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Pennsylvania Pastor Wrongly Suspended for Officiating Son's Marriage to Another Man

11/20/2013 08:28 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016
AP Photo/Chris Knight

A United Methodist minister from Pennsylvania has been suspended from the church for 30 days after marrying his gay son to another man. In addition, the Rev. Frank Schaefer was told that he will lose his credentials if he violates any church rules in that time period. But a defiant Schaefer remains unrepentant and refused to promise that he wouldn't perform more gay unions.

In studying mental toughness training for the last 28 years, I've discovered that every one of us has the capacity to be mentally tough. The problem is that most of us don't know how to access our toughness, and as a result, people who are operating from a weak state of mind are vulnerable to bullies and bigots. That's why critical thinking demands that the mentally tough stand up for the people who aren't strong enough to stand up for themselves. And that's what people like Rev. Schaefer are doing.

The Rev. Frank Schaefer is a hero, yet the church has decided to scold this man for doing the right thing -- the same thing that every other church leader in America and around the world should be doing: joining two people who love each other in matrimony regardless of sexual preference.

Rev. Schaefer said, "The church needs to stop judging people based on their sexual orientation and we have to stop the hate speech. We have to stop treating them as second-class Christians."

The nation's largest mainline Protestant denomination does accept gay and lesbian members, but it rejects the practice of homosexuality. Is this not akin to allowing blacks to attend school with whites but insisting that they drink from separate water fountains? I guess we can call it "partial bigotry."

The church is hailed as this great, loving community that welcomes "everybody" to celebrate God -- everybody except for gays and lesbians, apparently. What kind of loving community is that? Would Jesus really endorse this kind of behavior? It's time for the church to stop fighting the LGBT movement. It's never going to win. It's hard to blame people who lived during the Dark Ages for not applying their brain power or using their critical thinking skills, but in the 21st century it's just embarrassing.

Even Pope Francis has shown some acceptance of the LGBT movement quite recently. He said of gay people, "Who am I to judge?" And not long after that he said, "The church's pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even the moral edifice of the church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel."

Schaefer testified that his son had heard hateful messages from the church and the culture around him that told him that he isn't normal or valid and labeled him a freak. And that's the crux of the problem right there: Think of all the televangelists and other anti-gay leaders who have driven so many members of the LGBT community into therapy, swallowing anti-depressants and even committing suicide. Religious leaders claim that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, and that's why they are against gay marriage. This is another far-right fabrication. The real reason that they're against gay marriage is that it would make gay couples equal to straight couples and remove the stigma that has been cast upon homosexuality.

Critical thinking in the case of Rev. Frank Schaefer is simple. The man is a loving father who did the right thing by supporting his son -- and after all, a loving parent is the backbone of the Christian faith. Schaefer is also a leader to the gay community. And most importantly, he should be treated as a role model and a refreshing change for the Christian community around the world. Suspending Schaefer is ludicrous; if anything, he's entitled to a promotion.

If the United Methodist Church in southeastern Pennsylvania eventually defrocks Rev. Schaefer, it would be a great shame. This is a man who can teach the church and the community real life lessons about love, compassion and doing the right thing.