I'm Rev. Frank Schaefer and I was a United Methodist minister in a small Pennsylvania town until I got put on trial in the church for officiating the same-sex wedding of my eldest son. The Church gave me a choice – vow to never again preside over a same-sex wedding, or lose my credentials as a minister. Three of my four children are gay, so I knew that I could never promise to stop preforming same-sex weddings. After giving me 30 days to reconsider my stance on gay marriage, the United Methodist Church officially defrocked me in December 2013.

To my surprise, my story traveled quickly, igniting an international news frenzy. I've appeared on The View, CNN, MSNBC, the CBS Evening News, and countless regional news outlets. Now I've gone from being a small-town minister and silent supporter of LGBT rights to an outspoken LGBT activist. My goal is to change the discriminatory rules in the United Methodist Book of Discipline, which prohibit the ordination of LGBT people and forbid ministers from performing same-sex marriages. My message is an appeal to all LGBT members, as well as their friends and supporters, to remain in the United Methodist Church because we’re taking our Church back!

Also, there is currently a documentary in production, called at Act of Love (anactoflove.com) about my story and the journey I am currently on to bring greater acceptance to our LGBT brothers and sister in the church and beyond.


My Proof: Enter link here

Comments: 246 • Responses: 41  • Date: 

butterflypuncher45 karma

how did you feel about the LGBT community before you son came out to you? has anything changed?

FrankSchaefer87 karma

I was theologically liberal and accepted LGBTs, but it was still difficult to realize that one of my children was gay. My son's coming out transformed me from being tolerant to being a supporter of the LGBT community. It had become personal for me and my family!

Castor123433 karma

Have you gotten any love letters from the Westboro Baptist Church yet?

FrankSchaefer65 karma

No, and I feel offended =)

Warlizard33 karma

I went to the Methodist web site and this is their official stance:

Regarding the ministry of the ordained

¶ 304.3: The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church. View full statement.

¶ 341.6: Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.

That's pretty cut and dried, so here are my questions:

  1. When you joined the church and were ordained, you vowed to uphold their doctrine. Why didn't you simply change to a church that allowed homosexual marriage?

  2. What was the effect on the congregation? The town of Lebanon, PA has 25,000 residents and has a history of being one of the most Republican in Pennsylvania. I'm wondering how your actions affected the people there, particularly those in your former church.

  3. The ceremony you performed happened back in 2007. Why did the church leaders wait so long to do anything about it?

  4. In the text of your post, you said, "we’re taking our Church back!" Has the official church stance on gay marriage changed? Was there a time when the Methodists allowed homosexual marriage?

I know that this is a sensitive topic and highly emotionally charged. There are a million more questions that spring to mind but I know your time is limited.

FrankSchaefer33 karma

  1. When I took that vow, the Discipline didn't contain a ban on gay marriage (and the ban on gay union services was only in the "social principles" and not the law part of the church); so the church law evolved one way, I evolved in the opposite direction. I saw the church's doctrine being kidnapped by our "UMC tea party" - the "Good News Movement." I don't believe our current church doctrine is a true representation of who we are as United Methodists

  2. Unfortunately, the issue became very divisive in my former church as you are correct in pointing out that the area is conservative socially and politically. I am positively surprised though, how much support I did get from many folks from my former congregation as well as the community of Lebanon. Things are changing here too, thank God!

  3. The church leaders never charged me, it was one of my parishioners. The whole thing was rooted in a personal disagreement between me and a few conservative parishioners (whose goal it became to get me dismissed as a pastor)

  4. see number 1 above for some of the answer. The homophobic language was introduced first into the Book of Discipline in 1972. Homosexual marriage was not on the horizon then, but at least, there was no prohibition or homophobic language.

mylefthandkilledme32 karma

Thank you for showing us what love really means.

FrankSchaefer22 karma

Thanks for your kind words of encouragement!

oldfatmarriedguy23 karma

Rev. Frank, as a member of a local UMC here in TX, I want you to know that I stand with you and apologize for the way you were treated. What specifically would you recommend members who want the Book of Discipline changed do to help bring change? I love the "take our church back" stance. It is not about "tolerance" it is about acceptance and embracing diversity.

