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Reinstated minister to preach at Frederick Pride

Methodist panel overturns decision to defrock pastor who performed gay wedding

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Rev. Frank Schaefer was defrocked for performing his gay son’s wedding. (Washington Blade file photo by Damien Salas)

A Methodist pastor who was defrocked for performing his gay son’s wedding is scheduled to deliver a guest sermon at a Pride Day church service in Frederick, Md., on Saturday — less than a week after a Methodist appeals panel reinstated him as a practicing minister.

A nine-member United Methodist Church appeals committee stunned members of the church’s conservative faction on Wednesday by overturning a church decision last year to strip Rev. Frank Schaefer of his ministerial authority on grounds that he refused to promise not to perform same-sex marriages in the future.

The appeals committee, which met in Linthicum, Md., ruled that the defrocking of Schaefer was an improper method of punishing him. The committee upheld the church’s decision to suspend him for 30 days, a penalty that Schaefer has already served, and ordered that the church in Lebanon, Pa., for which he had been serving as pastor give him back pay from the time the suspension ended last December.

“Today there was a very clear and strong signal from the church, and that message is, ‘Change is on the way,’” the New York Times quoted Schaefer as saying on the day of his reinstatement.

“One day we will celebrate the fact that we have moved beyond this horrible chapter in our church’s life,” the Times quoted him as saying.

Schaefer was scheduled to deliver a guest sermon on Saturday, June 28, at an LGBT Pride Day service at Grace United Church of Christ in Frederick, Md.

Rev. Robert Apgar-Taylor, the gay pastor of the church, said Schaefer accepted his invitation to deliver a Pride Day sermon at the church back in March, at a time when he was appealing the decision to defrock him but long before the outcome of the appeal was known.

“I contacted Frank probably three or four months ago about coming to our Pride event, and he accepted,” Apgar-Taylor told the Blade. “And he never dreamt it would be the week his appeal would come through.”

Added Apgar-Taylor, “We’re going to be the first place that he speaks after his appeal, which is actually quite cool.”

Following the 11 a.m. church service Schaefer was scheduled to accompany Apgar-Taylor and members of the congregation to a park in downtown Frederick where the LGBT Pride celebration was to take place.
The decision to defrock Schaefer came about after church officials learned last year that he performed his son’s same-sex marriage in Massachusetts in 2007. Church officials in Pennsylvania initially suspended him for violating church rules that prohibit same-sex marriage. The officials next called on Schaefer to promise not to perform same-sex marriages in the future. He refused to make such a promise, prompting a church tribunal to defrock him.

In its decision released on Wednesday, the appeals panel concluded that the decision to revoke Schaefer’s credentials as a minister was illegal under church law. The appeals panel said a “well-established principle” of the church is that “our clergy can only be punished for what they have been convicted of doing in the past, not for what they may or may not do in the future.”

The Washington Post reported that the appeals panel indicated that its decision was based solely on the facts of Schaefer’s case and it was not making a broader statement about the United Methodist Church’s position on homosexuality.

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Glenn Youngkin sworn in as Va. governor

Republican backed teacher who opposed trans student guidelines

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Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin at his swearing in in Richmond, Va., on Jan. 15, 2022 (YouTube screenshot)

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office on Saturday amid concerns that he will seek to curtail LGBTQ rights in the state.

“Today we gather not as individuals, not as Republicans and Democrats,” said Youngkin after his swearing in. “Today we gather as Virginians.”

Former Gov. Ralph Northam and U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) are among those who attended the ceremony that took place at the State Capitol. Terry McAuliffe, who Youngkin defeated in the general election, did not attend because of a COVID-19 scare.

Youngkin during his campaign against McAuliffe expressed support for Tanner Cross, a gym teacher at a Leesburg elementary school who was suspended from his job after he spoke out against Virginia Department of Education guidelines that are designed to protect transgender and non-binary students. Youngkin has also said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Youngkin on Thursday named Elizabeth Schultz, an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board, to his administration.

“We will remove politics from the classroom and focus on the essentials,” said Youngkin in his inaugural speech, without specifically mentioning LGBTQ students.

He added “parents should have a say in what is taught in schools.”

Youngkin has also expressed his opposition to marriage equality, but stressed it is “legally acceptable” in Virginia and would “support that” as governor.

