The Rev. Frank Schaefer (third from right) stands with family and supporters during a prayer service for unity at Court Square Park in Memphis, Tennessee, prior to the Oct. 22 oral hearing on his case by the United Methodist Judicial Council. Mike Dubose, UMNS.

Good News strongly disagrees with the October 27 decision of the Judicial Council to uphold the appeals committee and restore the Rev. Frank Schaefer to ordained ministry. Schaefer was found guilty last year of violating church law by performing a same-sex wedding for his son in 2007.

The new decision overturns the good faith effort of the trial court to craft a penalty that tempered justice with grace. The decision will push future trial courts in a more punitive direction.

One result of the decision is that the Rev. Schaefer experienced no legal consequences for violating the Book of Discipline. His penalty was reduced to a 30-day paid suspension, which does not sufficiently reflect the seriousness of Schaefer’s disobedience and his subsequent highly public advocacy on behalf of that disobedience.

A further consequence of the decision is that an ordained elder who has stated publicly that he cannot uphold the covenant that governs our life together as United Methodist clergy is still actively serving in ministry. Such an outcome betrays the dysfunction in our denomination and the inability to hold members accountable to the vows they have made.

We understand the frustration that this decision will cause grassroots members of the church. We hear regularly from persons who have left The United Methodist Church because of the lack of integrity displayed by those who hold positions in the church but are unwilling to live by its covenant. The only way to stop the ongoing damage posed by our deep theological divisions is to arrive at a negotiated solution that protects the consciences of orthodox and evangelical members who are unable to spiritually and financially underwrite an agenda they believe is contrary to Scripture.

Good News will continue to advocate scriptural doctrinal and moral teachings and be a voice for those whose evangelical faith is often discounted by the leadership of our church. In continuity with 2,000 years of church history, we continue to support our worldwide church’s democratically adopted statement that defines marriage as “the union of one man and one woman,” while requiring that “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”