Good News responds to Schaefer reinstatement

GoodNews_sqGood News, an evangelical caucus of United Methodists who have advocated for a more traditionalist interpretation of scripture around human sexuality, have released a response to the reinstatement of the Rev. Frank Schaefer by the Northeastern Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals yesterday. “This ruling is unfortunate and will only add to the chaos engulfing The United Methodist Church,” said the Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of Good News, a movement that represents the views of many traditionalists in the denomination. “I believe this decision is a willful misreading of the original verdict which graciously extended every opportunity to Schaefer to avoid being defrocked.” Members of Good News have been involved in recent calls for schism in the United Methodist Church over differences regarding the place of homosexuals in the UMC, and the issue of same-sex marriage. Schaefer was reinstated to ministry after an earlier trial court found him guilty of presiding at the same-sex marriage ceremony of his son, a verdict which led to his defrocking. The Good News statement follows:

The Rev. Frank Schaefer had his ministerial credentials restored by a nine-member appeals panel of clergy and lay members from the North Eastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church. A member of the denominations’ Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference, Schaefer was defrocked last December for presiding at a same-sex union for his son in 2007. For more than 10 years the UM Church has considered presiding at a same-sex union a chargeable offense. United Methodism has been the lone historic and mainline denomination that has affirmed marriage between one man and one woman. At the past three General Conferences, delegates have overwhelmingly affirmed the church’s stance. Furthermore, the appellate court’s ruling in no way changes the church’s position. “This ruling is unfortunate and will only add to the chaos engulfing The United Methodist Church,” said the Rev. Rob Renfroe, president of Good News, a movement that represents the views of many traditionalists in the denomination. “I believe this decision is a willful misreading of the original verdict which graciously extended every opportunity to Schaefer to avoid being defrocked.” The UM Church’s Book of Discipline clearly states that its clergy are not to preside at same-sex unions or weddings. Schaefer never denied he had conducted such a service for his son, Tim, and another man in 2007. Given such a clear-cut case, a jury of his peers found him guilty of violating the church’s ministerial standards. Given Schaefer’s refusal during the trial to declare his intention to “uphold the Book of Discipline in its entirety,” the trial court decided to revoke his credentials. However, rather than immediately requiring him to surrender his credentials, the trial court gave him 30 days to reconsider his decision, suspending him during that time. After the 30 days suspension, Schaefer not only refused to reaffirm his intention to uphold the Discipline, he also refused to surrender his credentials. The conference board of ordained ministry therefore revoked Schaefer’s credentials because he had broken his vow to abide by the church’s teachings and rebuffed several opportunities to bring his ministry back into conformity with the teachings of the church. According to the appellate court, the fatal flaw in the jury’s original decision was to give Schaefer 30 days to reconsider whether he would uphold the Discipline by not conducting same-sex services in the future. The appellate court maintained a clergy member could not be penalized “predicated on a ‘future possibility, which may or may not occur.’” Counsel for the church, the Rev. Dr. Christopher Fisher, argued that the 30-day suspension was simply a grace period for Schaefer to bring his ministry in sync with church teaching. “This decision substitutes ideology for common sense and nullifies the prayerful and gracious spirit of the trial court,” said the Rev. Tom Lambrecht, vice president of Good News. Lambrecht, who worked on this case as advocate for the man who filed the original complaint, added, “This appellate decision is the kind of action by our church hierarchy that breeds cynicism among rank-and-file United Methodists. Here is a pastor who clearly violated the Discipline, was graciously offered a second chance, flatly rejected it, but is now reinstated despite his obstinacy. It’s a sad day for the church.” The debate over homosexuality has roiled the UM Church for decades, but the dispute has heightened significantly in the past couple of years. Many progressives in the church have adopted a strategy of “ecclesiastical disobedience” by conducting same-sex weddings. Dozens of clergy across the country have conducted such services. • In a widely publicized case, the Rev. Dr. Thomas Ogletree, former dean of Yale Divinity School, presided at a service for his son in 2012. A complaint was filed against him, but Bishop Martin McClee of the New York Episcopal Area halted the case before it came to trial. • Last October, retired Bishop Melvin Talbert led a service for two men in Birmingham, Alabama. A complaint was filed, but to date there is no word on whether the bishop will receive any discipline. • In November 2013, as many as 50 UM pastors jointly officiated at a same sex union in Philadelphia; again, no notice has been given whether any of the clergy will face church discipline. “The Schaefer decision will only add more fuel to the fire,” said the Rev. Keith Boyette, chairman of Good News’ board of directors. “There has been a great deal of conversation this spring about how the church can stay together if there is no organizational accountability for pastors who clearly forsake their vows and violate the church’s teachings. This verdict is not helpful.” In a statement released shortly after the decision, Bishop Peggy A. Johnson of the Philadelphia Episcopal Area said, “I intend to abide by the committee’s decision and return [Schaefer] to active service as an ordained clergy member of the [Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference] and our denomination.” As the counsel for the church in this case, it is Fisher’s decision whether to appeal the ruling to the church’s highest court, the Judicial Council. He has yet to make a public statement.

