Statement Regarding Church Trials

November 20, 2013

To the members of the American University Community,

The “Shepherd of Hope” Award given to the AU Methodists by MoSAIC (Methodist Students for an All-Inclusive Church)

By now you may have heard news about the verdict in a church trial in Pennsylvania concerning a pastor who was convicted for having performed the same-sex marriage of his son. The Rev. Frank Schaefer (no relation, except as a brother in Christ) was convicted of having violated the church’s Book of Discipline in conducting his son’s wedding six years ago. He has been given thirty days to consider whether he will be able to affirm the Book of Discipline’s prohibition on performing such ceremonies, and if he is unable to do so, he must surrender his credentials of ordination. For those in the church who care deeply about equality issues and about the inclusion of all people, this news is troubling and disheartening, and to them it represents the triumph of rule-based religion over the call of grace-filled faith. And for many it feels like a step backward in a denomination and in a nation that has been steadily recognizing the inherent equality of all to share in the blessings of God and the fruits of society.

There’s much I could say about the broader issues involved. There’s much I could say about the legal issues raised, about the responsibility of church leaders to one another, and about the underlying assumptions that govern this debate. However, I wish to speak more to the point of the nature of United Methodist community here at American University.

The United Methodist community at American University is a reconciling campus ministry, a community committed to the full inclusion of all people in the life of the church without distinction. That will not change. So long as I am privileged to serve as campus minister to this community at American University, it is my pledge that it will always remain a community committed to the full inclusion of all people in the life of the church regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, race, age, ability, or any other factor.  It’s something I commit to, even if it should mean my career.

We are a Christian community and we believe in the saving power of God as known to us through Jesus Christ. And we believe that Jesus came for the sake of all people, not merely for some. We believe that the love of God knows no qualifiers, knows no preconditions, no restrictions. For any among you in our treasured AU community, feeling hurt and alienated, torn between identity and faith, wondering if there is still a place for you, know this: you still have a home with the AU United Methodist community and always will.

Sincerely,

Rev. Mark A. Schaefer
United Methodist Chaplain