FrankSchaefer20 karma

thanks for your kind words of grace; I think we can take our church back, but it takes action on our part. You can get involved with the RMN, Breaking the Silence, Believe Out Loud, Faithful America, PFLAG and so many more Faith-based (in addition to political) organizations; you can also start a community FB page, a twitter account, a blog, You can write letters to newspaper editors, petitions to bishops and DSes, and ...you can support the kickstarter for "An Act of Love" at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kateslogan/an-act-of-love-the-story-of-rev-frank-schaefer?ref=live =)

kubryk23 karma

What was your first thought immediately after you did the marriage ceremony? Was it like "Well, there's that" and the general happiness of a child being married ... or did you feel emancipated in a way?

FrankSchaefer29 karma

Good question; I remember feeling happy for Tim and his husband as well as the husbands family (mostly RCatholics who were so happy that a minister performed the wedding--even though it wasn't a RC priest). I didn't necessarily feel emancipated, I still carried some apprehension about possible consequences I might face from the church leadership at that point.

kubryk12 karma

Follow up - Would consider being a Minister in a faith that allowed SSM? I'm not sure how the whole being a Minister works with other faiths ... would you like have to take a Unitarian Minister Exam to preach there and such? And

FrankSchaefer17 karma

I'm open to it and have received offers, but at the moment, I lean toward staying in the UMC.

maplady20 karma

Pastor Frank, If things change within the UMC and you were able to go back, would you?

FrankSchaefer27 karma

Yes, I absolutely would. I do have an appeal hearing, not sure when and where yet, but my counsels think there is a good chance that I may get reinstated, which would be a delight. The UM Church is not unanimous on the issue; there are many who are LGBTs and allies! So for that reason alone I would absolutely go back to be a UM minister!

Metropolis_Life18 karma

Did you feel that there were members of the church that defrocked you that were sympathetic to your cause but still went ahead with it because they were following orders, or do you think it was a unanimous decision?

FrankSchaefer19 karma

I think that there were some who were sympathetic to the LGBT cause (or at least understood that I had to do what I did for my son) that went along with the majority of the jury because emphasis was put on me breaking my vow to uphold the discipline. But I know of at least one minister on the jury who said they were on my side of the issue who felt powerless to change the group's thinking and felt terrible about having to be a part of the jury.

Call_the_Law18 karma

Do you believe God chose your son to be homosexual?

FrankSchaefer28 karma

Yes, I do! He did not chose it; in fact, he fought it, but he wasn't happy until he himself accepted who he is--a gay man, created in the image of God!

balrogath4 karma

How do you feel about people with other sexual tendencies that are more taboo or even illegal? Were they made in the image of God?

FrankSchaefer21 karma

I believe all people are of sacred worth, all are made in the image of God. But, of course, nobody has the right to violate or compromise another person's rights. Pedophilia is often named in this context which is totally unrelated to this discussion in my opinion, since this is an act of violence, not love and secondly, its stems from an illness (which, again, has nothing to do with homosexuality).

RoswellSpaceman14 karma

What will it take for the religious establishment in America to embrace same sex couples as normal, equal people?

The country as a whole seems to be abandoning homophobic tendencies, but many churches have made no progress whatsoever in this area. As a Catholic, I have heard a few priests bash and demean gay marriage at the pulpit.

FrankSchaefer12 karma

I am very encouraged by the latest polls that show that the majority of religious folks are now in support of gay marriage rights. Of course, evangelicals and RCatholics are not quite there yet, but getting closer. My prediction is that attitudes will continue to change, and once we reach a tipping point in the conservative religious communities (the 50% level) we will see things quickly changing even in evangelical circles.

xX_Nois11 karma

Catholicism will not change views on homosexuality. It is considered a major teaching, and can not change according to their theological beliefs. Even if the pope came out for homosexual marriage tomorrow, it technically can never change.

As for homosexuals, they are people who should be treated with respect and love. They are not to be judged by anyone but God, and never discriminated against. The Catholic church has already made major steps in that direction and are continuing to make that a message.

Again, marriage will not change theologically in the church. Marriage in the church's eyes is between man and woman as God intended. It is for love AND procreation.

