Advertisement
  1. News

Former St. Petersburg Episcopal priest says 'Thank God for marijuana' (w/video)

Published Mar. 5, 2015

ST. PETERSBURG — The bishop was not amused.

Not with the video of one of his priests — complete with clerical collar — advocating gratitude for marijuana.

"Now, thanking God for weed might feel a little awkward at first," says the Rev. Chris Schuller — a former rector at St. Thomas' Episcopal Church in the Snell Isle neighborhood — in the short video that's punctuated with the reggae rhythms of Bob Marley.

"Thanking God is going to feel so much better than throwing stones at people who are already stoned," he says.

But Bishop Dabney Smith, head of the Episcopal Diocese of Southwest Florida, which includes St. Petersburg, "was very disturbed by the video," spokesman Garland Pollard said.

"In this age of social media, we have two hats that we wear in the world, and we need to think of how we present ourselves. And the clergy is held to a higher standard."

It might not matter.

A few days ago, Schuller posted to Facebook that he had decided to leave the Episcopal Church and planned to "minister outside of its boundaries."

"This is a video in which viewers — both believers and non-believers alike — are lovingly invited to judge less and love more," Schuller said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.

"It's a message of faith resting in a fun visual context,'' he said. "One bit of art imitating life is that the Pastor Chris character in the video and I are both light drinkers and don't use marijuana at all."

Pollard said that although Schuller now lives in Venice, Calif., in the Diocese of Los Angeles, he remains under the jurisdiction of the Florida bishop. Schuller's departure from the Episcopal Church is not yet official, Pollard said.

Schuller, who will be 56 soon, is used to controversy. Soon after he arrived at St. Thomas' in 2007, he caused a stir by dismissing the church's longtime music director. Two years later, he removed Marion Fleming, a retired circuit judge and wife of the former rector, the Rev. Peter Fleming, from her volunteer position.

He left the parish in 2011 with plans to write movies and short scripts with a spiritual message. In a January Facebook post, he said that he and a friend planned to start a website. Now up, it's called hashtaghallelujah.com, which notes that the goal is to "Make Faith Fun."

Schuller urged friends to check out the Thank God for Marijuana video, which is now on the site.

"We're just not going to get to that one love, if we judge our brothers and sisters on something as minor as how they relax on a Friday evening," he says in the video.

"So let's practice non-judgment. Let's go with gratitude and not attitude."

Cue to Bob Marley's One Love and the dancing priest.

Contact Waveney Ann Moore at wmoore@tampabay.com.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Nicole Kristine Gaskins, 45, died Monday in a single-car crash on I-275. The Wesley Chapel woman was a mother of two. Jeanne Eror
    Nicole Kristine Gaskins, 45, died Monday when her car drifted off of Interstate 275 and crashed.
  2. FILE - In this Oct. 13, 2017, file photo, death row inmate Rodney Reed waves to his family in the Bastrop County District Court in Bastrop,  Reed is facing lethal injection for a murder he says he didn't commit. The execution was called into question by lawmakers, pastors, celebrities and the European Union. RICARDO BRAZZIELL  |  AP
    The 51-year-old had been set for lethal injection Wednesday evening for the 1996 killing of 19-year-old Stacey Stites.
  3. Discussing sex education on Nov. 15 in Tampa are Christian conservative Terry Kemple, university health services coordinator Linsey Grove, Planned Parenthood outreach educator Paola Ferst and Hillsborough schools physical education and health supervisor Ashlee Cappucci. Not shown: County PTA Council President Damaris Allen. MARLENE SOKOL
    Lessons seek to strengthen students’ communication skills so they can make informed decisions.
  4. Henry "Shake" Washington is running for Hillsborough County School Board for the second time since 2018.
  5. Forensic Science investigators with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office collect evidence at the scene of the shooting behind the Walmart Neighborhood Market, 6900 US Hwy 19 N, in Pinellas Park, on Friday, November 15, 2019. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    The victim was a Walmart employee. He was on break at the time of the shooting.
  6. FILE - In this Aug. 1, 2019, file photo, Donald Trump Jr. speaks before the arrival of President Donald Trump at a campaign rally at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File) JOHN MINCHILLO  |  AP
    University of Florida student body president Michael Murphy received a resolution for his impeachment Tuesday. Then the state’s Republican Party started an online petition and fundraiser.
  7. Jeremy Guerrero, 31, was arrested on charges of DUI manslaughter and driving with a license suspended or revoked involving death, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. He's accused of being impaired by methamphetamines when troopers said he caused a crash on Interstate 75 that killed a woman early Friday. Florida Highway Patrol
    The 31-year-old driver faces a charge of DUI manslaughter after causing the crash that killed a 57-year-old woman, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
  8. The $3 billion Water Street project is slated to be complete by 2026 or 2027. How affordable will it be? SHADD, DIRK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    A project executive ticked off many ways the $3 billion project will alter Tampa, but a Cafe con Tampa audience wanted details on what it will cost to live there
  9. A total of 131 employees are scheduled to be laid off in January as Locale Market and Farm Table Cucina close at the Sundial to make way for a new food hall created by the developers of the Heights Public Market at the Armature Works in Tampa. CHRIS URSO   |   TIMES
    In a notice to the state of Florida, Sundial owner Bill Edwards said the layoffs are expected to take place the first week of January.
  10. Investigators say Traci Hudson stole more than $500,000 from a man she had guardianship over.
    Traci Hudson, 51, spent the money on personal purchases ranging from utilities to jewelry to Tampa Bay Buccaneers tickets.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement