Finance agency responds to clergy housing decision


Editor’s Note: The General Council on Finance and Administration — The United Methodist Church’s finance agency — responded Nov. 26 to  a U.S. district court ruling that found the tax-free housing benefits for clergy to be unconstitutional.  GCFA’s full statement is below.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — On Nov.  21, 2013, a federal district court judge in Madison, Wis.,  held that a portion of Section 107 of the tax code is unconstitutional.  Section 107 is the provision dealing with tax-favored housing benefits for clergy.  Specifically, the court held that Section 107(2), which permits clergy to receive a tax-free cash “housing allowance,” is unconstitutional because it violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”).  Section 107(1), which allows clergy to reside tax-free in a church-provided parsonage, was not affected by the court’s decision.

Bishop cites Wesley's 3 rules in view of trial

Bishop Peggy Johnson

The three simple rules of John Wesley apply today in many poignant ways: "do no harm, do good and stay in love with God." What would it look like if we ordered our lives like that? What can happen at this church trial as we follow this directive? Pray for all involved and for the church as it discerns the depths of God's love and good will for its people and the world.

Schaefer’s 30-day suspension for conducting son’s same-sex wedding may become permanent

Rev. Michele Bartlow adresses media

The Rev. Michele Wright-Bartlow, spokesperson for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of The United Methodist Church, reads a statement to the media on behalf of Bishop Peggy Johnson.

by John W. Coleman, Jr.

SPRING CITY, Pa.—The Rev. Frank Schaefer of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference was given a 30-day suspension by the jury in his church trial Tuesday night, Nov. 19. And he was told that if he can’t promise to uphold the Book of Discipline in its entirety he must surrender his credentials.

Schaefer was found guilty the night before of violating the church’s law against pastors performing same-sex unions and of disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church. He acknowledged having performed the same-sex wedding of his son, Tim, in 2007, although he pled not guilty to violating the Discipline.

Facts and Bishop's Statement on Jury's Penalty for Rev. Frank Schaefer

Frank Schaefer communion

The Rev. Frank Schaefer consoles a supporter while giving him Holy Communion after Schaefer's trial ended Tuesday night. - John Coleman photo

Beginning on November 18, Bishop Alfred Gwinn (retired) presided over the trial of the Rev. Frank Schaefer, a clergy member of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference.  The trial occurred because of a complaint filed that charged Rev. Schaefer with officiating at a same-sex wedding ceremony, which is not allowed by The United Methodist Church, and with violating the church’s Book of Discipline through his actions. 

The Counsel for the Church (Complainant) and the Counsel for the Respondent (Rev. Schaefer) each presented its case in a guilt/innocence phase of the trial. The jury, or trial court, prayerfully deliberated and found Rev. Schaefer guilty on both charges of the complaint. 

Bishop Johnson offers initial statement on start of church trial

Frank Schaefer

The church trial of the Rev. Frank Schaefer began with jury selection this morning, with Bishop Alfred Gwinn (retired) presiding. Thirteen jurors were selected from a pool of 87, and the trial was underway before noon.

Advocates from EPA churches and the Reconciling Ministries Network are present and engaged in prayers, songs and peaceful advocacy. Volunteer clergy chaplains are serving as "peacekeepers," and a number of church and non-church journalists are reporting on the trial.

More updates will be reported Tuesday morning, Nov. 19. The trial is expected to last till Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.

Frank Schaefer found guilty in church trial

Schaefer greets supporters

The Rev. Frank Schaefer greets supporters after receiving a guilty verdict Nov. 18. The penalty phase begins Nov. 19. He did not make any comments after the verdict. UMNS photos by Kathy L. Gilbert.

Penalty phase begins in Pennsylvania clergy trial

By Kathy L. Gilbert, UM News Service

SPRING CITY, Pa. (UMNS)—The Rev. Frank Schaefer faces another long day Nov. 19 as a jury of ordained United Methodists decide on his penalty after finding him guilty of breaking church law by officiating at the same-sex marriage of his son in 2007.

The penalty could range from losing his ordination credentials to being suspended for a time determined by the jury.

Both Schaefer and Jon Boger, the church member who brought charges against him, were sometimes emotional as they testified Nov. 18.

MInistry Within the Context of Community - CANCELLED

church communityA Notice from the Southeast District regarding the Saturday event: "Ministry Within the Context of Community" -- The "Ministry Within the Context of Community" event scheduled for November 23 (this coming Saturday) has been cancelled due to the circumstances currently occurring within our Annual Conference. Please keep the Conference, the Clergy, the Laity and all involved with the current trial in your prayers.   

Please share this information with your congregations.   Refunds will be arranged for those who have already registered.

Join Us in Standing for Justice with Immigrant Families

Immigration Reform Now

Hundreds of United Methodist clergy answered the call to lead for genuine immigration reform!

Other clergy urged to join them powerful witness by signing our letter.

The United Methodist letter to members of the U.S. House of Representatives is a powerful witness of the movement among United Methodists for genuine, solution-based immigration reform. Close to 700 United Methodist bishops and clergy have chosen to lead. Many others need to hear from you asking them to join this movement!

Council of Bishops Takes Action Following Same-Gender Ceremony

Council of Bishops

Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church
100 Maryland Ave. NE
Washington, D.C. 20002

November 15, 2013

Council of Bishops Takes Action Following Same-Gender Ceremony

NEWSpirit News Digest

News Digest

Download a pdf of this week's News Digest.

Typhoon Haiyan Response

Possibly the strongest storm ever to make landfall, battered the Philippines Friday, Nov. 8. With sustained winds of 195 mph, the category 5 storm cut a swath of devastation across the northern tip of Cebu and tore through the three large island provinces of Samar, Leyte and Bohol. The United Methodist Committee on Relief is working with partners in the Philippines to provide assistance immediately. Please be in prayer for our brothers and sisters in the Philippines and try to share this video in your Sunday worship services. Join the relief effort.


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Bishop's Blog

Bishop's Blog

Read thoughts on faith and life from Bishop Peggy Johnson.