I Stand With Frank

Today, there will be a vigil for Pastor Frank Schaefer at the Isla Vista United Methodist Church as he (and we) wait for the final verdict to be given about his standing in the United Methodist Church.

This (and by “this” I mean the issue of homosexuality) is (and has been) such a divisive issue.
Regardless of the verdict given (whether he is re-defrocked or remained refrocked) the losing side is not going to go down quietly. A deep part of me thinks that this might be the beginning of the end as the people known as Methodist.

“United we stand, divided we fall” it is said.
But, as a denomination, we’re barely standing as is. We’ve been seeing decline in membership and giving all across the board. We’ve heard reports about UMC camp grounds closing and being sold off to many local churches closing their doors for the final time.
If we split — we’ll just be two (even) weaker denominations.
I mean, seriously, aren’t we doing the Devil’s work for him by our constant fighting and division? With so much anger and unwillingness to listen, he’s just standing back and thinking, “Even I couldn’t have planned this better.”

I’ve gotten to know the Schaefers fairly well now. They’re great people.
It’s a shame that many won’t get to know Frank or his family at all — because they’ve already made up their mind about him because of what he did; because of what he stands for.

He shared with me that he has already received anonymous hate mail signed in Christ’s name. Hate mail. From Christians. How does that even make sense? Sure, you can disagree with him or with anyone. But why the need to condemn?
We’ve come to a point where disagreeing is not enough, we need to demonize.

So much fear and misunderstanding builds up within us because we simply don’t know a person from the opposing side. Or we don’t want to get to know them because getting to know them will make it harder to demonize and dehumanize them.

The other day, I overheard the most ridiculous statement at Starbucks. I wanted to say something but decided that nothing good would come of it. Instead, I put on my Beats and let the music carry me away.

These two gentlemen were discussing Lord knows what (they also had a big fat Bible with them).
They started talking about Muslims and one gentlemen said, “They’re all terrorists waiting to happen.” (As if they’re mutants in X-Men, who discover their power around the time they hit puberty.)
“Yup.” Was the response.

Omar is a dear friend of mine. He’s a Muslim. And you might be surprised, but he’s fairly normal. No violent tendencies. His family is wonderful. His mother is a great cook.
Omar and I joked about making a movie called Turban Seoul where two guys get into a lot of trouble. About a year after we came up with the idea, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle was released, and we realized that we missed our chance to make an awesome movie. Great people, Omar’s family. They are more loving than some Christians I know.

It’s funny. Lots of Christians would balk if you compared them to the KKK.
Many Christians will get offended if you grouped them with the likes of those who protest and picket the funerals of soldiers.
But then, some of those Christians will go and say that all Muslims are terrorists. And 10/10 times, the folks who say that, don’t know any Muslims. Because it’s easier to hate when you don’t know someone; when you don’t care for them.

I think we lost our ability to listen to one another and really hear each other out. I don’t mean in our big Annual and General Conferences “listening” to debates and amendments to amendments. But we don’t practice the art of listening in our every day lives. When we get into debates or discussions about controversial and divisive topics, it seems natural to devolve into “whoever is loudest wins” mode.
I’ve been called out by friends and peers for not being “committal” to the cause of inclusion. They’re absolutely right. Based on my actions (or lack thereof) you can easily conclude that I do not care for equality.

I’ve always felt that there are more than this issue to fight about/argue for (hence being called out by friends and peers because this is the BIG issue), especially when it came to our denomination.
Like finding better ways to keep our clergy accountable so that one doesn’t coast the moment one is ordained.

I consider Frank not only my colleague in the Santa Barbara community, but also as a friend. And I want the best for my friend. I stand with Frank because I think he did what any loving father would do: put his family ahead of his career.
In my context, there are so many pastor’s kids who feel so cheated out of their childhood because their father spent more time with the church than with them. It’s so refreshing to hear about a father who was willing to put his family ahead of his career. After all, we preach that ministry begins at home.
This wasn’t an act of disobedience, as Frank puts it. “It was an act of love.”
How many “rules” have fathers broken for the sake of their children?
Who wouldn’t want their children to be happy?
And there’s more to Frank than the wedding he officiated nearly 6 years ago.

Though Ned Stark never really said this, I feel it’s appropriate: Brace yourself. Winter is coming.
And by “winter” I mean a flurry of angry comments across all UMC affiliated comment sections — regardless of The Decision. (Okay, wrong Decision.)

I just want to share John Wesley’s words from Adam Hamilton’s book Revival: Faith as Wesley Lived It (and from Wesley’s “Catholic Spirit” sermon). It’s from the section where he talks about John’s embracing of via media, looking for a common ground; a middle way. It’s great section that is apropos for this post:

Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion? Without all doubt, we may. 

Whether he’s re-defrocked or remains refrocked, it’s not the credentials or a piece of paper that makes Frank a pastor. It’s his love for God and his love for God’s people that makes him a pastor. Regardless of the outcome, Frank will always be Pastor Frank to me.

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