My Facebook and Twitter news feed the past few days has been full of news of Frank Schaefer. He is a United Methodist Pastor who was brought up on Ecclesiastical charges for presiding at the same gender marriage of his son.
He’s been suspended for 30 days, which seems a legitimate response to violating his denomination’s laws from the Book of Discipline.
But he’s also been told he’ll lose his credentials as a pastor if he continues to minister in opposition to their rules.
To be clear, it is certainly the prerogative of the Methodist Church to make that decision. I suspect Rev Schaefer knew that was a possibility when he made the decision to preside at the marriage of his son.
But it reveals the fault line of the Methodist Church (and the PCUSA, for that matter) in clear relief. As Morgan Guyton wrote:
While I understand the rationale and practical limitations that necessitate this approach to justice, I do not think it does justice to justice.
I’ve seen a number of people post something along the lines of “fair warning, if my kid ends up in a same gender marriage, I will preside at that service no matter what the church has decided…”
And I get that. I do. And I agree completely.
What about other people’s children? What about people in same gender relationships whose parents aren’t progressive clergy willing to risk their ordination to stand with them? Who is supposed to preside at their weddings? How long do we expect them to wait?
This conversation reminds me that change happens at the level of the personal. When it is MY kid, I have a different level of investment in the outcome.
But today I’m thinking of everyone else’s children and wondering how we are standing up for them.
Because this story reminds us we are all God’s children. When we baptize people, whether infants or adults, we make promises to support them, to raise them in the faith, to teach and nurture them in their journey of discipleship.
Here is what the PCUSA Book of Order says about marriage:
Christian marriage should be celebrated in the place where the community gathers for worship. The marriage ordinarily takes place in a special service which focuses upon marriage as a gift of God and as an expression of the Christian life. (W-4.903)
While there are currently gendered definitions of marriage in the Book of Order, it can’t get around the fact that marriage is a gift of God, an expression of Christian life, and should take place where the community gathers to worship.
When gay and lesbian brothers and sisters are excluded from that aspect of the community of faith, how are we standing up for God’s children?
So, yes. I want justice to be available for the wonderful young men who are my children. But I’m even more committed to seeking that same justice for everyone else’s children too.