Showing posts with label Faith. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Faith. Show all posts

June 22, 2014

Faces of Faith: Minister gets defrocked for Marrying his son


Background: Born and raised in West Germany where he studied to be a translator and interpreter, he and his wife Brigitte married when they were 18 and had three of their four children before coming to the United States a decade later. Now 52, he graduated fromValley Forge Christian College and received a master's of divinity atPrinceton Theological Seminary.
Seven years ago, you performed the marriage of your son in Cohasset, Mass. Last year, you were convicted in a United Methodist Church trial of violating the denomination's order and discipline which forbids clergy from officiating at same-sex wedding. You were defrocked. The law and public opinion are very different now in America.
First of all, I couldn't have imagined the changes we have seen. Who would have predicted that Pennsylvania would have legal gay marriage in 2014? When my son Tim came out to us in the year 2000, he shared how he had been hurt, brought to the brink of suicide, by the church's teaching that the practice of homosexuality is a sin. My wife and I embraced him and told him what the church had taught him was wrong. We told him: God created you in God's image — gay and all. When he asked me to perform his marriage to another man I had to make a choice between the love for my son and the church. I told my son “ es" and I informed my bishop that I would perform his wedding. 
In 2007 we celebrated the union of Tim and Bobby in a restaurant about 300 miles away from my church in Pennsylvania. The church I was serving in Lebanon, a town in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, was very conservative. I did not make an announcement about the wedding I performed, for I did not want this to become a divisive issue. In the weeks following the wedding, I thought I would receive a phone call from my bishop and be told that I am fired, but I never heard anything until someone in my congregation filed a complaint against me almost six years later. I was informed that I would have to stand a church trial on Nov. 18 and 19,  2013.
At the trial, I was set to read a carefully crafted diplomatic statement to avoid losing my ordination. But the closer I got to testifying, I realized that I could not promise not to perform any more gay weddings. I knew I had to take a stand in support of our church's LGBT members. However, I had no speech prepared for that and was so nervous about whether I would find the right words in the witness stand. I was so fearful I was sick to my stomach. I looked up and saw my family and supporters in the room and could feel their support. Amazingly, the words just flowed. Once I said what I needed to say I felt peace with God and the world.
This week, on Friday, my appeal will be heard by a United Methodist regional committee.
A decision will likely be announced on Saturday. I am appealing because the penalty was not based on what I did — performing my son's gay wedding — but for what I was unwilling to promise: to denounce gay marriage. In other words, I was punished for something I have not yet done.
You're at a crossroads. Do you want to return to the pulpit?
I think I will always have a national role in the LGBT rights movement now, and that is a new calling I have embraced. But I would also like to continue in my calling to lead a congregation and settle into a local parish ministry. If I am not reinstated at the hearing, I will explore my options. I am strongly exploring a job offer I received from Bishop Minerva Carcano of the California-Pacific Conference. She is the United Methodist Church's leading voice on LGBT and immigration issues. I could be licensed and work as a United Methodist pastor in her conference while working toward a new ordination.
You were a country preacher for your whole life and you’ve become in some ways the country's preacher.
What's taken place has changed our lives. God turned it into a whole new ministry of advocacy and healing. Following my defrocking, I have received dozens of invitations to speak at churches, colleges, pride fests and conferences. I've been sharing my story across the nation. I've been on the road so much, sometimes I wake up and have to take a minute to figure out what state I'm in.
I thought I had lost my career and livelihood. But all my worries turned out to be for naught. I lost my job, but my honorariums for speaking have matched my salary. I became a national speaker and advocate, I received seven awards, among others a civil rights award from the Pennsylvania State Education Association. Amazingly, my story and trial made national news. I was able to write a book chronicling the trial and aftermath entitled: "Defrocked" (to come out in the summer). There is even a documentary film and a theater play in the works. When Barbara Walters on "The View'' asked me what it was like to have three of my own children who are gay, I said I believe God wanted me to be a messenger and an advocate for their lives and their rights.
My defrocking seems to have galvanized the progressive movement in the United Methodist Church, a movement that is gaining momentum and can't be stopped. Methodists will meet in 2016 in Oregon for a very important General Conference. There, the discriminatory language in our doctrine and laws has to be changed or else our denomination could be faced with a split.
I'm looking forward to coming to Schenectady next week to share my story and message at the Carl Lecture series.
 Rob Brill
Carl Lecture series
What: Frank Schaefer will preach at the 10 a.m. worship service and lecture at 3 p.m. "Perfect Love Casts Out All Fear" is the title of his talk, which will be followed by a Q&A. The public is welcome at both events.
When: Sunday, June 29
Where: First United Methodist Church, 603 State St., Schenectady
Contact: Call the church at 374-4403

Featured Posts

The Food Delivery/Ride Companies Wont Allow Drivers to be Employees But California is Changing That

                               Hamilton Nolan Senior Writer. After a monumental...