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Pennsylvania pastor invited to join Cal-Pac conference

By United Methodist News Service

Frank Schaefer, who was asked Dec. 19 to surrender his ministerial credentials to the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference, has been invited to join the California-Pacific Annual Conference.

Rev. Frank Schaefer responds to reporter's questions in press conference after his two-day church trial. A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.

Rev. Frank Schaefer responds to reporter’s questions in a news conference after his two-day church trial. A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.

Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, who leads the Cal-Pac Conference, said in a statement Dec. 20 that with the support of Bishop Peggy Johnson of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference:

” I invited the Rev. Frank Schaefer to come and join us in ministry in the California-Pacific Conference. At this moment Rev. Schaefer and I have agreed that he will enter into a time of prayer and discernment with his wife Brigitte and their family about whether God is calling him to life and ministry in our conference.”

Schaefer was ordered to surrender his credentials on Dec. 19 by the board of ordained ministry in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, after being found guilty in a Nov. 18-19 clergy trial of violating the denomination’s rules against performing same-gender weddings. Schaefer had performed a same-gender wedding for his son in 2007, and the complaint was filed against him by a church member this year.

The United Methodist 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.

In her statement, Carcaño drew a parallel between the church’s current struggle over homosexuality and its struggle five decades ago around civil rights and integration. She noted that at the California-Pacific annual gathering last June, the conference had “celebrated the visionary leadership of Bishop Gerald Kennedy,” who invited eight pastors from Mississippi to come to the church’s Western Jurisdiction in 1963 after the pastors “had been condemned and ostracized by Methodists and others for standing against racial discrimination.”

“I want you to know that on this day, following in the footsteps of Bishop Kennedy and with the support of his bishop, Bishop Peggy Johnson, I invited the Rev. Frank Schaefer to come and join us in ministry in the California-Pacific Conference,” Carcaño said.

She noted that only a board of ordained ministry and the conference’s clergy can determine whether someone should be credentialed for ministry and that she doesn’t have the authority to reinstate Schaefer’s credentials. “What I can do, however, is invite and welcome others to love and serve Christ Jesus among us, accompany those who choose to be faithful, and exhort us all to be biblically obedient. This I will do for as long as God gives me breath.”

The bishop described the Book of Discipline as “an imperfect book of human law that violates the very spirit of Jesus the Christ who taught us through word and deed that all God’s children are of sacred worth and welcomed into the embrace of God’s grace.”

She said it is time for United Methodists to “stand on the side of Jesus” and declare that the church is wrong in its position on homosexuality. “Frank Schaefer chose to stand with Jesus as he extended love and care to his gay son and his partner. We should stand with him and others who show such courage and faithfulness.”

Carcaño’s invitation came as Schaefer’s case drew heavy news coverage. The same day, Bishop John Schol of the Greater New Jersey Area issued a video statement in which he spoke about Schaefer’s journey, expressed affirmation to gays and lesbians as “children of God, of sacred worth,” and called for the church to stop using clergy trials in handling these situations.

Carcaño’s full statement follows:

Bishop Carcaño’s Invitation to Rev. Frank Schaefer

Brothers and Sisters,

At our annual conference session earlier this year we celebrated the visionary leadership of Bishop Gerald Kennedy who in 1963 invited to come to the West 8 Methodist pastors from Mississippi who had been condemned and ostracized by Methodists and others for standing against racial discrimination.

Among the 8 who came from Mississippi to become a part of the ministry in what is now the California-Pacific Conference were the Rev. Inman Moore and the Rev. Ed McRae. We rejoiced when these two surviving pastors stood among us this past June and shared with us a word of deep witness of what it meant to be supported and welcomed.

I want you to know that on this day following in the footsteps of Bishop Kennedy and with the support of his bishop, Bishop Peggy Johnson, I invited the Rev. Frank Schaefer to come and join us in ministry in the California-Pacific Conference. At this moment Rev. Schaefer and I have agreed that he will enter into a time of prayer and discernment with his wife Brigitte and their family about whether God is calling him to life and ministry in our conference.

“While I recognize that our brother Frank has been defrocked by those in authority in his conference, I believe that those who have acted in such a way have done so in obedience to the Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, an imperfect book of human law that violates the very spirit of Jesus the Christ who taught us through word and deed that all God’s children are of sacred worth and welcomed into the embrace of God’s grace. I believe that the time has come for we United Methodists to stand on the side of Jesus and declare in every good way that the United Methodist Church is wrong in its position on homosexuality, wrong in its exclusion of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and wrong in its incessant demand to determine through political processes who can be fully members of the body of Christ. Frank Schaefer chose to stand with Jesus as he extended love and care to his gay son and his partner. We should stand with him and others who show such courage and faithfulness.

United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño addresses the Western Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church during its July 2012 meeting in San Diego. Carcaño ruled during a June 2013 meeting of the California-Pacific Annual (regional) Conference that the Statement of Biblical Obedience passed in 2012 did not violate the legal authority of the denomination?s Book of Discipline. A UMNS file photo courtesy of the Pacific Northwest Conference Communications Team.

United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño addresses the Western Jurisdictional Conference of the United Methodist Church during its July 2012 meeting in San Diego. A UMNS file photo courtesy of the Pacific Northwest Conference Communications Team.

“At our 2013 annual conference session you the lay and clergy members of the California-Pacific Conference determined that you would be biblically obedient, excluding no one from our care or ministry, and committing to work to eliminate any barriers that would prohibit anyone from being included in our covenantal life together or our witness to Christ Jesus. You declared that you were acting out of the belief that God’s grace and love are available to all persons. This decision of the conference was challenged. As the presiding officer I had the responsibility of issuing a ruling of law in response to the challenge. I ruled that the conference had the right to express the hope of many in The United Methodist Church that the day will come when inclusion and justice will be extended to all God’s people. I further ruled that the conference had the right to give witness to the belief that The United Methodist Church is in error when it states that homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. My ruling of law was upheld by the Judicial Council of our denomination. In inviting Frank Schaefer to come and join us in ministry and witness, I am choosing to stand with you and to lead us in being biblically obedient.

“I acknowledge that I do not have the authority to restore the ministerial credentials that Frank Schaefer has lost. Only a board of ordained ministry can recommend such a reinstatement of credentials, and only the ordained clergy of an annual conference can determine whether a person will be credentialed for ordained ministry. What I can do, however, is invite and welcome others to love and serve Christ Jesus among us, accompany those who choose to be faithful, and exhort us all to be biblically obedient. This I will do for as long as God gives me breath.”

Your Sister in Christ,

Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño