Defrocked clergyman shares his story with Oklahoma United Methodist group

Defrocked clergyman Frank Schaefer shared his story and words of encouragement with about 200 Oklahoma United Methodists at a gathering Tuesday in Oklahoma City.
by Carla Hinton Published: May 31, 2014
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One regret.

The Rev. Frank Schaefer lost his United Methodist ministerial credentials in 2013 after officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding.

Schaefer, speaking Tuesday in Oklahoma City, said he watched his Lebanon, Pa., congregation split over the issue of gay rights in the church. The minister said he had also worried about his financial future and his 20-year career as a Methodist minister.

And yet, Schaefer, 51, told about 200 Oklahoma United Methodists that his regrets are down to one: that he didn’t stand up sooner for full inclusion of gays in the life of the Methodist church.

“Fear of homophobia kept me from speaking out sooner and louder and clearer,” he said. “God has no secondary citizens.”

Schaefer shared his testimony at a gathering hosted by Oklahoma United Methodists for Marriage Equality at the Film Exchange building, 7001/2 W Sheridan.

The Rev. Trina Bose North, one of the leaders of the marriage equality group, said the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference’s annual meeting in Oklahoma City brought hundreds of Methodist delegates from across the state and presented an opportune time to host Schaefer. The marriage equality group is not officially affiliated with the United Methodist denomination.

“We wanted to take advantage of all these people here together,” North said.

Schaefer became the subject of national news when he was suspended and then defrocked for officiating at his son’s 2007 wedding to another man at a restaurant in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal.

The United Methodist Book of Discipline prohibits gay marriage and the ordination of openly gay individuals. Also, Methodist clergy are prohibited from performing same-sex marriages, and the denomination prohibits gay marriages from being performed at its churches.

A father’s concern

Schaefer spoke for about 50 minutes, telling his Oklahoma audience that his story did not start with his 2013 “defrocking” by the United Methodist denomination, but it began in 2000 when he received a disturbing phone call.

He said an anonymous woman called him to say that his son Timothy was struggling with being gay, so much so that he was contemplating suicide.

Schaefer said he and his wife didn’t know their son was gay. He said their immediate concern was that he would consider taking his own life.

Schaefer said when he confronted his son, the young man said he was gay and that he had been struggling with his sexuality for several years, particularly after he had attended a United Methodist General Assembly meeting where the issue of homosexuality was the topic of an extremely heated debate.

“The message he got out of that was that his own faith tradition was saying if you’re that way (gay), you’re going to hell,” Schaefer said.

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by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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