrace the full homosexual agenda. If they haven’t already.

  • James Fredericks

    Satan is using Frank Schaefer very wisely. He didn’t save his own son’s soul to going to HELL and he himself ready to go because of worldly love which is made him blind…I think he does not know about the Bible…I think he never read about Sodom and Gomorrah… He is happy being a Devil’s advocate… Bible saying about LGBT (Corinthians 6:9-11) Do you not know that the unrighteous[a] will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,[b] 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

  • Reason2012

    “The love for my son took over the fear of losing my job with the United Methodist Church,” Schaefer told the Lebanon Daily News. “It was a tough decision in some sense, but I just knew I had to make it. I had to follow my heart.”

    We must be careful as that’s akin to saying “The love for sin that goes against what God says took over fear of ‘losing my job’. It was a tough decision to embrace open sinning in some sense, but I just knew I had to make it. I had to follow my heart.”

    Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

    Fear of losing your job? It’s God we need to have a reverential respect for.

    Luke 12:4-5 “[Jesus said] And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”

  • Krauss Allie

    Modern Christianity has evolved so much from what it was several hundred
    years ago that it would be unrecognizable to a Christian from that
    time. Christianity has had no choice but to make changes to its
    behavior and its doctrine in order to remain relevant within civilized
    society. Any group that digs its heels too deeply into the ground and
    refuses change is doomed to be dismissed in no time at all, and the rate
    at which millennials are leaving the church over the gay issue is prime
    evidence of this.

    Do you really think divorce was tolerated in
    the church one hundred years ago? Absolutely not. How about
    interracial marriage? Of course not. How was adultery dealt with a thousand years ago? …and homosexuality? Does Christianity handle these issues in the same manner as it did in the past? Of course not. Christianity changes, often after being dragged kicking and screaming into the modern age, but nonetheless, it changes.

    You can cling to your
    biblical understanding all you’d like, but the rest of the world has no
    reason to take you seriously. Why? Because you’ve already strayed so
    incredibly far from your biblical doctrine to be able to claim to be
    steadfast ‘literalists’ without being laughed at. How many of you stone
    homosexuals as you are commanded to do in Leviticus 20:13? I’d bet not one of
    you has been true to God’s word here. How many of you have allowed an adulterer to continue to live? How many
    of you are adulterers? How many of you have been divorced?

    Before I go, if any of you are apt to
    tell me Jesus Christ has ushered in a new Covenant, then why on earth
    do you only keep to the Old Testament laws when it comes to
    homosexuality, and not divorce, adultery, or fornication? Some might say it’s because you use your bible to
    justify your hatred toward those who are different. Me personally? Well, I tend to think that’s precisely what it is.

    Dr. Krauss

    • Demmi Greene

      ” . . . if any of you are apt to tell me Jesus Christ has ushered in a new Covenant, then why on earth do you only keep to the Old Testament laws when it comes to
      homosexuality, and not divorce, adultery, or fornication?”.

      ?????? Who said the ”new Covenant” doesn’t????????

      Under the new ”Covenant ushered in by Christ” it says in 1 John 3:8/ . . .”But when people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning.”

      Christ says in Revelation 21:7/ ”He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. 8/ But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

      Under the new ”Covenant ushered in by Christ” our ”sin debt” has been paid for or atoned for by Christ,…..but when people keep on sinning,… they are in danger of the offense written of in Hebrews 10:29/ ”How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?”

      Christians cannot mock God for free. Under the ”new” ‘Covenant we still have Old Testament moral and spiritual obligations. To live in a perpetual state of homosexuality, adultery, or fornication is a perpetual state of sin.

      • Yes, we can make judgement calls. But to condemn a person to Hell (or an end of life) based upon outward behavior is not Christ-like. If that were okay, why did Jesus stop in Samaria to save the Woman at the well? Or why did He forgive the adulterous woman? Why did he die for you? Your outward behavior is guaranteed to let more than a few people down

        as is mine.

        • Demmi Greene

          But to condemn a person to Hell ”…..where did I do that?

          • Just going off the opening statement, and the overall tone of that first paragraph. It seems to fit the reactionary mold seen on moralistic sites like Infowars.

            Would “the right thing” be stoning people again? The good doctor was asking why we literally don’t stone people, that it is hypocritical to preach one method in the OT and not in the New.

          • Demmi Greene

            Well,…an Eternity separated from God will be even harsher.

            Jude 1:…22 ”And have mercy on some, who are doubting; 23 save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.

            ”Would “the right thing” be stoning people again?” No, of course not. Who’s advocating for that? The good doctor was ”fault finding” and endeavoring to set an accusatory tone to a holy God setting/meeting out judgement.

      • Understand the differences between the Old and New Covenant?

    • Dear Dr. Krauss,

      Replying off the top of my head here, so please keep this dialogue going. You bring up some great points. But Jesus himself forgave the adulterous woman caught in the act, and reduced the stoning about to take place to the hypocrisy taking place in the hearts of those attendant. Jesus called those who are angry without cause on their way to Hell, those who lust after a woman not their wife adulterous, etc. Matthew 7 is a wonderful chapter. We should all be dead, but then there would be no humanity left. This is why God ‘s grace in Christ’s sacrifice was needed, because there was no healing the rift that sin had torn between man and God. Good thing He rose from the dead.

