(In response to a posting on our Face Book page regarding the removal of orders from Rev. Frank Schaefer, I posted the following response. For those who are not following Face Book, I am copying that post as my pastoral letter this week.)
In light of recent events in the United Methodist Church family, I recall that John Wesley commended three simple rules to the people called Methodist. "Do no harm, do good, stay in love with God." This week (reflecting an ongoing practice), Methodists have broken the first rule. We have done harm.
By the action of removing a clergy's orders (Rev. Frank Schaefer) for performing the wedding of his son, who is gay, we have done harm:
- To the Los Altos UMC community. Where we share the pain of our gay and lesbian members, leaders and guests with whom we worship. All of us, who partner together in service, leadership, mission and grow as disciples, are harmed.
- To the Body of Christ which includes straight and gay members, by creating separate levels of welcome and access to the ministries of the church.
- To every child, teenager, and young adult already feeling uncertain, guilty, afraid as they wrestle with their sexual identity.
- To the orders of ordained clergy, by selectively applying our "Disciplinary" rules - removing clergy for one action (performing a wedding ceremony) but not taking action against clergy who have not obeyed in other areas (those who do not welcome all, who invest in company's that foster child labor or who have taken insufficient action to promote justice...)
We recognize that United Methodists are not of one mind in issues related to sexual orientation. Los Altos UMC seeks to welcome and encourage ongoing conversation, as we listen for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. While we may not share one mind, we do seek to practice one heart, a compassionate heart and welcome all people on the journey of faith.