United Methodist Bishop John Schol released a video and brief letter tonight expressing his sadness about the way the United Methodist Church deals with homosexuality. The video and letter were created in response to the church’s decision yesterday to take away clergy credentials from a minister who performed the wedding ceremony for his son to another man.
The Rev. Frank Schaefer was defrocked yesterday after a jury in a church trial in Eastern Pennsylvania found him guilty of violating the United Methodist Book of Discipline for performing the same sex wedding.
“This issue is so important to the present and future of our church and meaningful to me personally, that I needed to use my voice to share with you my message,” Schol wrote in his letter to members of the Greater New Jersey Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
“It is noteworthy that these issues are coming to the forefront as we enter the fourth week of advent. During the fourth week of advent, we are called to love one another,” Schol wrote. ” It is my greatest hope that we, the people of the United Methodist Church, will use this week of love to find new meaning in God’s command to love one another.”
In the video, Schol chokes up as he talks about Schaefer and his decision to perform the wedding ceremony for his son. He then addresses gays and lesbians, and says the church should not be a place where people come and then feel hurt.
“I want you to know that you are children of God, of sacred worth. There are many people in the United Methodist Church who care about you, who love you deeply, and are very sad about what is happening in our church right now,” Schol says. “I want you to know there are United Methodist churches that open their doors wide to you, and are ready to be in ministry with you and treat you just like every other member of their church. We want to continue to be in fellowship and ministry with all people, and especially our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”
Schol stresses that he loves the United Methodist Church, but says he disagrees with the practice of using church trials to solve issues. There are better ways to solve disagreements, he says.
“I do not agree with how our church has been handling these matters,” he says. “I do not believe trials are helpful you our church or anyone at this time. We have taken a secular mechanism and made it a part of the church.”
Schol says as bishop of the church, he honors all viewpoints, and that the church is enriched by its diversity.
“I pledge to work with all people,” he says. “Even though we have different viewpoints and understandings, we can be one church, all come together, work together for the mission of God, and continue to be in conversation and learn how to live with our differences.”