Post submitted by Sharon Groves, HRC Director, Religion and Faith Program

When Tim Schaefer and his partner decided to marry, Schaefer weighed the pros and cons of asking his father, a Methodist pastor, to officiate at his wedding.

Many United Methodists for some time have been wrestling with what they know in their heart to be true--that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are as loved by God as anyone else--and their desire to be faithful to the United Methodist denomination even though its policies clearly discriminate against LGBT people.

"I remember thinking I have two choices: I can ask my dad and know I am putting him in a position ... where he would risk his career, or I could not ask my dad and really risk hurting his feelings. I think he would have been devastated if I hadn't asked him," Schaefer told the Associated Press.

His father, Rev. Frank Schaefer, decided to do the wedding in 2007 as his son knew he would want to do.  "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." 

But now, Rev. Frank Schaefer, pastor of Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in South Lebanon Township, Pa., is on trial for officiating that wedding in Massachusetts. 

The trial begins today.

Schaefer could have avoided the trial by promising to never officiate in another same-sex wedding, but he declined to do so, in part because three of his four children are LGBT.

"I do worry about losing my credentials but I'm willing to lose them for an act of love," he said.

Schaefer is one of a growing list of United Methodist bishops, clergy, and laity that refuse the draconian choice presented to them to:  either give up on their denomination or to compromise their convictions, their belief and their spiritual integrity by going along with a discriminatory policy that declares LGBT Methodists second-class citizens.   As we reported this past Friday nearly 50 United Methodist clergy gathered in Philadelphia to perform the wedding of Bill Gatewood and Rich Warren and before that retired Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, who may also face a trial for officiating the wedding of Joe Openshaw and Bobby Prince in Birmingham, Alabama.  These are only the stories that have made the headlines recently.  

Throughout the country, brave Methodists are reclaiming their faith and are supported in their efforts by the great work of Reconciling Ministries Network and by people of faith from all denominations.  We at HRC stand in solidarity with Rev. Frank Schaefer as he faces this trial and know that in his actions he is helping the United Methodist Church find its soul again. 

Filed under: Religion & Faith

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