Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Frank Shaefer Guilty But Good

I am following with interest the story about the conviction of Rev. Frank Shaefer for officiating at the wedding for his son.   A Methodist court found him guilty of showing "disobedience to the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church." The church court will pronounce its punishment later today.  It could be a defrocking.  Or it could be a reprimand.

He officiated at the wedding six years ago and just a month before the statute of limitations would have expired, a church member filed a complaint.   The reverend did not advertise that he was officiating at this event but he didn't keep it secret either.

I find this all quite interesting as I plan to officiate at my daughter's wedding in New York a week from Friday.    Because of polity differences, the United Methodist Church as a whole has not progressed as far as other mainline churches including my own, the Presbyterian Church (USA).    We have been able to remove the hurtful language.   Officiating at holy unions are not against our church rules.  I have been doing holy unions for same-gender couples for years.  I advertise it on our church's website.

For Presbyterians, officiating at legal weddings, that is signing marriage licenses, is a bit of a different story. Rev. Jane Spahr, who I have written about and interviewed, was found guilty of violating her ordination vows for marrying gay couples in California.   She was supposed to be rebuked but her presbytery refused to rebuke her.  

Many PCUSA ministers have been officiating at same-gender weddings but few charges are ever filed even when they are public.   Three hundred of us clergy types have signed a statement that we will do it  or have done it and we will face the consequences should any arise.   This is that statement:
As a teaching elder in the PCUSA, I have married or am willing to publicly marry same gender couples in my pastoral role, in obedience to my ordination vow to “show the love and justice of Jesus Christ.” Respecting the conscience of fellow Presbyterians, I accept the consequences of this declaration, including the provisions of discipline in our Book of Order.
Yup, that's me and 300 of my closest friends.

We Presbyterians will hopefully end this church court nonsense next summer at the General Assembly when we pass an Authoritative Interpretation that will allow for clergy in their pastoral roles to officiate at same-gender weddings.    Shoot, we may even change the definition of marriage and maybe even the texts of the Bible itself.  God really did create Adam and Steve (and Mike and Tony and Katy and Amber).   So there.

I do feel for the Methodists though.   It is because of polity.  Methodists allow delegates from other continents (like Africa) to vote on their issues so they have a heck of a time moving ahead.   The good news is that high profile people in the Methodist church such as Bishop Talbert, are officiating at same-gender weddings anyway and inviting the rest of the clergy to "just do it."    

That is what it takes in times like these.


UPDATE:  Rev. Schaefer received a 30 day suspension but is now even more emboldened to be an advocate for LGBT people.  Here is the story.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Wedding Bells

I am looking forward to signing the marriage license for my daughter, Katy, and her betrothed, Amber, the day after Thanksgiving in New York City.   In order to do this I had to be registered with the City of New York.   I had to provide:
  1. A notarized signature to accompany my application.
  2. A copy of my driver's license.
  3. A fifteen dollar money order.
  4. A copy of the cover of my denomination's directory and a copy of the page that listed me as a clergy member in good standing.   I printed and sent a copy of the on-line version.  This is me
Within a week I received this in the mail:

Pretty, huh?  I will sign the license and officiate at the marriage of my daughter and soon-to-be daughter-in-law as a PC(USA) minister or teaching elder or whatever it is we are called these days. When the deed is done, if I remember, I will post a pic of the signed marriage license and a pic of the happy couple.

It is worth it for Katy and Amber to get a marriage license even though Tennessee won't recognize it.   This summer's decision by the supreme court will give same-gender couples some federal benefits.    Nevertheless, it is not equal.    Until every state and the federal government recognizes marriage equality, their marriage still will not be the same as mine in the eyes of the law.    Thus it is important to do this and to be public about it.  Every action for equality, both personal and political, is a step toward equality.

Some have asked me if I can do this as a PC(USA) minister.  The answer, 
"Yes, of course.  Watch me."   
 The follow-up question is if I will get in "trouble" for doing this.  The answer is, 
"One can only hope."  
That is the tongue-in-cheek answer.   Truth is I will face whatever consequences come to me.  I have already signed the Stand For Love statement.   How many more statements must I sign before we change these archaic rules?

If someone makes a stink, then I will deal with it and use it as an opportunity to witness to equality.  If no one makes a stink, then I hope that will encourage clergy who are afraid of "getting in trouble" to be bold.   I see it as a win-win.

The bottom line is that this isn't about activism.  This is my daughter.  This is my blood.   Even as I have been active in the equality cause since my daughter was in kindergarten, it is personal now.    In a sense it has been personal for some time as I have worked alongside my sisters and brothers.   But, now, it is really personal.    When it is your child, you take no crap from anyone.  Ever. 

My ultimate loyalty is not to Presbyterian politics.   Hordes of enraged LayMEN couldn't keep me from officiating at my daughter's wedding.   Even if I were to lose my ordination (which won't happen) I am at peace with that. 

The time has come for the country and for the PC(USA) to get on board with reality.   The next General Assembly (to which I am a commissioner) will decide on whether to change the definition of marriage to reflect marriage equality and at the very least they will decide to make it kosher for clergy to officiate at Big Gay Weddings.   

It's all good.

And getting better.