Once again Senior Pastor Rev. Dean Snyder and the members of Foundry United Methodist Church in the District of Columbia have taken a stand in support of the LGBT community. This time they invited recently defrocked pastor Rev. Frank Schaefer of Lebanon PA. to speak from their pulpit.
On Sunday, December 22nd Reverend Schaefer spoke of his love for his son for whom he performed a same-sex marriage ceremony in 2007. He also told the congregation of his continued love of his church. He told them that after his trial was over, because he knew of Rev. Dean Snyder's commitment to equality, he called him and asked to come to Foundry. Rev. Snyder not only asked him to speak but invited him and his family to become members of Foundry which they did on Sunday. It was an incredibly moving service and reinforced how welcoming to all Foundry is.
Rev. Schaefer was defrocked by the United Methodist Church because he would not denounce same-sex marriage and would not commit to never performing another same-sex ceremony. The final decision was made to defrock Schaefer after a full church trial. The terms of the guilty verdict as reported by MSNBC were "A 30-day suspension and if at the end of 30 days, Schaefer still refused to denounce same-sex marriage; he would have to give up his credentials".
This trial came about because a congregant with a grudge filed a complaint about him with the church last April. That complaint came one month before the statute of limitations on this "crime" was to expire. It only took that one person to complain that Schaefer went against the Methodist 'Book of Discipline' which doesn't allow the church to recognize or perform such marriages. It was Rev. Dean Snyder and the courageous members of Foundry United Methodist Church who led a losing fight last year to change the Methodist Book of Discipline at their worldwide General Conference.
Snyder has said that there may be other trials to follow as congregants in other churches who see this may take the opportunity to file charges against their pastors who have performed such weddings. In previous statements Dean Snyder has said he is well aware of the risk to him and his family when he performs same-sex weddings but because of his strong belief in equality he is willing to do so.
MSNBC reported that prior to the final verdict "Schaefer and 43 other U.M. clergy members sent a petition to Bishop Peggy Johnson of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference asking her to acknowledge the discriminatory language in the Book of Discipline, and stop LGBT-related trials. Johnson did acknowledge that several statements in the Book of Discipline on homosexuality were "discriminatory," and that church trials over such matters were "not helpful." But said she did not have the power to change the course of Schaefer's proceedings." Other Bishops in the church have disputed her claim that this was the only way she could have handled this.
Speaking at Foundry Rev. Schaefer pointing to the stained glass window of Jesus with open arms said, "I was following the message of Jesus of Nazareth who told us to be a church of inclusion, grace and love." He told congregants that he couldn't denounce same-sex marriage because in his heart he believed that we are all equal and the church must be a welcoming place to all God's children. He spoke of God giving him the words to speak at the trial when he wasn't sure he could say them. He kidded that when he told his lawyers what he wanted to say he thought they would have a cow. Instead they told him to speak his heart which he did. He also told the congregation that he has already appealed the decision and believes that there is a possibility he could win the appeal.
I am Jewish, not Methodist. But the welcome at Foundry extends to all. Gay or straight, Methodist or not, one can't help but feel the warmth that emanates from the pulpit and runs through the congregation. People like Dean Snyder and the members of Foundry will not only change the church but can change a community; and with enough of them they can change the world.
Rev. Schaefer said that this experience has taught him that he can no longer be a silent supporter of the LGBT community but must speak out. He spoke of his commitment to do that wherever he will work. Rev. Snyder reminded the congregation that when a Methodist minister is defrocked and loses his church he also immediately loses his salary, his health insurance and his home allowance. Foundry has set up a portal on their website for those who would like to make a donation to ensure that Rev. Schaefer and his family don't suffer unduly for his courageous act.