Bishop Johnson pledges to avoid church trials

BishopPeggyJohnson_sqBishop Peggy Johnson of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference has pledged in a statement to avoid conducting church trials as much as possible. Johnson released her statement on December 17 as a response to the statement from the Rev. Frank Schaefer issued at a press conference at the Arch Street UMC in Philadelphia, Penn. the day before. Schaefer, a clergy member of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference,  was found guilty in November of violating United Methodist Church law by conducting the wedding of his son, Tim, to another man in 2006.

Schaefer’s said in his statement that he that would continue holding same-gender weddings in violation of the court-ordered remediation they offered.

According to published reports, Schaefer appeared with more than 40 other Methodist ministers last Monday who said they would call on Bishop Johnson to stop the prosecution of clergymen on same-sex issues. “We need you to boldly lead us as our bishop in our advocacy of all LGBT members in the church,” the group said in a letter.

In her statement, Bishop Johnson acknowledges that there is pain and hurt on both sides of the issue, and that she is called, as bishop, to be in ministry with all people regardless of their theological position.

“Church trials around the chargeable offenses that relate to the LGTB community are not helpful,” she wrote. “They use time, resources, and energy that could be better used for the ministry of the church. I will continue to try in every way, as far as it depends on me, to not have church trials.”

In an earlier interview with the United Methodist Reporter, Bishop Johnson stated that she did not yet know the exact cost of the Schaefer trial, but estimated it in the neighborhood of $50,000.

The bishop also noted that, in her opinion, some of the language in the Book of Discipline is discriminatory. She specifically mentioned wording around forbidding ordination of homosexual persons, forbidding the performing of same-gender marriages and considering the practice of homosexuality incompatible with Christian teaching.

“There appears to be contradictions between the many affirming statements (mentioned earlier) and these statements. This has led to confusion by many from the outside of the church wondering how we can talk out of two sides of our mouth,” she wrote.

Read Bishop Johnson’s full statement at

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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18 Comments on "Bishop Johnson pledges to avoid church trials"

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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Wes Andrews

The Bishop should turn in her credentials since she rejects the due process in the BOD.


What is not being reported is the effect the former Rev.  Frank Schaefer 
‘s action had on the decline of the church he led. Membership and monetary decline are never mentioned. What the Bishop ignores is the negative impact one man’s actions had on a congregation.
The Lebanon Daily News ran a piece about the decline of the  Iona United Methodist Church written by Jon Boger on 12/16/2013. The same sentiments and testimony of the church members were reported on other blogs and websites.
The Bishop’s only concern seems to be with the church trial.

Wes Andrews

BYW, no one, NO ONE wants church trials. Everyone who is supporting the pro-gay marriage/ordination agenda, knows they are rejecting their prior commitment to uphold the the beliefs and doctrine of the UMC and the process within the BOD. They should be honest and honorable and find a denomination that agrees with their rejection of the Scriptural definition of marriage and sexuality and go there rather than mistreat the UMC which has loved them, yet has remained steadfast with Scripture.


The AP reported Frank Schaefer has been defrocked.
Associated Press

Dave Hurst
My problem is less with what Bishop Johnson stated than how it was spun within this article. The headline is inaccurate. Bishop Johnson did not pledge to avoid church trials. Here is her exact wording from her statement: “I will continue to try in every way, as far as it depends on me, to not have church trials.” The lede is closer to being accurate (and contradicts the headline) but still references a “pledge” that Bishop Johnson did not make. The article largely ignores the extensive acknowledgements the Bishop requested of Rev. Schaefer (and by extension those pressing for LGBTQ… Read more »
Rev. Mike Childs
Bishop Johnson has broken her vow to uphold the Discipline and the Scripture. She is untrustworthy and just plain unworthy to be a bishop. We seem to have reached a tipping point. If renegade bishops like Johnson are allowed to defy church law, the UMC will not survive another year. Evangelicals cannot in good conscience remain in such a church. John Wesley said that there set cases in which it is one’s duty to separate because of conscience. John Wesley says that in such cases “The sin of separations with all the evils consequent upon it, would not lie upon… Read more »
John Lomperis

The article’s headline is quite the spin. She said she would “try” “insofar as it depends on” her, to not have church trials.
Yet with all of his narcisstic self-promotion, and holding the volume of press conferences and media appearances one would expect from someone running for office, the clear fact is that Mr. Schaefer insisted on having a trial, no matter how much it devastated his local congregation or hurt the wider UMC, and no matter how graciously Bishop Johnson tried to avoid it.


Michelle Boorstein, Published the original statements of Bishop Johnson as they appeared on her blog. December 17 2013 The Washington Post

“Tuesday afternoon Johnson, whose region includes some 900 churches, issued a statement saying she wished to stick with the wording in the initial statement. She then edited the blog so it matched her initial statement.”

Available to read online

Ernest Craig
I’ve been listening and reading many different view point on this whole LGBT argument and I just have one comment. As a Certified Lay Servant in the North Georgia Conference and Lay Leader at my home Church I feel I have a reasonability to uphold all of the Book of Discipline, not just the parts I think I should, or the parts I like. Unlike all Ordained Pastors, Elders, Bishop who have taken a vow to uphold then, I have not taken any vow but feel led to uphold all of then until they are changed. If I don’t agree… Read more »
Pastor Mike

Interesting perspective from a bishop: “in ministry to people of all theological perspectives.” Of course this is true, but bishops serve as the primary executive leadership of our denomination, and by the nature of their role, have the duty to stand firm for the theological parameters established by our denomination, even if that means she/he is unpopular with some groups.

Gary Bebop

I wonder if David Watson would still agree with Bishop Johnson? She seems to have turned the principle of conferencing on its head by speaking against the expressed will of the church, hence against our form of governance. She rationalizes, but does she convince? I’d like to see David Watson follow up his earlier ode to Bishop Johnson.

Jay Jonson

I am glad that Bishop Johnson has issued this statement. However, she should not have permitted the kangaroo court in the first place.

Rev. James T. Smith
Excuse me Mr. Jonson. The TRIAL was not even necessary. The Church wishes to afford the guilty every opportunity to repent and find forgiveness. Our LAW is self supporting. Certain things you can do if you want to lose your credentials. You are NOT innocent until proven guilty. You are guilty the MINUTE you disregard our law. Plus, we make a vow to uphold that law and be led by it. No option to disagree is afforded. The penalty is also pre-fixed. Like the umpire court : YOU’RE OUT! You decide that, not a court. If you have no regard… Read more »
Craig Cockrell

“…we have no regard for for you.” At what point do we cross THIS line?

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