Bishop Schol addresses Schaefer case, clergy trials

By United Methodist News Service

Bishop John Schol issued a video statement Dec. 20 in response to the defrocking of Frank Schaefer and called for The United Methodist Church to stop using clergy trials as a way to resolve differences in the church.

Schaefer lost his clergy credentials Dec. 19 after being found guilty in a November church trial of violating The United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline by performing the same-gender wedding of his son in 2007.

Schol, in an emotional statement, recounted Schaefer’s journey and turmoil around the needs of his son and the position of the church.

“This issue is so important to the present and future of our church and meaningful to me personally, that I needed to use my voice to share with you my message,” Schol said in a brief message with the video. Schol leads the church’s Greater New Jersey Area.

In the video, speaking directly to gays and lesbians, Schol said, “I want you to know that you are children of God, of sacred worth. And there are many people in the United Methodist Church who care about you, who love you deeply and who are very sad about what is happening in our church right now.”

Schol expressed his own love of The United Methodist Church, which has brought him into relationship Jesus Christ and nurtured and loved him.

“I do not agree with how our church has been handling these matters,” he said. Clergy trials are not helpful, “and I would like to see trials within The United Methodist Church stopped.”

Schol promised that he will “be a bishop of the whole church,” honor all views within the church, and do everything he can to prevent clergy trials. He said he wants to be part of a church that helps people come together, and in the midst of differences, find a way forward.

Schol’s statement came the same day that Bishop Minerva Carcaño extended an invitation for Schaefer to join in ministry in the California-Pacific Conference, which she oversees.

The denomination’s Book of Discipline forbids United Methodist clergy from performing same-gender weddings, and it forbids such services from being performed in United Methodist sanctuaries. The denomination officially states that the practice of homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching” and that marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman. However, the church also affirms that all people are of sacred worth, that all are in need of the ministry of the church and that God’s grace is available to all. It implores congregations and families not to reject gay and lesbian members and friends.



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  1. Catherine Thiemann

    Dear Bishop Schol,
    Thank you for this heartfelt message. I applaud your courage in standing up for your colleague, but I take issue with your central point: “I do not believe that trials are helpful to our church.”
    As a survivor of clergy sexual misconduct, I urge you to reconsider these words. When ministers are harming the people in their care, a church trial — and a transparent disclosure to the church — may be necessary. When ministers offend sexually, a “quiet and reasonable” resolution simply puts more vulnerable people at risk. Even if the offending minister loses his or her credentials, in the absence of a trial or public notice, the offender is free to seek a new hunting ground.
    If one of your ministers takes sexual advantage of a vulnerable person in his or her care, please do not seek a quiet resolution! The church has a right to know the track record of its ministers, past, present, and future. More important, the victim has a right to justice. Without a public disclosure, the congregation will embrace the minister and blame the victim. This can be even more traumatic than the abuse itself, and it can expose the church to greater risk of litigation and loss.
    You strive to follow Jesus in your compassion for the vulnerable. Victims of clergy sexual misconduct are among the most vulnerable people in your church even before they become victims, and even more so after. Please stand up for us! When you know of sexually abusive ministers, please protect us by revealing their offenses to the church. Church trials can be one of the most important paths to healing for victims of clergy sexual misconduct. Please don’t deny us this path.
    In Christ,
    Catherine Thiemann

  2. WAD

    Bishop Schol will want to take this up with Jesus some day — and convince Jesus that his definition was wrong, as recorded at Matthew 19:4-6.

  3. Dave

    Bishop Schol well said in outpouring Love and respect to all. I understand that you think that church trials cast a negative/divisive view of our church. I wonder if some would feel that way had the Reverend be exonerated? What I did not hear was your recommendation of how to handle those that willfully break their vows absent of a due process trial system? Remember next time it may not be a same-sex issue that brings a pastor’s conduct into question.

  4. Richard Kenville

    Manmade laws can be changed but, God’s law cannot be changed to suit your own needs. Read Romans 1 it is very explicit on Gay / Lesbian conduct. I welcome all at church but I don’t have to accept or condon this practice. I will love all people and welcome them and will pray that they will see and repent for their sinful ways. I will also pray for the church that they are willing to compromise the moral teachings of the bible.

  5. Sarah Yates

    John Schaeffer, thank you. I”m sorry of the struggles you have had in your church. God has placed you there for a reason. To me, a lot has to do with tolerance and acceptance. It’s not about changing peoples minds. That’s why my brother says. He is a wise man. Luke 10:27 says He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. That’s acceptance and tolerance, and more importantly love :-)

    Terry you are right….it should have said all people. My intention was to say all people, not all christians. That’s what I get for rushing so thanks for calling me on it.

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