Let’s imagine that you work for a company with a set of rules and expectations. In your past, you did something against those rules, but no one was personally hurt by it. You told your superiors that you broke the rules, and they did not make a complaint about it. Fast forward a about 6 years: A staff-person in your department is let go by HR (which you do not control). The staffer’s son is angry and makes a complaint to the Corporate HR (not your local company’s HR but the higher-ups) about your broken rule in the past–in fact, he makes it less than a month before the statute of limitations gives out. The Corporate HR then spends upwards of $20-40k on a trial to address the past infraction all because a staffer’s son was angry about his mother’s termination from the company.
How would you decide in this trial?
- Is this an action against you because of being hurt by their mother being let go?
- Or is this a person actually hurt by your actions in the past?
What does justice look like in this situation?
It’s important to consider this situation because a possible parallel church version is happening right now in rural Pennsylvania.
As the trial proceeds in the Frank Shaefer case, some details become clear for the first time.
- Complainant was a member at the local United Methodist Church led by Frank Schaefer, but attended only sporadically after his youth and did not live in the area.
- Frank Schaefer informed his District Superintendent in writing of his intention to perform a wedding for his gay son
- Schaefer performed a wedding for Tim.
- Six years go by. Complainant only attends church for family baptisms and funerals. Is not otherwise involved with the church.
- In the sixth year, complainant’s mother is terminated from her organist position by the Staff-Parish Relations Committee, which is chaired by laity (not the pastor).
- Complainant (who described himself as “angry about the firing” on the stand) wrote a formal complaint to the Bishop after seeking a marriage certificate for Tim.
- Mediation process did not reach a satisfactory conclusion and thus went to trial.
I’m really confused and disturbed that this obvious local HR dispute and local church frustration has become an internationally-watched trial. I was wondering also why the Good News and IRD hadn’t commented much on this trial publicly (or at least as much as they had with the Talbert/50 clergy in Pennsylvania topics). Now I know why: something is fishy at Camp Innabah. And they perhaps knew it.
Upon learning these facts, Rev. Becca Girrell tweeted the following:
For love of his son, Frank officiated a wedding. For love of his (recently fired) mom, complainant filed charges?
Is that what this trial is coming down to? A dispute over what lengths will a father or son will go to for their child or parent? To marry them and risk their ordination, or to advocate for them against all other reasonable conclusions?
Or is this just a local church issue that should have been identified as such?