FrankSchaefer7 karma

While its true that Catholicism is very slow to change doctrinally, it nevertheless does change. For instance...

Author John F. Maxwell wrote in his 1975 work on slavery that the Church did not correct its teaching on the moral legitimacy of slavery until 1965, with the Second Vatican Council....

oldfatmarriedguy-2 karma

so if somebody is unable to make a baby, their marriage should end, right? (edit for clarification: was being sarcastic)

FrankSchaefer14 karma

This is not being taught in mainline Protestantism, nor do I believe does this come from the biblical teachings. So it's odd to hear this question. I'd say, times change and in the 21st century with approaching the 10 bn population mark, it's more important to think about adopting orphaned children than to think about bringing new children into the world. Gay couples are doing just that!

darthjoey9110 karma

  1. How do you reconcile your theology with Romans 1?

  2. Do you think that homosexual marriage brings glory to God?

FrankSchaefer10 karma

Romans 1: 26 - 27: Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another....

So, it says here that some people chose to engage in unnatural sexual acts; I think that Paul is right in condemning unnatural acts of sex. Now, if you're a heterosexual person, you should stay true to yourself and look for an opposite sex partner. If you're a homosexual person, you should stay true to yourself and look for a same sex partner. If you are bisexual, then I guess you're called to find the right person, regardless of their gender.

Badargel10 karma

Why don't you think that being homosexual is wrong?

FrankSchaefer26 karma

Even during my evangelical days (when I did consider homosexuality a sin) I always thought that my theology would be problematic if it turned out that being gay is not a choice. When my son came out, he shared that he prayed to God for many years to make him hetero and when this didn't happen, he considered taking his own life. That proved to me and my wife (once and for all) that homosexuality is not a choice. Ergo, if you are born this way, God wanted you this way. God loves all God's children in all the varieties God created them, who are we to judge any of them?

sheeku10 karma

'The greatest of these is love'. Thank you for that.

FrankSchaefer13 karma

We're all tested in life, and now I know more than ever before that coming out on the side of love can never be wrong!

Frajer9 karma

Do you think the Bible is actually homophobic or do people read it in a way to advance their interests?

FrankSchaefer25 karma

I think that some of those passages do indeed express a cultural homophobic bias. As much as other passages express other biases, such as sexism, ethnicism, etc. We must remember that the biblical writers wrote within their cultural and historical context and that's why we must use interpretation when it comes to reading these ancient passages. We must determine through interpretation which of the teachings are universal truths rather than contextual teachings.

jwlipphardt11 karma

Yes -- they wrote within their knowledge base. We know so much more now about medicine, psychiatry, neurology than the writers knew at the time. The Bible is our faith story, not a science book or psychiatric journal. If we ask the Bible a science question, we get a bad answer that is thousands of years antiquated -- is the world really only 6,000 years old? If we ask the Bible a faith story, we get the truth about God's loving purposes.

Squatbarcurls15 karma

Not trying to start arguments but the bible never says the earth is that young. Some biblical scholar decided to try and date the genealogy and came up with that time frame. Then a lot of people became confused and angry and it's pissed a lot of people off.

FrankSchaefer10 karma

Yes, good point!!

FrankSchaefer3 karma

I couldn't agree more!

blacknite78 karma

Are you ever mistaken for Frank Schaeffer, the author and theologian who once embraced Orthodoxy?

FrankSchaefer5 karma

Yes, sometimes I am mistaken for him; I wonder if he is mistaken for me now too; speaking with him would be such an honor. It's on my bucket list!

veertamizhan7 karma

if there is a god, he would be proud.

FrankSchaefer10 karma


abaiz7 karma

Three out of four of your son's? When did they come out and tell you they were gay, and what was your reaction to the first son telling you?

Any particular reason you think they're "gay," do you believe they have just been "born," like that?

FrankSchaefer11 karma

I have three sons and a daughter; so three of my kids are homosexual and, unfortunately, there is nothing I can claim I did to "turn" them gay (or else I would write a best-seller about it). They were born this way and I am so proud of all of my children!

Princesszelda246 karma

Hi Pastor Frank,

Why do you think people get so stuck on judging one another, forgetting that it was said that "you will be judged by the measure you judge" AND that Jesus Himself said literally, "if you follow no other commandment, love your brother as you love yourself"?

