It’s a Good Day for Frank Schaefer but only a Partially Good Day for Methodism

I support the decision by the Judicial Council to uphold Rev. Frank Schaefer’s reinstatement to Ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church. But let’s be clear: it was a technical win. The changing of hearts for full inclusion of LGBTQ persons in the church remains the chief goal and the tougher work. [Insert cold water here.]

As a disciple of Jesus Christ as well as one Michael G. Scott, I’m still holding out for a win-win-win scenario. A win-win-win scenario would involve not only the changing of rules, but also the ending of hatred toward LGBTQ people and their allies and the end of animosity over LGBTQ inclusion in the church. This is where the church must distinguish itself from secular society. The church is to provide a foretaste of the kingdom of God. As such it is not an entity governed by the rule of law but an entity dominated by the law of love. Governments make and change laws. Institutions make and change rules. Churches change hearts and minds.

The winning of hearts and minds defeats the threat of unjust laws and rules. Sing Amazing Grace and know that this was written as a heart was changed from slave-holder to abolitionist. It was the redeemed sinner who penned the words that we sing over a variety of struggles.

Had the struggle against racism ended after the Voting Rights Act, there would still be racism. As it stands, the Voting Rights Act was turned away because the work of ending racism in the heart is unfinished.

In the end, the decision today was a technical one. It was about interpreting a rule. It was not so much about Rev. Schaefer or gay marriage or even fatherly love. No good thing was upheld and no bad thing was turned away. It was about how much punishment was appropriate for Rev. Schaefer. We should still mourn that he was punished at all.

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