Judicial Council hearing for the Rev. Frank Schaefer

Pastor_Frank_Schaefer1MEMPHIS, Tn.:  The Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church will conduct an Oral Hearing in the case of the Rev. Frank Schaefer on October 22, 2014, at the Doubletree Hotel at 185 Union Avenue in downtown Memphis, Tenn.  The hearing will begin at 11:00 a.m.

The Judicial Council is the highest judicial body or “court” of The United Methodist Church. The Judicial Council determines whether the actions of the denomination’s official bodies conform to church law, either on appeal of lower rulings or through requests for declaratory decisions. The nine-member council is elected by the General Conference, the denomination’s legislative body. Decisions of the Judicial Council are final.

The Rev. Christopher Fisher, who served as counsel for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference in a church trial against Schaefer in November 2013, appealed the decision of the Northeastern Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals to overturn the trial court decision and reinstate Schaefer’s ministerial credentials at a hearing in June 2014.

Schaefer, former pastor of Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in Lebanon, Pa., was charged under United Methodist church law for having officiated at the same-sex marriage of his son in 2007. A trial court made up of 13 ordained United Methodist clergy from the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference found Rev. Schaefer guilty of the charge of conducting a ceremony that celebrates homosexual unions and a majority also found Rev. Schaefer guilty of disobedience to the order and the Discipline of The United Methodist Church. The trial court ordered a 30-day suspension for Rev. Schaefer and provided that he surrender his credentials at the end of that period if he determined that he could not uphold the Discipline in its entirety.

On December 19, 2013, Rev. Schaefer met with the Eastern Pennsylvania Board of Ordained Ministry, at which time he was stripped of his ministerial credentials. Schaefer appealed that decision to the Northeastern Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals, which found the penalty fashioned by the trial court to be unlawful.

The Judicial Council ‘s Oral Hearing will be open to the public; however, the committee’s deliberations following the hearing will be closed.  Individual Judicial Council members will not be available for interviews and will not issue statements.  A decision is not expected to be announced until several days after the full meeting concludes on October 25.

Media guidelines for the hearing are as follows:

1.  Media seating will be provided to credentialed news media (subject to available space). Credentials for news media personnel will be issued onsite on the day of the hearing beginning at 9:30 a.m. To be accredited, individuals must represent a recognized news organization such as a newspaper, wire service, television or radio station, magazine or ongoing newsletter, or must serve as a communicator for a United Methodist agency, annual conference, or other church entity.

2.  Because of the short duration of the hearing, there will not be a press room with facilities for reporters.  News media should provide contact information in order to receive follow-up communication about a final decision.  This information will also be posted at UMCpresscenter.org.

3.  No live broadcasts of the proceedings, either video or audio, are permitted. Accredited still and video press photographers may shoot during the hearing as long as the line of sight for members of the Judicial Council or the persons who will be addressing the Judicial Council at a lectern is not interrupted. Otherwise, the taking of photos or video is prohibited during the hearing itself.

4. Observers/media may not post to social media or text during the hearing. Laptops, cell phones and pagers must be turned off during the proceedings. Violators of this policy will be instructed to leave.

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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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Frank BaileyChaz MartelMichael GuertinWes AndrewsAleene Jones Recent comment authors
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Frank Bailey

The Book of Discipline has many conflicts between parts of its own pages (like the Bible?). Which part has the most importance? Those who believe the UMC should not discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community (ie Reconciling Congregations) believe pastors willing to support those who belong to their church over a “part” of the Discipline that discriminates has higher value. Let God do the judging and wait for your own judgement day.

Chaz Martel

It never ceases to amaze me how many people like to quotes scripture out of context to prove a particular point. If you think that God is immutable and stagnant, I suggest you read the text {The Evolution of God} by Robert Wright to see how the bible itself demonstrates a God who is progressive over time. If God were immutable then why would Moses have needed to give Him advice while he was receiving the ten commandments? On the notions of Levitican and Deteronomical law(i.e Leviticus 25:44,Deuteronomy 21:18-21:21) development of law (as written by Paul and the authors of… Read more »

Michael Guertin

I am glad to see 3 out of 4 Methodists still believe that God’s word has more authority than human desire.

Elaine T.
Elaine T.

Here we go again! Did he disobey the Discipline? Yes = guilty. The vows a pastor takes remind me of the vows a couple take in marriage. One spouse says that they no longer love their spouse. Have they broken their marriage vows? What do you do then? Well, the best choice is to repent, ask forgiveness and recommit. Another alternative since they cannot keep their vows is to dissolve the marriage in divorce. There are other vows that are not kept and result in divorce when one or both spouses no longer believe in the vows they took. I… Read more »

Aleene Jones

All United Methodist should read:
Leviticus Chapter 18 Verse 22
Leviticus Chapter 20 Verse 13
Romans Chapter 1 Verses 26 & 27
God/Jesus does not change, Same sex marriage is an abomination to God in the old testament and in the new testament.
I will lift my membership of the United Methodist Church, if they try to change God’s Law that is against same sex marriage.
For lowly man to believe he is more powerful then God to go against and change God’s written word to please the secular population is a sinful.

Ed Hoffman

WELL, first Frank was not ordained, thus he was what we might call “pre-frocked.”
Then someone ordained him, and he was frocked.
This was followed by complaints, charges & a trial and he was de-frocked.
Then some got together and he was re-frocked.
Now some want to re-de-frock this fellow.
Am I alone in seeing this is a rather foolish exercise in Ecclesiastical legalities ?

Wes Andrews
Wes Andrews

Very humorous description, Ed. Unfortunately, Schaefer is unwilling to be a United Methodist under the terms that make pastors United Methodist clergy. He rejects the BOD and has stated that he has no intention of upholding the doctrine and discipline of the UMC. His conference and its leaders are unwilling to be honest and tell him to go find a denomination or individual church that agrees with his rejection of the authority of Scripture.

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