I know it's a selfish society, and I'm no angel here either, but people are so quick to forget these things and grab onto an elitist mentality to be better than so&so. Again, no perfection here, I can slum it with the worst of them, but I know God knows I will fail, which is why He sent Jesus to take up all my failures.

Thanks for doing this AMA. I'm glad to have people like you out there, fighting for the ethical treatment of humans, instead of "let's judge everyone that thinks differently than our church does."

Edit: added parentheses and if/of

FrankSchaefer4 karma

You know that I totally support your beautiful words and message here. So I will just say: Amen!

FrankSchaefer6 karma

Thank you so much for your participation, comments and questions. I will have to leave the AMA now, but will be back later to follow up with questions.

For those who asked about the "Act of Love" documentary which will be based on my trial and the aftermath, here is the link to the trailer:


Thanks again....Frank

djb855116 karma

1) What do you feel is the most important political topic our representatives should be focusing on today?

2) Do you believe that God makes some people homosexual when they're created, or that their genes have made them homosexual and God had little to do with it?

FrankSchaefer8 karma

  1. in my thinking, civil rights issues should always be on the top of our representative's political agenda, for acc. to MLK "injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere."
  2. All I know is that sexual orientation is normally a choice. The absolute majority of people, when asked: when did you chose to be homosexual/heterosexual?" will answer: I didn't!

SLBarry116 karma

What would you say to an overly religious parent that would help the acceptance of a gay child?

FrankSchaefer4 karma

This is one of the most challenging things to do; religious fears run very deep. I would first find out what causes their non-acceptance and then try to respond in a way that would alleviate their particular fear. A loving approach would be helpful as "perfect love drives out fear."

SLBarry116 karma

Thanks for the response. I'm non-religious but I think it is great you are using religion to care for others and accept people. Keep up the great work!

FrankSchaefer9 karma

Thanks....whether religious or not, we can all work together as humanitarians!

jwlipphardt6 karma

Looking forward to seeing you at Johnson Memorial UMC in Huntington WV this weekend

FrankSchaefer4 karma

Yes, I am so looking forward to being at Johnson Memorial UMC. Heard many good things =)

TheBrotato695 karma

I just want to say thank you. I know people are changing to accept LGBT people but it is happeening at a very slow pace. Stories like yours help to spread word. My twin is gay and I want him to be able to not be judged because of whohe is.

FrankSchaefer4 karma

Thanks for sharing; I'm glad you've been there for your twin. I think we have reached a tipping point once the 50% mark was reached; I'm actually hopeful that we could see attitudes change much faster now --even in the religious world!

Runnergrl20004 karma

That's awesome that someone is making a film about you! Where can i get more info?

FrankSchaefer4 karma

You can go to the kickstarter page at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kateslogan/an-act-of-love-the-story-of-rev-frank-schaefer?ref=live You can watch the trailer and, if you'd like, make a donatation to get the film funded.

kateslogan4 karma

Hey Frank! How did your family react to you getting defrocked?

FrankSchaefer7 karma

They were disappointed and upset, but there was also a sense of relief because this whole thing (esp. the uncertainty) was finally over and we could now start to plan for the future.

karmanaut3 karma

Do you still have cordial/friendly relations with the church leadership or other ministers? Or were they offended by your actions?

FrankSchaefer11 karma

There is actually a large community of LGBTs and allies within the church--bishops, pastors, and lay people. I am in touch with many of them, of course, as we strategize our fight against the church's discrimination; I am speaking almost every Sunday in a different UM church. But some of my colleagues have told me straight forward that they think I;m wrong and that the defrocking was justified.

lisaslover3 karma

Hi Mr Schaefer, can I start by saying that you should be suitably proud of yourself for taking the stand that you did. I was wondering, do you think the church used bullying tactics, and do you intend to find another church more inclined to agree with your way of thinking in this subject?

Edit: I suppose given the stance that you took I should not be surprised by your answer. I could not have stayed within the church that treated me so shabbily. Good luck with all your efforts, you are a decent and honorable man.

