On October 27, the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church basically told all members and clergy of the UMC who believe in scriptural purity, doctrinal integrity, and the polity of church Discipline to lump it!
Rev. Frank Schaefer willingly, knowingly, and enthusiastically broke covenant with the UMC by officiating at the gay “wedding” of his homosexual son. The penalty for breaking vows and covenant as well as church polity? Thirty days of paid suspension. In other words, Frank not only got to keep his credentials, he also got a month off with pay! If that isn’t essentially sticking it in the eye of the overwhelming majority of United Methodists who continue to oppose the legitimization of homosexuality in the denomination, I don’t know what it is.
Over the course of my 28 years of pastoral ministry I have been required (along with all the rest of the clergy) to attend workshops concerning what would happen if I ever flirted with a secretary or any member of the opposite sex in my role as a pastor. I was told how quick and severe the consequences would be if I ever viewed online pornography. But do you know what? I can’t remember ever being told not to officiate a homosexual wedding. It’s never been brought up at any required clergy meeting I can remember.
Oh sure, the issue of homosexuality has been bantered around by me and my peers at clergy meetings. But not once do I recall a person with ecclesial authority warning me of what dire consequences would await if I officiated a homosexual wedding. Now I know why. Because there weren’t going to be any! Stay away from pornography. Stay away from adultery. Stay away from inappropriate comments and gestures to members of the opposite sex. You will be punished for engaging in any of those activities. But not homosexuality.
The ruling by the Judicial Council simply affirms what was being subliminally conveyed throughout my ministry: the hierarchy of the United Methodist Church does not consider homosexuality to be sinful. Neither the engagement in the sexual act nor the official blessing of the union. You fellow Methodists out there can certainly refer me to the page and paragraph number in The Book of Discipline that states “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” (¶ 304.3) and “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our church” (¶ 341.6). But the Judicial Council just demonstrated that in the real world…those words are without weight, measure, or meaning.
And my experience bears this out. Don’t sin where it concerns a member of the opposite sex. Same sex sin? Never heard of it. To all of you faithful United Methodists out there striving to fulfill John Wesley’s vision “to reform the nation, particularly the church, and to spread scriptural holiness over the land”[i]…the Judicial Council has a message for you:
[i] “Minutes of Several Conversations” Q.3, in The Works of John Wesley [vol. 8ed. T. Jackson; Baker, 1978] 299.