Lieutenant Gov. Winsome Sears and Attorney General Jason Miyares also took office on Saturday.

Winsome, a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates, is the first woman and first female of color elected lieutenant governor. Miyares, a former House member whose mother was born in Cuba, is Virginia’s first Latino attorney general.

Youngkin in his inaugural speech noted “the people of Virginia just elected the most diverse leadership” in the state’s history. Youngkin’s first executive order ends “the use of” so-called “critical race theory” (which is not taught in Virginia schools) and other “divisive concepts” in Virginia’s public schools.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Wednesday.

Republicans control the House by a 52-48 margin. Democrats have a 21-19 edge in the Virginia Senate.

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Va. school board names new chair who called for burning books

Kirk Twigg backed torching of materials with “sexually explicit” content

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(Screenshot via WUSA)

The Spotsylvania County School Board voted Monday to name Kirk Twigg, who advocated for burning books he deemed “sexually explicit” in November, as its new chair. 

His win gives conservatives the majority on the board as Republicans across the country continue an effort to ban books dealing with LGBTQ issues and racism from schools. 

Spotsylvania County has been involved in the controversy from the beginning, voting last year to remove books containing “sexually explicit” materials — only to rescind the order a week later.  

Monday’s board meeting, Twigg’s first as chair, would prove to be disorganized and, at times, unruly. 

Twigg’s first order of business was to call an unscheduled, closed-door session, which may have violated Virginia’s open meeting requirements. According to Virginia Code, a closed meeting cannot be called without a public body approving a motion that states the subject matter and the purpose of the meeting, as well as an applicable exemption from open meeting requirements.    

After the board returned from the closed-door session, Twigg said well-regarded Superintendent Dr. Scott Baker would be fired without cause. Baker had already announced he would be resigning at the end of the school year in December. 

After Baker decided to resign, a longtime Spotsylvania resident penned a letter in the Free Lance-Star, calling him “the finest superintendent, by far.”

“Dr. Baker is trusted and respected by parents, students and employees of Spotsylvania Schools; and he never lost sight of his mission for good reason,” it read. “He did so despite the noise and disruption from those few board members dedicated to bringing political disruption and dissidence into our public educational system. Shame on the few.”

As Twigg made the announcement, another member of the board interrupted him, saying: “Um, Mr. Twigg, no he is not. You need to make a motion — there needs to be a motion and a vote.”

Board members continued to speak over each other as conservative members attempted a vote. But Board Member Nicole Cole told the chairman she had comments. 

“I believe that the board members who have lodged this termination owe our citizens and our students of Spotsylvania County a justification for firing Dr. Baker,” said Cole. “You have not stated any justification or ability to fill the position. How is this good for the students, the children of Spotsylvania? How does this make sense?”

In a rebuke of the chaotic meeting, she added that Twigg “couldn’t even properly chair a meeting.”

After approximately 7 minutes of heated discussion where members from both sides got noticeably frustrated, the board voted 4-3 to fire Baker. 

Twigg, Lisa Phelps, April Gillespie and Rabih Abuismail, who also advocated for burning books, voted in favor. 

The Free Lance-Star reported that Baker was escorted from the building before the board returned from the second closed-door meeting. 

An emergency meeting has been scheduled for Friday to name an interim superintendent.

“It’s just very sad to hear that a superintendent who has been fully engaged in this community for 10 years is just let go with no rhyme or reason,” said Board Member Dawn Shelley, while noting Baker’s accomplishments. 

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Melissa Etheridge to host Heather Mizeur fundraiser

Virtual event to take place on Tuesday

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Heather Mizeur, left, with Melissa Etheridge. (Photo courtesy of Heather Mizeur)

Singer Melissa Etheridge next week will hold a virtual fundraiser for Heather Mizeur’s congressional campaign.

The fundraiser will take place on Tuesday at 8 p.m. with tickets starting at $50. Supporters who donate at least $250 will be able to speak with Etheridge and Mizeur in a private Zoom room.

Mizeur, a former member of the Maryland House of Delegates who lives on the Eastern Shore with her wife, is running against anti-LGBTQ Republican Congressman Andy Harris in Maryland’s 1st Congressional District. Mizeur ran for Maryland governor in 2014.

Mizeur on Thursday noted to the Washington Blade that her congressional campaign has raised more than $1 million.

“It’s going really, really great,” said Mizeur.

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