By Andrew E. Harrod, Juicy Ecumenism.
“I’m somewhat reminded of ‘stump speeches’ politicians give,” former Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) blogger Alexander Griswold has written of repetitive encounters with pro-LGBT United Methodist Church (UMC) minister Frank Schaefer. Similarly hackneyed is An Act of Love, a film documenting his LGBT advocacy that nonetheless cannot refute the reality of disordered LGBT agendas rightfully resisted by most Methodists.
The film examines Schaefer’s relationship with his son Tim, who like two other of Schaefer’s four children identifies as homosexual, and the UMC fallout from Schaefer’s officiating at Tim’s 2007 same-sex “marriage” (SSM). As indicated by the film title, Schaefer considered his affirmation of his son’s homosexuality a loving act for an individual whose initial awareness of same-sex attractions had provoked depression and suicidal thoughts. The lesbian and UMC LGBT activist Dorothee Benz in the film condemns as cruelty to “say that this proportion of the population should be deprived of a basic human need for love and intimacy.”
One of Schaefer’s congregants in the small eastern Pennsylvania town of Iona, Jon Boger had a less positive response to his actions. Schaefer baptized Boger’s children and buried his grandparents. As the film narrates, Boger filed a UMC disciplinary action against Schaefer in 2013 after learning of his SSM ceremony, a violation of the UMC’s Book of Discipline and its orthodox Christian prohibition of homosexuality. Boger wept on the witness stand at the November 2013 UMC trial as he contrasted his obedience to his oath as a United States Navy officer, even at the price of extensive home absences, with Schaefer’s ministerial oath breaking.
The film shows Schaefer’s former parishioners explaining how he had a devastating impact beyond Boger upon the congregation before Schaefer left the parish after the UMC trial court imposed a defrocking. Schaefer had became disinterested in the church’s original traditional worship service as he devoted more time to a second contemporary worship service he had started where he played guitar. As a result of congregant dissatisfaction with his ministry and controversial homosexuality stance, Schaefer’s church lost about half of its 250 members in 2013.
IRD writer John Lomperis has observed that Schaefer, who continued to officiate communion in violation of his suspension, was ultimately “far more effective at media self-promotion than in being a caring, ‘do no harm’ pastor.”