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Pennsylvania

Pa. pastor appeals defrocking over officiating gay son’s wedding

Friday, December 20, 2013
Matt Rourke, APFormer United Methodist pastor Frank Schaefer at a a news conference, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, at First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia. United Methodist church officials have defrocked Schaefer, who officiated his gay son's wedding in Massachusetts.

Matt Rourke, AP
Former United Methodist pastor Frank Schaefer at a a news conference, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, at First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia. United Methodist church officials have defrocked Schaefer, who officiated his gay son’s wedding in Massachusetts.

PHILADELPHIA — A United Methodist pastor defrocked for officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding has appealed the decision, a move that offered the latest evidence of a split in the nation’s largest mainline Protestant denomination and came as yet another state legalized gay marriage.

Frank Schaefer, who lives in central Pennsylvania, said he was shocked and upset that he could be punished for showing love for his son. He said he believed the penalty was meted out reluctantly by members of the church’s regional Board of Ordained Ministry.

“So many of them came to me and they shook my hand and some hugged me, and so many of them had tears in their eyes,” Schaefer said. “They said, ‘We really don’t want to do this, you know that, don’t you?’”

Most other Protestant denominations have decided their position on the issue. But the Methodists, with about 7.7 million members in the U.S. and many more overseas, remain divided. At their last nati onal meeting in 2012, delegates reaffirmed the church’s 40-year-old policy on gays.

Although the church accepts gay and lesbian members, it rejects homosexual acts as “incompatible with Christian teaching” and bars clergy from performing same-sex unions.

Yet hundreds of Methodist ministers have publicly rejected the doctrine, and some face discipline for presiding over same-sex unions. Last month, in a public challenge to church rules, a retired Methodist bishop officiated at a wedding for two men in Alabama.

Board members of the church’s Eastern Pennsylvania Conference declined to comment after meeting privately with Schaefer on Thursday at their offices in Norristown, outside Philadelphia. But spokesman John Coleman said Schaefer left officials no choice after defying the order of a religious jury to resign.

“When asked to surrender his credentials as required by the verdict, he refused to do so,” Coleman said. “Therefore, because of his decision, t he board was compelled by the jury’s decision to deem his credentials surrendered.”

Schaefer has led a congregation in the town of Lebanon for more than a decade. Earlier this year, a church member filed a complaint over Schaefer performing the 2007 wedding of his gay son in Massachusetts, where same-sex unions are legal.

Last month, a church jury suspended Schaefer for 30 days and said he should use the time to decide whether he could uphold the church’s Book of Discipline. If he decided he could not, he was told to resign from the clergy by Thursday.

Schaefer said he told officials Thursday morning that he could not follow a book that he feels is contradictory and biased against gays. He refused to voluntarily surrender his credentials when asked by the board president.

“To which she said, ‘Well, we’re taking them.’ And that was the end of it,” Schaefer said.

Schaefer, making his remarks at a gay-friendly, or “reconciling,” Methodist church in Philadelphia, had held out hope as late as Thursday morning that officials would have a change of heart.

“I said to myself, ‘You know, I just can’t see them taking my credentials.’ I mean, what I did was an act of love for my son. And they did anyhow,” he said.

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64 more reader comments:

  1. He would have a big and accepting congregation if he began his own gathering/church based on love! I wish him well. He represented loving and caring people :)

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:31pm
  2. I honestly don't see a point of going to church where you hear what you want. Why go to church and listen about Heaven when someone is on their way to Hell anyways. Waste of time.

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:28pm
  3. many of church goers will be going to hell,I can tell you roman that I had a near death experience and was told Jesus church was not here yet and,the test of love can be failed by people who judge,,the price is hell,,beware judge ureself only..

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:40pm
  4. Shame on the Methodist church.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:33pm
  5. This surprises me. The UMC is known for its liberal veiws on gay marriage!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:34pm
  6. really? never heard this from the "official" church. A good friend was defrocked 5 years ago for being gay and refusing to be celbant and is now an Episcopal priest.

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:54pm
  7. I grew up in the church and the church voting was always favorable towards gays. We haven't been involved in the Methodist church in 15 years...but still it would surprise me that they went more conservative.

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:57pm
  8. The Methodist Church is good about "the gays", unless it means actually doing something. They just pay a lot of lip service, and then in situations like this, they show how they really feel.

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:39pm
  9. so true

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 10:10pm
  10. Best of luck

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:34pm
  11. with over 38,000 Denominations of Christianity, I’d recommend just finding another one

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:34pm
  12. He needs to start his own congregation and there would be better people.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:37pm
  13. He did the right thing.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:38pm
  14. Yeah true

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:40pm
  15. Much repect!!!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:40pm
  16. What gay marriage discusting

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:41pm
  17. :(

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:45pm
  18. I don’t get why people who think marriage equality is disgusting even come to this page *eyeroll*

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:45pm
  19. Why Bother… Just go make your own church…

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:46pm
  20. Keep up the fight.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:48pm
  21. Until God Almighty himself comes to this planet and says gay marriage is wrong, IT IS NOT FUCKING WRONG! All these damn churches can suck it…..

