Bishop Schol addresses Schaefer case, clergy trials

Bishop John Schol issued a video statement Dec. 20 in response to the defrocking of Frank Schaefer and called for The United Methodist Church to stop using clergy trials as a way to resolve differences in the church.

Schaefer lost his clergy credentials Dec. 19 after being found guilty in a November church trial of violating The United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline by performing the same-gender wedding of his son in 2007.

Schol, in an emotional statement, recounted Schaefer’s journey and turmoil around the needs of his son and the position of the church.

“This issue is so important to the present and future of our church and meaningful to me personally, that I needed to use my voice to share with you my message,” Schol said in a brief message with the video. Schol leads the church’s Greater New Jersey Area.

In the video, speaking directly to gays and lesbians, Schol said, “I want you to know that you are children of God, of sacred worth. And there are many people in the United Methodist Church who care about you, who love you deeply and who are very sad about what is happening in our church right now.”

Schol expressed his own love of The United Methodist Church, which has brought him into relationship Jesus Christ and nurtured and loved him.

“I do not agree with how our church has been handling these matters,” he said. Clergy trials are not helpful, “and I would like to see trials within The United Methodist Church stopped.”

Schol promised that he will “be a bishop of the whole church,” honor all views within the church, and do everything he can to prevent clergy trials. He said he wants to be part of a church that helps people come together, and in the midst of differences, find a way forward.

Schol’s statement came the same day thatBishop Minerva Carcaño extended an invitation for Schaeferto join in ministry in the California-Pacific Conference, which she oversees.

The denomination’s 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.

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