A Response to the Rev. Frank Schaefer Trial

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dear Foundry Members and Friends,

I was very proud of Foundry Church this past Monday and Tuesday when Foundry members provided a strong presence and witness during the trial of Rev. Frank Schaefer. Foundry leaders also responded quickly to the verdict and the sentence by preparing a strong statement (see below) that already has traveled widely around the nation via social media.
 
You should be aware that the possibility still exists for this verdict to be appealed or for the Board of Ordained Ministry of Frank’s conference to judge what it means to follow the Book of Discipline in its entirety. So options remain.
 
It was very painful for we who were present to watch a good pastor being tried because of his love for his gay son and for his commitment to minister to all people. I know it was painful for those of you observing the trial through the press and social media as well. In fact, it took me a couple of days to recover from the experience.
 
As sad as this is, it is also an opportunity. At least three more potential trials are in process. This is an opportunity for all of us who believe in inclusion to speak and act boldly, lovingly, and strategically. A letter writing campaign has begun to ask our United Methodist Bishops to stop the trials. Teams from every Annual Conference are meeting in person with their Bishops to ask them to stop the trials. Strategies to challenge the constitutionality of discriminatory language in the Book of Discipline are being developed. A campaign to have more and more congregations declare themselves reconciling is under way.
 
The nation and denomination look to Foundry Church to help lead the movement to be the kind of inclusive United Methodist Church that John Wesley began and that God wants us to be. It is important that we remain strong vital and committed. I am asking that each of you renew your commitment to vital participation in the life of our congregation.
 
A congregation with a growing Sunday school, transcendent and relevant worship, loving fellowship groups and small groups, and many missions serving our community and the world, is a very powerful witness.
 
I would like to thank those from Foundry who took vacation days to be present at the trial. I would like to thank our leaders who were in constant communication with us during the trial. I would like to thanks those who donated to Pastor Frank Schaefer’s defense fund. And I would like to thank our staff who managed the life of the church so well during my absence.
 
Please continue to support our LGBTQ Advocacy Team in your prayers, time, and talents as they continue to work for justice, reconciliation, and inclusion within our denomination and the world.
 
In God’s Love.
 
Dean Snyder
Senior Pastor
Foundry United Methodist Church

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A Statement from Foundry

Foundry is a historic, progressive church in Washington D.C. that welcomes all, worships passionately, challenges the status quo, and seeks to transform the world through God's love. Drawing upon long-established rituals and spiritualities, Foundry is innovative and pioneering in our efforts to be a place of positive change within Christianity, within our denomination, within ourselves and in the world. Our doors swing wide and swing outward as we reach out into the world in which we live. We stand with all other churches and ministers of who are living out their calling to minister to all of God’s children.

We join other United Methodist Churches in our concern over the recent actions in our denomination. The Rev. Frank Schaefer of the Zion United Methodist Church in Lebanon, PA is at risk of losing his ordination as the result of a church trial held on November 18-19, 2013. He was found guilty of not upholding the discipline of the United Methodist Church and of performing a same sex wedding. A jury of ministers suspended him for 30 days for violating the United Methodist Church’s rules. Rev. Schaefer had officiated the wedding of his son, Tim and his partner six years ago in a quiet ceremony held in Massachusetts. He did not do this to make a statement. He did it out of love for his son. Now, Rev. Schaefer must decide during the 30-day suspension if he will embrace all of the United Methodist discipline or surrender his ordination. We stand firmly with Rev. Schaefer and others who are called to minister to the whole church and refuse to do anything less.

This trial was not necessary and the verdict is wrong. Rev. Schaefer is a father who loves his gay son; a son who as a teenager, contemplated suicide in reaction to the United Methodist understanding of homosexuality as articulated in the Book of Discipline. Tim believed he was not worthy of God’s grace and did not want to bring shame on his family or his church. Rev. Schaefer did not passively sacrifice his son to the rules in the one part of the United Methodist Book of Discipline to uphold another.  God has already sacrificed his Son, Jesus Christ, to save all of us. As is stated in another part of our Book of Discipline, all people are of sacred worth. Rev. Schaefer is an example we should all be proud to follow. We stand with others across the denomination who are calling for an end to these church trials and an end to unjust discrimination that elevates the United Methodist Book of Discipline above the Bible’s message of love.

We also stand firmly entrenched in our United Methodist history and tradition. Foundry is planning our bicentennial celebration for next fall and we want to celebrate our part of that rich history. We recognize the challenges our denomination faces on the global stage. Our commitment remains to provide leadership to address those challenges so that no one is harmed. A church in Washington D.C. faces very different challenges than a church in Zambia faces very different challenges than a church in Texas or Oklahoma. We are committed to walking with our brothers and sisters everywhere to reach more people, touch more lives, and continue growing to be a catalyst for change and possibility by responding to God's call.

LGBT Christians are and have always been a part of the United Methodist Church. We have marginalized them and caused pain that we are not proud of and are committed to ending. We stand with those LGBT Christians. Foundry is a stronger church and the United Methodist denomination is a stronger denomination because of our LGBT members. We urge all United Methodists – lay people, ministers, and district superintendants, and bishops – to uphold their responsibility to the whole church. We pledge our support and participation in conversations and dialogue with our episcopal leaders as they uphold that responsibility.

For those struggling with this week’s news, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or straight, United Methodist or not, we offer these words of comfort: You are always welcome at Foundry. We love you. And God does too.

Foundry Management Board
LGBTQ Advocacy Team
Pastoral Staff