      Then Christ tells us, ““You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

      Jesus also says, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easya that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few…

      Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

      This is why we don’t kill sinners, because we are all forgiven by the grace of Jesus Christ. We leave it to the Muslims and the Moral Majority to act on their hypocrisy 😉

      In fact, it is so easy to be saved by God’s grace that it is taken for granted by most of all the professing Christian community – worldwide. I know I did for twenty six years. And when I realized what a hypocritical, bandwagoning un-loving person I was, I got re-baptized in full light of my hypocrisy and His Loving Grace. From then I haven’t had a certain problem since, a mental illness healed.

      Kid you not.

      That said, the Old and New Testaments are not incongruous. As it is said, “In the Old Testament the New is concealed, while the New is the Old revealed.”

    • Gary

      Mistakes in other matters does not mean acceptance of homosexuals is required.

  • Living in this era of growing apostasy is certainly weird.
    Hoping someone can shed some light on this for me:

    How is gay marriage constitutionally banned? How does a man “marrying” another man reduce the validity of my marriage to my wife or my children’s future spouses? I don’t see it, especially since my marriage is under God first, and is a ministry to my children and others around me second, as a symbol of the triune Godhead. If the US wants to endorse gay marriage, they can have it. They are already endorsing the murder of hundreds of millions of babies in the womb, and even the impalings and beheadings of children in other countries.

    This issue, like evolution, is striving against the wind. Perhaps if we give more gospel with our mouths AND our lives, the Holy Spirit would find better paved in-roads into the hearts of those He seeks to change.

    Christians cannot legislate sexual mores. Indeed, Muslims would have a better shot at it right now than we would. It is antithetical to our faith. Which apostle was it that said we should push agendas and run for office on the backs of ecumenists, cults, and a child molesting clergy? I can’t remember…

    • Gary

      Same-sex marriage is neither banned, nor required by the US Constitution. Those who are in positions of power, federal judges, President, etc., are pushing ssm because they are wicked, not because the Constitution requires it.
      Christians cannot accept ssm. We cannot recognize it as being valid. We might see more people just bypassing the government and getting married by a preacher, without getting a license from the government.

      • In Ca and a couple other states a ban on it was voted on by the majority of Californians, overturned by the courts. That was my question. I used to wonder how the courts could overturn a majority vote but I came to the simple conclusion that the writers of our rights and constitution were not worried about sexual acts between adults. I am wondering now , in light of the Mississipi story, if Christian oppression will come upon this nation not because of our obedience to God and His Word, but the growing disobedience from the church to the state, thus to God’s express command to bless the nations in which we reside – especially one as benevolent as ours here in the US.
        I wonder if the confluence of replacement theology and the rise of conspiracy theories will entice Christians to bite the hand that feeds them their 501c3 status.

        • DelRay_666

          The courts are the reason for the destruction in this country. Two males or two females does not make a marriage, God made that very explicit that it is an abomination and they will not enter Heaven. CA is a sick perverted state – so is any other that permits abominations.

          • I would disagree. The Supreme Court is chosen by the President, and we choose the executive, so we are to blame.

            The reason for the destruction in this country is this country’s sin. Abortion may have been legalized by the Court, but millions of women (and their men, by proxy) use it. They simply legalized what we wanted. We are reaping the consequences.

          • DelRay_666

            The people is several states had there rights trashed when the judges decided that homosexuals have the right to marry. The Bible was thrown out of schools by judges. All appearance of Christianity is being removed by judges. Judges decided that infanticide is a right.
            I thought judges were held to the Constitution instead of making their own laws – show me where a one of these rulings is based on the Constitution. It doesn’t matter who appoints them, judges are “supposed” to be bound by the law.

          • So are Presidents, but we all know how that story. Birds of a feather…

          • and that is a funny blind spot in our Constitution – appointing interpreters of the law, who are supposed to be bound by the laws they interpret. If they break ’em, well, that’s just dependent on interpretation.

            Take Reagan, for instance, appointed Ginsburg. A man of His word?

          • DelRay_666

            The Constitution does not require interpretation, that is the flaw in the lies that SCOTUS uses.
            Unlike a lot of people, as a conservative, I don’t have anything for Regan – I don’t see him any better than any other recent president. The last real president we had was Eisenhower.

          • Here here, friendo

          • Your post about Jesus’ horn sounds like you could make a life there.

  • Jesus did not say The church of Laodicea was not His church. But in danger of being removed. Isn’t that interesting? How does that speak to this story?

  • Norma Ross

    My friend left the Methodist Church because she found out it did not support Israel. The Bible says that we must support Israel.

    • Does the Bible really say we must support Israel? Find out the truth here:

      • Just because the internet says it doesn’t mean it’s true. And just because you believe it doesn’t mean it’s right.

        Careful the doctrine you push on others.

        • Did you read any of the Scriptures posted? No private interpretation given, only SCRIPTURE. Physical Israel openly denies Jesus and the Son of God yet they are still God’s chosen people? These Jews say they are Jews and are not but do LIE. This is not a new doctrine…this is a “thus saith the LORD”. Only a true follower of Jesus would pick up their Bible as confirm what is written instead watching for signs from physical Israel. This is one Satan’s grand deceptions…remember the devil “deceiveth the whole world” Before Jesus returns, Satan will counterfeit a false second coming and the whole world will be deceived, as they are when they believe Sunday is the Sabbath or that Jesus abolished the Commandments on the Cross. Reading false bibles plays into this belief and not trusting in the LORD to help and teach and to provide understanding the KJV. God Bless.

  • DelRay_666

    Come out of her my people…. Rev 18:4. Do you need any more explicit information that Jesus is sitting on His cloud and the angel is polishing his horn?

  • Hmmm…lets see what the founder of the Methodist church says about this…