Reverend Frank Schaefer says he’s been confronted with one question numerous times since his ordained ministry rights were revoked by United Methodist church officials last December for serving as the officiant at the 2007 wedding of his gay son.
“What defrock is going on in the United Methodist Church?”
Since his removal from the church, Schaefer says many members have been supportive of him, including members of the First United Methodist Church of Germantown, where he delivered a sermon in front of a full congregation on Sunday.
“I find that people are seriously upset with what happened with my trial, and especially the defrocking. I’ve been getting pretty strong reactions from people who are angry with the church’s decision,” Schaefer said.
Schafer was suspended and eventually defrocked after he refused to sign a statement vowing to never perform another same-sex marriage.
Church leaders viewed his decision to perform the wedding as contradictory to Christian teaching and a direct violation of the denomination’s Book of Discipline, which does not support same-sex marriages.
According to Schaefer, members of the Methodist church have begun using the “what defrock” phrase on everything from T-shirts to bumper stickers, to show solidarity with the former pastor.
He was welcomed to FUMCOG by its senior pastor Lorelei Toombs, who also hosted the former pastor’s press conferences during his trial.
FUMCOG is a historic church in Germantown that self identifies as an “inclusive and progressive Christian congregation.” In that, FUMCOG is part of a small number of reconciling United Methodist ministries — those that embrace people of all sexual orientations and gender identities — in the region.
Toombs says the number of reconciling ministries is growing.
“At this current juncture, in Eastern Pennsylvania, there are only seven churches that self-identify as reconciling churches, but the movement continues to grow. Though we only have seven named reconciling United Methodist churches, we have now an additional nine churches inquiring about reconciling,” she said.
While his appeal of the church’s decision is still pending, Schaefer said he’s been keeping his vow to be a voice for members of LGBT community by continuing to do ministry with any church that will welcome him.
“My calendar has been pretty full. For a defrocked minister, I have an awful lot of preaching to do.”
During his sermon, Schaefer unveiled the beginnings of a documentary that he is in the process of fundraising for. The film, entitled “An Act of Love,” follows Schaefer on his journey to reconcile family and faith by continuing to perform ministry at churches throughout the country.
An offering taken at the Sunday service will go towards Schaefer’s efforts and to the work of national and local chapters of the Reconciling Ministries Network.