Documentary follows church’s fight over same-sex equality

An Act of Love is the kind of movie that summons rage at the religious right, the homophobia it preaches and the lives its anti-gay policies destroy.

But this film also inspires. After all, it’s about the fight for justice prevailing over narrow-minded intolerance. And it’s about the fundamental tenet of Christian values and one that’s all too often ignored by fundamentalists: love.

An Act of Love is a straightforward documentary with lots of interviews, archival photos and video. And,  while the style isn’t stunning, the story is. It’s painful and heartfelt. And outrageous.

It’s about Rev. Frank Schaefer, a United Methodist minister who officiated the same-sex marriage of his gay son. The preacher’s decision, which he describes as “an act of love,” incurred the wrath of the church, which sent him through a trial. The stakes: the threat of being defrocked.

By being persecuted, Schaffer — who has a surprising number of LGBT children — dedicated himself to championing the LGBT community.

During his trial, he made the following statement: “I want you to know that if I’m going to be a United Methodist minister tomorrow, I will not discriminate against anybody based on their sexual orientation. I will not refuse ministry to them. We are treating our LGBT brother and sisters as second-class citizens. The hate speech has to stop. We are harming beloved children of God.”

The church court, ultimately, found him guilty and asked him to repent.

He refused, assuming he’d be defrocked. But, instead, he was suspended for 30 days, with time to consider upholding the entire disciplinary structure of the United Methodist Church.

The film follows what happened next.

If you’re interested in social justice documentaries showing the struggles of church communities wrangling with civil rights issues and the big question of Christianity — what does it mean to love? — this movie is for you.

It plays tonight, Tuesday, Nov. 10, in Denver, at the SIE FilmCenter, at 6:45, and tomorrow, at 4:15, as part of the Denver Film Festival. Tickets are available here.


Photo credit: An Act of Love