Tomorrow morning in a makeshift courtroom in a Memphis hotel, the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church will meet to hear the final appeal of Rev. Frank Schaefer who performed a same-sex marriage ceremony for his son Tim in 2007. Many prayers have been said for Pastor Frank and his wife Brigitte as they have traveled this difficult journey through a church trial and previous appeal process to arrive at this day. Many of us are deeply grateful to Frank for his prophetic witness to both church and society regarding the gospel imperative to offer grace and peace to all of God’s children, including our LGBTQ neighbors!
On this eve of Frank’s appearance before the Judicial Council, many people came together for a prayer vigil in the sanctuary of First United Methodist Church in Santa Barbara. During this vigil, we lifted up Frank and Brigitte, that they be surrounded by God’s comforting and empowering presence. We prayed for the team of people representing Frank and for the members of the council to exercise wisdom and compassion in their deliberations. We prayed for faith communities and followers of Christ everywhere that together we move forward in the ministry of Christ for the sake of the whole world, which is beloved of God.
At this critical time in the life of the church, I am claiming the inaugural sermon of Jesus found in Luke, chapter 4, for all of us. Here’s how Eugene Peterson’s The Message states these familiar words of Jesus to his hometown congregation:
“God’s Spirit is on me; he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, to set the burdened and battered free, to announce, ‘This is God’s year to act!’” (Luke 4:18-19)
At the close of our prayer vigil this evening we called Pastor Frank and Brigitte and through the wonders of speakerphone we prayed with and for them. We prayed that the church that seeks to follow Jesus fully embrace the ministry of Jesus that extends to all of God’s children. We prayed believing that in the end love will prevail, because it is a force stronger than fear or prejudice or discriminatory church law!
Words (c) 2014 Mark Lloyd Richardson