Sunday, December 29, 2013

No Easy Choice -- Defrocked Methodist Minister Forced to Choose Career over his Family

(Rev. Schaefer and Son)
I'm having one of those afternoons where I can't think of much to write about except "Duck Dynasty" and I really don't want to write anything more "Duck Dynasty" this weekend! Instead, I was prompted to revisit the story of Rev. Frank Schaefer of Pennsylvania who was recently defrocked from the United Methodist Church after he got in trouble for officiating at his gay son's wedding six years ago (read here and here for background).

Two weeks ago when news broke that Rev. Schaefer was indeed defrocked, I made a simple comment following this article on the Religion News Service website:
How sad. Rev. Frank Schaefer was defrocked by the United Methodist Church (the church that I grew up in) because he officiated at the wedding of his oldest son. How terribly sad.
I ignored a response by this Frank guy who usually makes the rounds when these topics are brought up, but was intrigued by a guy named Duane Lamers who commented:
Mr. Trouten, it can be argued that Schaefer did not officiate at the wedding of his son because marriage is between a male and a female. Perhaps if he had devised some other recognition for this cohabitation, he might not have incurred suspension.
Which prompted an obvious response by me:
It could be argued that he didn’t officiate at his son’s wedding, but he actually did and that is why he was defrocked.
I understand what Mr. Lamers was trying to communicate -- that there was no actual wedding because marriage can only exist between a man and a woman (despite the fact that there are married gay couples throughout the world, as well as plural marriages throughout the world also). But obviously the wedding occurred or else he wouldn't have been convicted of disobeying the Methodist Book of Discipline for officiating at the wedding and he wouldn't haven't been defrocked as a result of that conviction!

But did you know that Methodist ministers aren't just prohibited from officiating at same-sex weddings? Apparently, Methodist ministers are banned from just attending gay weddings!

I was at a wedding last weekend -- an opposite-sex wedding. I don't want to get anyone in trouble for any misunderstanding!!. Later during the reception, I got to chatting with the Methodist minister who officiated at this particular wedding.

Somehow, the subject of my own wedding came up and he was a little surprised to learn that I had a church wedding. He was less surprised when he learned that I'm no longer a member of the United Methodist Church, but instead the United Church of Christ.

That led to a shift in the conversation about Rev. Schaefer getting defrocked. That's when I learned about the "no attending gay weddings" rule from this particular Methodist minister. We discussed how difficult it really was for Rev. Schaefer to promise to avoid future same-sex weddings given that most of his children are gay adults. "Really, there's no choice," the minister told me. "You choose your child."

Do you reject your child or do you stay away for your career? That is the painful divide between real life relationships versus rigid institutional dogma. It will be interesting to see which side wins out in the end.

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