Last Saturday I got a email message from my friend Betty Kobata telling me about the appearance of Rev. Frank Schaeffer at the Hollywood United Methodist Church on Sunday.
Marion and I were glad to hear of this and made immediate plans to attend the service. Rev. Schaeffer has been in the news lately because he performed a marriage ceremony for his gay son. According to the news accounts, Rev. Schaeffer has three other sons who also are gay.
Rev. Schaeffer is a United Methodist minister. The governing rules for the denomination is the Book of Discipline, which states that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” This doctrine was declared over 40 years ago before scientific research revealed that homosexuality is not a choice. Anti-gay discrimination has resulted in so much suffering.
For many years at United Methodist General Conferences, which involve Methodist churches worldwide and occur each four years, many in the churches have attempted to eliminate or modify this statement, to no avail.
Because of this policy, many churches have not welcomed LGBTQ people, and gay and lesbian ministers could not be appointed to United Methodist churches. After the laws were changed recently, it is not surprising that United Methodist ministers would be forbidden from performing LGBTQ marriage ceremonies.
Rev Schaeffer, who has over 25 years’ experience in the ministry serving in Pennsylvania, was brought up on charges of disobedience to the Book of Discipline and was relieved of his ordination by a board composed of his fellow pastors.
Shortly after this happened, Bishop Minerva Carcano, the bishop for our California/Pacific Annual Conference, called Rev. Schaeffer and offered to look into the possibility of having him appointed to the Cal/Pac Conference.
The service Marion and I attended Sunday preceded a rally later in the day at the Pasadena United Methodist Church that would gather to show support for this courageous act of Bishop Carcano.
Hollywood Methodist Church, a long-time supporter of LGBTQ rights, was filled to capacity. Rev. Schaeffer chose as his scriptural text Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. In the parable, a robbery victim lies beaten up in a ditch. Two well-respected Jewish leaders pass on either side of him, refusing to render aid. Samaritans were mixed-breed Jews, and were despised by other Jews. The Samaritan not only renders aid, but takes the man to an inn and offers to pay for his stay there. The Jewish leaders may have been on their way to a Sabbath service and relied on revered Jewish law, which prohibited dealing with blood on the Sabbath.
The message is clear: The church hierarchy relies on church doctrine rather than having compassion for LGBTQ persons who have suffered in our society, and more particularly, within our churches.
Rev. Schaeffer told in his sermon, delivered from the church floor without notes, about how much he has learned from his gay son. When his son asked him to marry him and his partner, with fire in his voice, he shouted, “There is no way in hell I was going to turn him down.”
Rev. Schaeffer got a standing ovation at the end of his very passionate and eloquent personal sermon.
Bishop Carcano’s offer to accept Rev. Schaeffer into the California/Pacific Conference has a precedence:
Fifty years ago, Rev. Ed McRae, now retired, was a pastor at a Methodist Church in Mississippi and chose to march with Rev. Martin Luther King in his March to Selma, Alabama. His congregation was not pleased by what he did and did not reappoint him.
The bishop of our California/Pacific Annual Conference received him and he served here for the remainder of his ministerial service.
I take great pride in being part of this forward-looking, compassionate church conference.
Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at [email protected] The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.