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United Methodist 'Supreme Court' Re-Instates Renegade Pastor
…the future of our denomination belongs to an increasingly global, biblically faithful majority whose ministries offer far greater hope to ALL people...." -- UMAction Director John Lomperis
Contact: John Lomperis, Institute on Religion and Democracy, 872-230-2149
WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ -- The United Methodist Church's "supreme court," its Judicial Council, has just affirmed the re-instatement of Frank Schaefer, an Eastern Pennsylvania pastor who was defrocked in a church trial last year for performing a same-sex union service.
This highly technical decision hinged on obscure details of church law and the precise semantics of how Schaefer's penalty was worded. It indicates that Schaefer could have been defrocked if only the penalty's exact wording "had been differently constructed."
IRD's United Methodist Action Director John Lomperis commented:
"It is disappointing to see Schaefer escape accountability, based on the Judicial Council's uncritical acceptance of some very flawed arguments of his legal team. This will certainly undermine trust in the Council as well as in our bishops, who nominated most of its members.
"This episode follows a long pattern of conservative United Methodists bending over backwards to be gracious to church-killing radicals, while the latter cynically abuse the grace they are offered to selfishly hurt the church. Now the Judicial Council's effective message for future trial courts is: to hold out-of-control clergy accountable, you should be as punitive as possible, not creatively offering them a second chance, as Schaefer's penalty did. And avoid delegating implementation of the penalty to another body.
"But this single case does NOT change our denomination's basic standards. The United Methodist Church still officially affirms God's compassionate, biblical boundaries for sexual self-control and makes our clergy liable for punishment if they personally violate them or bless same-sex unions. This ruling does not protect United Methodist clergy put on trial in the future for blessing same-sex unions, but may help make effective punishment more likely.
"Schaefer has moved to a dying, radicalized California region of the church. He pursued a cynical, any-means-necessary strategy, even to the point of blatant dishonesty, to selfishly impose as much damage on the church as possible, after already devastating his former congregation. Today, his supporters will celebrate their "victory" over accountability, Scripture, and the growing majority of other United Methodists. But the future of our denomination belongs to an increasingly global, biblically faithful majority whose ministries offer far greater hope to ALL people, including same-sex-attracted individuals, than the divisive tactics, public grandstanding, and secularized worldview of a vocally disruptive minority."