Schaefer Trial Update: Accuser and defendant have their say

SPRING CITY, Pa — The counsel for the church  and the defense have rested their respective cases in the trial of the Rev. Frank Schaefer, the United Methodist pastor charged with presiding at the same-sex wedding of his son. Although a number of possible witnesses had been listed this morning in the lead up to testimony, observers were surprised to see both the church counsel and the defense call only a single witness apiece.

Counsel for the church, the Rev. Christopher Fisher, called the complainant, Mr. Jon Boger of North Carolina, to the stand to testify about his charges against Schaefer. Boger informed the court that he was a long-time member of the Zion United Methodist Church in Iona, Pa. where Rev. Schaefer is appointed as the pastor. Boger said that he was unaware until recently that Schaefer had performed the wedding ceremony, which is why the charges were filed this year rather than when the service was held almost 7 years earlier.

Boger stated that he believed that Schaefer had been “living a lie” for the past six years by continuing the practice of ministry in spite of having disobeyed church law. “When pastors take the law into their own hands it undermines there credibility and the integrity of the church as a whole,” Boger said.

In response to a question from the church counsel, Boger said that he could no longer trust Schaefer as his pastor. “Now when I look at Rev. Schaefer,” Boger said, “I see a clerical collar shattered across it.”

Toward the end of his testimony, Rev. Fisher asked Boger about the timing of filing charges. Boger’s mother had been the long-time organist of the Zion UMC, and was asked to resign by Rev. Schaefer, leading to (according to Boger’s testimony) division in the church. Shortly after that event Boger filed his charges against Schaefer. When asked by Fisher if the complaint was simply a vendetta against Schaefer, Boger said no, that his complaint was about “integrity, honor, and trust.”

Boger expressed sympathy for Rev. Schaefer’s dilemma, stating that his role in the military helped him to understand what it feels like to be torn between family and duty, however since Rev. Schaefer seemed unapologetic about his actions and thus he was compelled to file his complaint.

The counsel for the church then rested his case and the defense was given the opportunity to make their case. Rev. Schaefer’s defense counsel, he Rev. Robert G. Coombe called Schaefer to take the stand.

Rev. Schaefer did not deny performing the ceremony. “I knew I was in violation of that part of my covenant,” Schaefer said, “I was ready to choose the love of my son over my career.”

Schaefer stated that he had told his District Superintendent about his decision to do the wedding, but until Boger came forward no complaints had been offered.

“I believe that Jesus admonished us to do everything by love,” Schaefer said. “My only motivation here was love.”

Schaefer drew on the biblical story of the Good Samaritan as part of his justification for disobeying the Book of Discipline. “When Tim asked me to do his wedding, I could not pass along the other side of the road like the Levite or Priest, Schaefer said.”

The defense then rested their case, and Presiding Judge Bishop Alfred W. Gwinn called for a 30 minute recess to allow both sides time to prepare their closing arguments.

Observers were surprised that only two witnesses were called in the trial. In interviews before the trial Rev. Schaefer had suggested that he would be calling experts on church law to make a case that the Book of Discipline was inconsistent in both calling pastors to be engaged in pastoral ministy with GLBTQ persons, and then limiting the types of care that can be offered. No reason has yet been given as to why those experts were not called to testify.

 

 

Erik Alsgaard, UMR Correspondent

Erik Alsgaard

UMR Correspondent The Rev. Erik Alsgaard is a member of the Detroit Conference, on loan to the Baltimore-Washington Conference, serving in the Ministry of Communications there as Editor of the UMConnection newspaper.

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12 Comments on "Schaefer Trial Update: Accuser and defendant have their say"

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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
 
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Jay
Guest

Truly disturbing that the UMC makes a mockery of its "open hearts, open minds, open doors" slogan. Well, it was just a commercial lie from the beginning. Thank God that people like Rev. Schaefer value love over unjust laws.

walt
Guest

It is a little disturbing and sad to read the comments that reflect the opinions of UMC members. UMC was my first church after my conversion to Christianity. My prayer is that folks would go back and read their Bible and serve God rather then man!

J. Stine
Guest

Boger's mother was the long time choir director, not organist. Check your facts.

Mike
Guest

How many of you would willingly choose church law over love for your child?

Eric
Guest

No matter why the man filed the charges, the pastor admitted his guilt – just as he had admitted it to his DS years earlier. The DS should have filed charges then – and should probably be reprimanded now for failure to act.

Eddie
Guest

Yeah, this accuser doesnt hv an agenda…his facebook pages has a link "semen healthy for women" as well as sporting a pistol in his car and praising his hunting prowess….interestingly, he has no posts related to religion or god, although he's a big fan of pat robertson..

Darla Miller
Guest
Mr. Boger said that he understood the problems of balancing duty and family– my question is this: Did Mr. Boger consider the balance of family over church/faith when he filed this complaint? Did he weigh the impact of this complaint on the UMC as a whole versus the notion of “integrity, honor, and trust" for his own faith? We have all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I'm not a member of the UMC, but isn't there some protocol in place to address this type of concern one on one? Not with the intent of hiding… Read more »
Chris
Guest

The Pharisees also insisted on following the letter of the law, with a complete disregard for the spirit of it. I applaud this man and pray his acquitted so he may continue his ministry.

Rick
Guest

Rev. Schaefer did not deny performing the ceremony. “I knew I was in violation of that part of my covenant,” Schaefer said, “I was ready to choose the love of my son over my career.”

Rev. Schaefer made his choice. He knew that his choices had consequences. He deliberately disobeyed his vows. It's time for him to go.

cgolller
Guest

When will the choice to perform heterosexual weddings where the bride and groom are already sleeping/living together have consequences? Shoot 9 out of 10 Methodist Churches rent out their sanctuaries for weddings where the only thing they know about the bride/groom is that there is a deposit on hand.

Pete Jones
Guest

Great response: one bad practice justifies another. Is that the best you can do?

Dorothy
Guest

After hearing Mr. Boger's self-serving testimony about honor and integrity, I checked his Facebook page to see what kind of honor and integrity he shows. Hearing he was a member of the US Military, I was shocked to find sexist links to articles demeaning to women, as well as disparaging propaganda regarding his Commander-In-Chief.

I am dismayed beyond measure that the UMC has seen fit to be used as a tool for this personal vendetta against a loving father.

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