UMReporter Staff

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22 Comments on "Good News responds to Schaefer reinstatement"

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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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james
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It is time to move on. The dialogue here in the reporter is not going to change the direction of the umc. There are too many liberal/progressives in leadership positions for change–except change in the direction the libs/progs want. Middle to right members of the umc will find their home in a new denomination or in the Wesleyan Church, the Nazarene Church or the Assembly of God Church. Those folks will be better off–even if the lib/progs wind up with all the property…….. That, after all, is what they are aiming for–as opposed to spreading the Good News of a… Read more »
Emily Barber
Guest

Open hearts? Open minds? Open doors?

Mark
Guest

Open Bibles?

Rev. Thomas L. Shanklin
Guest

I recently worshiped at a VERY VERY VERY conservative UMC where the pastor announced, WE WILL HAVE NO DISSENSION HERE. EVERYONE IS WELCOME NO MATTER WHAT OR WHO THEY ARE. God’s love is preached and people of all persuasions worship together. Perhaps someday …

Mer Webb
Guest

Wonderful

Keith A. Jenkins, Ph.D.
Guest
Keith A. Jenkins, Ph.D.
Rob Renfroe and I are members of the same annual conference (Texas), so I consider him a brother in Christ with whom I am in covenant through the connection, but we disagree on this issue and have had spirited verbal battles over it in the past. Perhaps not surprisingly, I take issue with his comments on the Schaefer reinstatement, and I want to ask all my fellow UM’s, on both sides of this issue, to consider how their use of inflated rhetoric is exacerbating the situation. Renfroe says he fears the ruling will only add to “the chaos engulfing The… Read more »
Paul W.
Guest

Mr. Jenkins, you do realize, I hope, that EVERYTHING you’ve written in your second paragraph is both non-Wesleyan and non-Christian theology? God unable to defeat and now trapped in a struggle with Chaos? Chaos as a “special theological term laden with cosmic meaning”? Really? And you are a UMC pastor?

This is the key problem in our denomination. Many of us don’t believe that those who espouse non-Christian theology (or those who are simply confused about what Christian theology even is) should be preaching in our churches (even if they hold a doctorate).

dave werner
Guest

Paul W — You might be interested in the brief article on “chaos” in THE NEW INTERPRETER’S DICTIONARY OF THE BIBLE. Your pastor (or you, if you are a pastor) may have this reference.