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:55pm
  22. well i am personally grateful that the pastor went out on a limb for his child and for the cause, he will set the trend, and praise god that he had been given the strength to endure the harshness of unkind words and actions, bless you pastor

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:00pm
  23. You are a great man
    …may g-d bless you….

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:00pm
  24. We stand with you and we love you.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:02pm
  25. Defrocking sounds like some punishment drag queens have for eachother.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:13pm
  26. POWER TO THE PEOPLE!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:13pm
  27. start your own congregation sir….you are closer to JC’s teaching than that other lot…bless you

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:22pm
  28. Deeply respected!!!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:30pm
  29. A good man doing a good thing.stand strong.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:35pm
  30. move on too a Godly church..

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:36pm
  31. Why bother appealing to an obviously bigoted organization to keep your position when you could just move on and begin your own, assuring it wouldn’t suffer from the hatred and lack of empathy of your former affiliation?

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:41pm
  32. Kind Sir, come in over to the ELCA, we’d love to have you, & shame on the UMC.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:47pm
  33. Not very Christian to punish
    this minister. Don’t think
    Jesus likes this.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:58pm
  34. Daniel Holsten u bigots have a massive shock coming. Prick.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:59pm
  35. Daniel being gay is NOT a sin.
    No one chooses to be gay
    or straight. YOU did not choose to be sraight.
    Don’t tell us how to live.
    God loves us too.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:01pm
  36. Holsten God is spelled with a
    capital G.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:02pm
  37. Facebook apparently doesn't like Hebrew. XD Actually it is spelled: אל

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 5:51pm
  38. Only if u think there’s one Rose

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:03pm
  39. Abdul Samad if yr that disgusted don’t comment & naff off, bet u r a follower of The Paedophile aren’t u?

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:05pm
  40. are you serious , this man loses his dream for a wedding while they move molesters from church to church

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:12pm
  41. Your a good man, pastor. A better father. Thank you for being there for your son. You have lost your title but helped so many others stay strong in their faith by learning from your example. Stay Strong.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:14pm
  42. Unfortunate that his parishioners are the ones who lose out in all this. He’s an educated & compassionate pastor. Sounds pretty good to me.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:17pm
  43. thats what it means to be a church member you do the church rules and god has nothing to do with it sad that it’s gone this far but it doesn’t sirprise me at all people are right start your own and teach the word

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:43pm
  44. If you think sexuality is a choice prove it! Choose to become gay for a week,show how easy choice is?

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:53pm
  45. Hero!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 5:43pm
  46. I see Christ, Martin Luther and many others standing there alongside this good soul.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:15pm
  47. Daniel Holston, how will you answer for your judgment and intolerance? When you face YOUR god, have fun explaining it.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:23pm
  48. Divorce is frowned on, but Christians do it all the time. This father did what father’s do: he loves his son. Hate and fear have run the Church since the beginning. Time to stop cowering and start really loving. Do you really think a deity that created EVERYONE would purposely create beings they would later shun? Doubtful.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:29pm
  49. Church should not defrock him. It was his son after all!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:31pm
  50. Don’t appeal. Start your own church.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:37pm
  51. my friend always said there is never a price on love

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 7:15pm
  52. The de-frocking was done in an attempt to embarrass him. I’m not sure that staying with a church such as the United Methodist church of Pa. is where the wonderful man should be. He is an exceptional man and he should maybe go to a church that will accept him and what he does. It appears that he would bring in a NEW sense of belonging for those how have been shunned by the United Methodist of Pa.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 7:22pm
  53. Go get a job and get on with your life

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 8:18pm
  54. That was a really dumb move. I never have liked PA.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 8:32pm
  55. Wow, the United Methodists are shooting themselves in the foot on this one. A pastor’s love for his son, a celebrated triumph over suicide attempts for being gay, is that really one for a church to go after?

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 9:31pm
  56. I would join – even start one here in Baltimore!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 9:42pm
  57. Shame. Thank you for supporting your son and no matter the hate that boils within other people always be you. No one wants anything but love.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 10:01pm
  58. Very good news. Time for this church to repent and change. Open hearts to ur lgbti members and the wide lgbti world !

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 10:09pm
  59. Don’t let those bastards fuck you around.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 10:19pm
  60. Don’t know why he’s appealing. I think the church has made its position abundantly clear. We don’t like gays and we will not support those that do. I would say it is time to look for a different brand of church.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 10:23pm
  61. So get out of the bigoted Methodist denomination and become a pastor in the United Church of Christ.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 10:47pm
  62. Stay Strong Pastor. You are a true man.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 11:12pm
  63. Good luck.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 11:13pm
  64. plenty of other denominations would love to take you, its all the same damn thing anyway but with only a few people like yourself actually living it

    Posted on Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 12:20am