Schaefer Decision Doesn't Change UMC's Homosexuality Stance

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Schaefer Ruling Does Not Change Church Polity

This article is correct in one respect: it did not change The United Methodist Church's polices with regard to homosexual clergy, or UM clergy participating in services of marriage or unions of same-sex couples. Rev. Fisher, Counsel for the Church in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference was correct: the decision was based on technicalities (though hardly obscure---they can be found 24/7 on UMC.org). The fact remains though: Rev. Schaefer was punished by the decision of the Trial Court of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, to place him on suspension for 30 days. Rev. Schaefer served that suspension. He did not appeal the guilty verdict in his trial; he only appealed the sentence alleging that it violated previous Judicial Council rulings. The Northeastern Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals and the Judicial Council concurred with his appeal regarding the parts of his sentence that are contrary to UM law.
What the trial and appeals did show, however, is that there is a wide divergence of opinion regarding marriages of same-sex couples in the membership of the UMC. It showed that probably half of our clergy have participated in weddings of their own children, which is what Rev. Schaefer admitted he did. Finally, regardless of the actions of the trial court, the appeals themselves have created a new benchmark for sentencing of clergy who participate in such services uniting same-sex couples: 30 day suspension. One UM clergy whom I know does in fact, perform such services, told me, "Well, I wouldn't mind getting an extra 30 days of vacation." It will be difficult, now, for other conferences to hold trials of clergy who have performed such services to give a sentence of more than a 30 day suspension. Such is the effect of definitive international rulings within our denomination. (Even the members of the Judicial Council from Central Conferences agreed with the Schaefer ruling.) Translation: though performing such weddings may be contrary to our polity, the punishment likely will be little more than a slap on the wrist. Trials are a very expensive way to slap someone on the wrist. The typical trial, with appeals, costs annual conferences, jurisdictional conferences, and the General Church, upwards of $100,000 apiece.
Perhaps now that this case is over, we can sit down and come up with a better way than trials to deal with such violations of our polity.

Tom Griffith more than 5 years ago

Status changed?

Yes, it does change the stance of the UMC. If the state patrol quit giving tickets for anyone going under 85; the speed limit is changed! A law or rule without consequences is no longer a law or rule!

Charles Whatley more than 5 years ago

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