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Pa. pastor defrocked after performing gay son’s wedding

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Updated: 4:30 p.m. EST

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — United Methodist church officials defrocked a pastor from central Pennsylvania on Thursday who violated religious doctrine by officiating his gay son’s wedding, and he later said he was shocked by their decision, calling his involvement in the wedding an “act of love.”

Frank Schaefer immediately appealed the penalty, which he believed was meted out reluctantly by many members of the 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?’”

John Coleman, a spokesman for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the denomination, said Schaefer left the board no choice after defying the order of a religious jury by refusing 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, the board was compelled by the jury’s decision to deem his credentials surrendered.”

Schaefer has led a congregation in the central Pennsylvania town of Lebanon 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.

Although the Methodist church accepts gay and lesbian members, it rejects the practice of homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

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 uphold a book that he feels is contradictory and biased against gay people.

He refused to voluntarily surrender his credentials wh en asked by the board president.

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

Later, he said, “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.”

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

The issue has split the nation’s largest mainline Protestant denomination amid a rapid shift in public opinion.

Same-sex marriage will soon be legal in 17 states, and opinion polls show that a majority of Americans now support it. Hundreds of Methodist ministers have publicly rejected church doctrine on homosexuality, and some of them 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.

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

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126 more reader comments:

  1. F……bastards!!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:31pm
  2. So much for america being free.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:31pm
  3. that sucks but kudos to him for standing his ground!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:32pm
  4. Ugh the hypocrisy

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:32pm
  5. Not surprised, but kudos and bravo to him for loving his son. <3

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:32pm
  6. This is bullshit!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:32pm
  7. :(

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:33pm
  8. Stand tall

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:33pm
  9. There is a movement in the Methodist Church to change to reconciling ministries and be more accepting and welcoming of all to the faith. Methodists in New Directions

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:33pm
  10. The Episcopal Church welcomes YOU!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:33pm
  11. My thoughts exactly! He will be appreciated in the Episcopal Church!

    Replied on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:02pm
  12. Thats so stupid

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:33pm
  13. AWESOME DAD

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:33pm
  14. Fuck Pennsylvania man.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:33pm
  15. I think the UM church needs to think again about what Christ represents.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:33pm
  16. My only response to this:

    http://theoatmeal.com/comics/religion

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:33pm
  17. Jesus Wept

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:33pm
  18. He stood his ground and though defrocked, he chose his son over church politics! Kudos to him!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:33pm
  19. He is a GOOD MAN AND A TRUE MAN OF GOOD! He LOVES HIS CHILD NO MATTER WHAT!!!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:35pm
  20. Daammm :/

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:35pm
  21. So the church preaches love and kindness. A pastor marry’s his son… he loves his son. So they don’t want a loving and caring man as a pastor? What would they rather have a bitter bitch? I don’t quite understand this logic.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:35pm
  22. Great man for risking, but sad to hear the church was not really ready for a radically loving man named Frank Schaefer!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:35pm
  23. Michael Adams

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:35pm
  24. Brave man. Fortunately in our church we have no such restrictions. Every time somebody steps up with courage to face bigotry and fear, the world becomes a better place. If he ever decided to become Catholic there's a place for him in the Ascension Catholic Alliance and the Community of Ascensionists!

    Replied on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:34pm
  25. Pastor, your knowledge makes you a better man. There are other churches that could use a good father like you.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:35pm
  26. That is what u call a amazing dad to stand up to him for the love of his son! Bravo!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:35pm
  27. Are people ever going to get what diversity means. They are really doing more harm than good.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:36pm
  28. Good on him. Way to stand your ground pastor :)

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:36pm
  29. What are the steps to take to get a diocese invalidated?

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:36pm
  30. :(

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:36pm
  31. Shame on the officials and their kindergarten tactics! =(

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:36pm
  32. His son is so very blessed to have a loving father and a strong, positive role model. I wish him well on his journey.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:37pm
  33. Terrible….

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:37pm
  34. very brave man… hate that this has happened to him…but maybe he has another calling… the church probably ok’s him to keep performing marriage after remarriage to divorced couples though.. which the bible forbids.. hypocrites..

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:37pm
  35. Disgusting is all I have to say.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:37pm
  36. No! This is a travesty. This disgusts me. Shame on you, UMC.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:37pm
  37. Kudos to him for doing the right thing…God sees all!!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:37pm
  38. I’m sure he will find another, more accepting church that will let him serve his God *and* follow his conscience.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:37pm
  39. You got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:38pm
  40. they are so wrong

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:38pm
  41. Good for him, he stood up for his kid and for what he believed in.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:38pm
  42. Pretty sad!!! That this has happened!!!! Then people are wondering why same sex comments sueaside!! I’m sorry but wish the best for sons future! And Tue.pastor!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:38pm
  43. Why can’t we all just get along….

