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Bishop Peggy A. Johnson’s statement following the December 19, 2013, meeting between the Rev. Frank Schaefer and the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Board of Ordained Ministry.
On November 19, 2013, the Rev. Frank Schaefer, a United Methodist pastor, was found guilty by a trial court, a jury of fellow ordained clergy, of violating the church’s law against clergy performing same-sex wedding ceremonies and also of disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church. The penalty imposed by that jury was to suspend Rev. Schaefer from ministerial duties for 30 days. During those 30 days Rev. Schaefer was asked to discern and decide if his recently discovered calling to advocate on behalf of the LGBT community would prevent him from fully complying with church law in the future.
At the end of 30 days, Rev. Schaefer was to report his decision in writing and in person before the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. If he determined that he could not uphold the United Methodist Church’s Discipline in its entirety he would be required, by order of the court, to surrender his ordained ministry credentials to the Board immediately.
Rev. Schaefer met with the Board of Ordained Ministry today and declared that he is not willing or able to uphold the laws of the Book of Discipline in its entirety in the future as required by the trial court’s verdict. When asked to surrender his credentials as required by the verdict, he refused to do so. Therefore, because of his decision, the Board was compelled by the jury’s decision to deem his credentials surrendered. He no longer holds the ministerial office in the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference by virtue of his decision.
No doubt, this has been a long, difficult ordeal for Rev. Schaefer and his family and for many members of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference. I extend thanks again to all who worked faithfully to conduct the trial in a respectful, orderly and sensitive fashion and to the many people within and beyond our conference who have lifted prayers on behalf of the church as it struggles mightily with issues of doctrine, discipline, justice and mercy.
As one church of Jesus Christ we must commit ourselves to engage in ongoing prayer and reflection, sensitive, peaceful dialogue and diligent study, so that we can better understand the needs and concerns of LGBT members and their broader community and so that we can more effectively and lovingly minister to all people in the name of Christ. We also must strive to repent and forgive one another for the many hurts that have happened and are still happening as a result of this trial experience. And together we must now try to move forward guided, strengthened and united by God’s Holy Spirit. Amen.