FrankSchaefer9 karma

I absolutely think that the church used bullying tactics especially since I was prohibited to use any of my orginal arguments in the trial court, witnesses were restricted as well as evidence. The whole thing was "rigged" from the beginning and I was pressured to conform to the church law and denounce gay marriage rights. For now I am sticking with the UMC to try to change the church's discriminatory policy from within. I don't want to abandon thousands of our LGBT members and stand with them in this important fight.

allenahansen3 karma

After helping to found the Methodist church in Rolling Hills, CA back in the 1960s, I left it for good when, as a penniless grad student, I was called by the hierarchy and told that my membership would be terminated unless I coughed up a tithe. At the time, I couldn't even spring for a pack of top ramen.

I'd been atheist since high school by that point, but maintained my relationship with the fellowship because I was employed as the organist and because I supported the church's outspoken social mission against the war in Viet Nam and needed their imprimatur.

I told them to shove it, and I never went back.

When I heard of the nonsense you were going through, it occurred to me just how far the civil-rights-supporting, anti-war, Pope Frank-feed-the-poor mission of the UMC has fallen from the days this idealistic 10-year-old had taken communion and joined it-- and it made me very sad.

Question: Given the increasing secularization of the developed world, and the uncertain future of the religious right's influence in the political dialogue of US domestic policy, what future do you foresee for the churches of America, and for the UMC in particular?

And secondly; ultimately isn't it all about the human fellowship? After all, Satinists are true believers, too....

Thank you for this AMA, and thank you for your ethics. You embody the ministry I used to know.

FrankSchaefer10 karma

If organized religions are to survive they must change their positions and attitudes, and I don't just mean LGBT inclusion. They must start viewing their sacred scriptures and theological doctrines as tools and ways to help, serve and inspire people rather than using fear tactics. Religion can be a good thing if it connects with peoples inmost spiritual needs in a way that it can inspire hope, beauty, a higher purpose and help through everyday struggles as well as tragedies in life. I am so sorry to hear about the way you have been treated; unfortunately, your one of many who have been mistreated in the name of religion.

allenahansen3 karma

They truly did me a huge favor. I'll take ethics over morals any day.

Thanks for your answer, Reverend, and strength to you on your mission.

FrankSchaefer4 karma

thanks and same to you!

melstein2 karma

What books apart from the Bible would you recommend for newer progressive Christians?

FrankSchaefer4 karma

Two books I have recently enjoyed on the LGBT issue are: 1.Adams Gift, by Jimmy Creech 2. James Brownson's book Bible, Gender, Sexuality - Reframing Relationships

Testicularwart2 karma

Do you feel this new wave of thinking that got you casted out will be spreading among the country or world given the proper time?

FrankSchaefer5 karma

I do. I think of the LGBT issue as the modern civil rights movement. I'm encouraged by the fast paced changes as well as the changing polls. I'm thinking that religious organizations will have to change to if they want to be relevant in the future.

[deleted]1 karma


FrankSchaefer8 karma

Love and let love, be quick to embrace the joyful moments and let go of grudges for they will sour your life.

JuxtaTerrestrial1 karma

What's your favorite color?

FrankSchaefer7 karma

These days, I find beauty in the whole spectrum of the rainbow; there is something about seeing all colors and tones together that makes me hopeful and happy.

jamesfielden051 karma

  1. I saw in an article that your son is divorced. Neither you nor your son have discussed this publically. Is he divorced or not? It's confusing and during some of our small round table discussions. Unfortunately, it impacts some views regarding the subject.

  2. The church leaders never charged me, it was one of my parishioners. The whole thing was rooted in a personal disagreement between me and a few conservative parishioners (whose goal it became to get me dismissed as a pastor)... Does it really matter by whom and when the Formal Complaint was submitted? Either way, there was a violation and wasn't it inevitable that someone in your conservative church would have submitted the complaint earlier, had you informed your congregation?

FrankSchaefer5 karma

  1. At the time of the trial and defrocking, my son was not divorced. In what way would a divorce be relevant?

  2. I was answering the question why it took almost 6 years before I was charged. My answer: 1. because the church leadership decided not to make it an issue, and 2. because it took a disagreement in my local church to bring up the complaint.