November 21, 2013
By Renee K. Gadoua
Religion News Service
The United Methodist Church was not on trial at a recently concluded courtroom hearing outside of Philadelphia. But the denomination’s ambivalence over homosexuality took center stage.
At its conclusion Tuesday (Nov. 19), a jury of 13 clergy suspended the Rev. Frank Schaefer from ministry for 30 days and told him that if he cannot uphold the Book of Discipline, the United Methodist rule book, including its provision on gays, he must leave the ministry.
“It reveals the struggle that we’re having as a church around the issues,” said the Rev. Gary MacDonald, a United Methodist minister and director of Advanced Ministerial Studies at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology.
“We do have a history of wrestling with who we are and how we are responding to God. I think that’s happening now.”
Schaefer’s trial for officiating at the same-sex wedding of his son is the first since the United Methodist Church’s General Conference in 2012 upheld its 40-year-old rule that calls homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teaching.” . . .
MacDonald said movements on both sides of the issue are likely to continue advocating their positions in the run-up to the 2016 worldwide General Conference, when the church could change the laws in its Book of Discipline.
“I think people are really concerned for the unity of the church,” he said but added, “You look at our divisions as a nation and we shouldn’t be surprised that this is happening.”
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