'I didn't deserve what happened': Sask. man says he was denied church communion for being gay
Matt Schaefer says the incident took place in front of his family, friends and home community
For more than two decades, Matt Schaefer has been a member of the congregation of St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in the city of Warman, Sask.
That all changed in May when he experienced what he calls the worst day of his life.
Schaefer, who now lives in Edmonton, had been in Warman for a family wedding and baptism. Both events had taken place predominantly at his family's church.
I didn't understand how even to respond. I just wanted to get out and not cry.- Matt Schaefer
"We got up for communion like I had done for a long time. We all lined up and I got passed over for the biscuit," Schaefer said. "I thought it was odd, but when they passed the wine over me as well, I thought, 'Oh, OK — something's up.' "
It happened in front of his entire family, friends and home community. Confused, Schaefer quickly took his seat.
"My entire family goes to that church and I'm still a member of that church... people there have known me there my whole life," he said.
"It was so embarrassing and I didn't understand how even to respond. I just wanted to get out and not cry."
Schaefer said his family insisted that the situation was just a misunderstanding on the part of the pastor of the church — Rev. Randy Heide — because there were more people than usual in line for communion.
"He's known me since I was 12 years old. And, of course, his signature is on my confirmation sheet," Shaefer said. "He knows me. It wasn't sort of a fleeting thing. I've been back every year."
Asking for answers
After returning home to Edmonton, months had passed with no communication between Schaefer and the church.
"This thing was always on the back of my mind and it bothered me, but I didn't actually ask for an answer," said Schaefer.
It wasn't until October that he decided to send Heide an email asking for clarification of what had happened.
"He called me eventually," Schaefer said. "He asked me if I remembered confirmation class and the part on homosexuality."
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At that point, Schaefer said he had his answer: it was because he was gay that he had been passed over during communion.
"I've been with my partner for four and a half years and so it's a shock that this happened now and not when it started," he said.
According to a written statement from Heide and the St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church Board of Elders, their congregation "is a member of Lutheran Church Canada, which holds to a historic understanding of the authority of Scripture in all matters of life and faith."
Heide wrote, "I sincerely care for and pray for this young man whom I have known and served periodically since high school. I have encouraged him to seek out a church in his community which would be able to regularly serve his spiritual needs. I continue to pray for the Lord's hand of guidance upon him."
Schaefer said he's not out to change the mind of the church, but he wished the situation was handled in a more discreet and sensitive way.
"I didn't deserve what happened."