Paul W.
Guest
dave, I am quite familiar with chaos-creation theology although I do not have access to the reference you provided. I stand by my statement that the view espoused by Mr. Jenkins is both non-Wesleyan and non-Christian. The theory that Mr. Jenkins espouses hinges on a few verses from the Psalms interpreted through the belief that the Biblical writers borrowed freely from pagan mythologies of the surrounding cultures assimilating these sources into the Hebrew scriptures. Interpreting scripture through the distorted lens of pagan (Greek, Babylonian, Canaanite, etc.) mythology is not a Christian approach; pagan mythology, not scripture, is where Mr. Jenkins’… Read more »
dave werner
Guest
Paul W, i’m not sure you’re adequately representing Dr. Jenkins’ comments, but they seem to me to ring pretty true. i’m quite sure your characterization of his comments as “non-Wesleyan and non-Christian” is untenable. One reason i think that has to do with the very brief article on “chaos” in the NIDB. That five volume work–and companion works–is under the name of Abingdon Press, and the suggestion that Abingdon would publish and promote something “non-Wesleyan and non-Christian” is absurd. BTW Cokesbury will sell you the full set currently at something like $80. The set is a standard resource for pastors.… Read more »
Wes Andrews
Guest
Keith A. Jenkins, Ph.D., I think chaos is pretty accurate. A very small minority of clergy and a significant number of Bishops, and a majority of Seminary/University Professors and agency employees are breaking covenant, dishonoring decades of General Conference decisions, disregarding the doctrine and the discipline of the church regarding this issue and others. This chaos is decades in the making. Decades of our seminaries and universities erroneously teaching students that the Bible is redacted beyond any reasonable understanding of what the original writings could have stated. Decades of agencies “speaking for the denomination” when only GC speaks for the… Read more »
Mark
Guest
Let’s say the BOD was eventually changed to endorse marriage redefinition. Let’s say that a pastor who initially agreed with this new BOD “evolved” to a new revelation: maybe the last several thousand years of marriage being an opposite-sex institution is the way to go. Maybe what we thought the Bible said all this time is what it really does say. Maybe that pastor has a crisis of conscience, perhaps brought about by the Holy Spirit, and he refused to conduct a same-sex “marriage.” How would the liberals view that? I think we know. They would set their hair on… Read more »
Mark
Guest
If you view Renfroe’s rhetoric as “unrestrained” then I’d like to know what you view as “restrained.” Most of the inflammatory rhetoric—“hatemonger,” “homophobe,” “bigot,” “neanderthal,” etc.—have come from the liberal end of this debate. Compared to that Renfroe has been a perfect gentleman. In fact, in reading most of his material, I think he has demonstrated uncommon civility. I don’t know whether “chaos” is the perfect descriptor, but when you have leaders who militantly break vows they make to God and the church there is no doubt they are inviting widespread dysfunction. Once confidence in leadership is gone then the… Read more »
Deen Thompson
Guest
“Members of Good News have been involved in recent calls for schism in the United Methodist Church over differences regarding the place of homosexuals in the UMC, and the issue of same-sex marriage.” Not just “recent”, but for years Good News has worked for schism in the UMC. What has kept them in the UMC? Mainly the knowledge that they cannot take any of the property that belongs to the UMC with them has kept them in the UMC. They have created their own publishing house, mission sending organization, and support of Asbury Seminary. It is sad when we cannot… Read more »
Gary Bebop
Guest

The claim that “for years Good News has worked for schism in the UMC” is bilious nonsense, a brazen parody of fact. Good News has worked patiently for RENEWAL and REFORM (not for schism, but to prevent it). Good News has never hidden its light and sat quietly by as the church lost its way (if that’s what you want), but has courageously proclaimed scriptural holiness while under fire from countless harridans and scoffers. Don’t join the party of the smear.

Thomas Coates
Guest

Clergy vow to uphold the discipline of the church, not the Book of Discipline– a significant distinction, I don’t know of a single pastor or local church that upholds the letter of the law regarding the Book of Discipline, nor of anyone who can, due to its contradictions and inapplicability in certain geographic regions.
Remember, socially progressive UMs claim conservatives violate their baptismal/membership vows by not ministering to LGBTQ people equally– both sides accuse the other, and the UMC is no better for it.

Thomas Townsend
Guest

I disagree that the opinions of Good News merit the reporting by UMC Reporter or other media outlets, especially when no news articles of the opinions of other groups are published.

Dr. James Ballard
Guest

Thomas, I do minister to lesbian and gay persons all the time. Haven’t met the BTQ person yet. But I have friends who are gay and lesbian. I listen and try to comfort, pray with my friends. But these friends would never expect me to violate the scriptures for them. They expect me, as a UM pastor to teach the doctrines of the church and the scripture. And they have been very generous to projects the church does.

Wes Andrews
Guest

Thomas, you comment sounds a lot life, “it depends on what is, is”.

Wes Andrews
Guest

I wish we could edit:

Thomas, your comment sounds a lot like “it depends on what is, is”…

Linda
Guest

Methodist clergy vow to uphold BOTH the discipline of the church AND the Book of Discipline. Schaefer has upheld NEITHER. Truth NEVER changes! The decision to defrock should stand because he clearly stated he had NO INTENTION of UPHOLDING the rules. He is gleefully unrepentant and seems to enjoy making a mockery of the church with each passing day. Christians will NOT stand for allowing people to use the Holy Bible in an attempt to validate sins.

Mer Webb
Guest

Do you hear yourself? The hate in your words? I do and so does everyone who reads them. You are rigid, unloving and wrong. Rid yourself of your prejudicial hate and you will restore love and light to your dark and negative life.

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