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:38pm
  44. And Phil Robertson is a hero.. This country is f..ked up…

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:38pm
  45. He is a true father in every sense of the word!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:39pm
  46. This is why religion is Fucked up!!! Kuddos to this pastor!! The love and commitment between two doesn’t matter gay or straight, it’s ALL the same!!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:39pm
  47. Shame shame shame on the “council;” kudos to the pastor/dad who showed both paternal and divine love

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:39pm
  48. Well they stripped Jesus and nailed him to the cross so there ya go. “Religion is what happens when the Spirit leaves the room”-Bono

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:40pm
  49. Wow…. Sad. I admire him for standing by his convictions and hope denominational members will share in his position and put out a cry of outrage…

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:40pm
  50. So much for the so called humanity of the church. They should be bloody well ashamed of themselves.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:40pm
  51. Good man. I thought the Methodist were one of the good Churches. Now were find out that “Through a River” was true and they are just baptist that can read. LOL

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:40pm
  52. Rev. Schaefer, for your courageously unconditional love, MUCH honor and respect.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:40pm
  53. their loss the LGBT communities gain.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:40pm
  54. Amen show your love and respect of your son…..God has your back.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:40pm
  55. I love him

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:41pm
  56. And this is part of why I stopped going to church…I do not agree with their judgmental BS. Kudos to this man for performing his son’s wedding! :)

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:41pm
  57. While the church is busy judging him they seem to forget that they will face judgement! Would hate to have their karmic retribution!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:41pm
  58. The church doesn’t deserve him. This makes me ashamed of being Methodist in the past.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:42pm
  59. i really don’t understand religious gays. its like trying to smoke a healthy cigarette

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:42pm
  60. I guess a member of a white supremacist group could say the same thing about a religious black person. Hmmm

    Replied on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:50pm
  61. But white supremacists historically use the religion to control blacks. And they think it's a good thing so they're not typically going to wonder why religious blacks allow that type of control. My comment is coming from a queer, black, irreligious perspective where I believe there's not much good about religion.

    Replied on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:04pm
  62. And society (average heterosexual Christians) use religion to control gay people. And THEY think it's a good thing. You said that you don't understand religious gays. I was replacing you with a white supremacist. They could say the same statement about black people. But I see where you're coming from, now. You're statement said something different but your explanation makes it's clearer. :-)

    Replied on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:12pm
  63. I know you were likening my comment to something a white supremacist *might* say, but isn't that because you probably assumed I am religious and/or straight? My comment didn't change, I just didn't initially go into the fact that I am queer and irreligious ;)

    Replied on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:23pm
  64. I would really like to know if Christian gay bashers are able to defend their views and opinions about gay people based on anything other than the bible

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:42pm
  65. Universal Life Church will happily…..um…..re-frock him. lol

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:43pm
  66. This is shameful and exactly why equal marriage should be national! There should have been a law to protect this man from his act of love for his son.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:43pm
  67. Disgraceful! Jesus never condemned LGBTQ people…why do Christians? Rev. Lynette

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:43pm
  68. I hope either the UCC, the MCC, the ELCA, or the Episcopal Church offers him expedited credentials….

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:44pm
  69. This is just wrong.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:44pm
  70. Unbelievable!!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:45pm
  71. Big deal.he preformed his sons gay wedding.he’s supportive of his sons sexuality.coming from someone who is gay himself.RIGHT ON

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:45pm
  72. Sad

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:46pm
  73. is things like this that make me realize how fucked up people can be.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:47pm
  74. Hero.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:48pm
  75. Wow Nooo, This man is a hero!! Lift him up!!! Phil Robertson on Duck Dynasty has been fired from the show by A& E. He can’t degrade an entire community without repercussions.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:50pm
  76. He would be welcome in so many other churches – don’t give up o your conscience!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:51pm
  77. Disgusting, they should hang their heads in shame, I hope this ex pastor move on with his life, and shows his son what true love is.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:52pm
  78. Thats sad he is being crucified for what he belives is right

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:52pm
  79. so wrong!!!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:52pm
  80. I’m happy he didn’t back down at all, but how sad is it when the same people who preach the whole “love thy neighbor” doctrine defrock a pastor for performing his own son’s marriage which is itself a union of LOVE between two people? smh

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:54pm
  81. Glad the Pastor stuck to his guns. Some people don’t do that.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:55pm
  82. I stand with pastor frank. Following faith is far more in the path of the christ than following church law.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:55pm
  83. those who did that should be defrocked for standing in judgement of a man who was just loving and helping his son they are NOT god they are supposed to be his workers only he can judge and unless they have a direct phone line to him then they are in the wrong they can quote passages from Bible that makes being gay seem wrong but so are many other things they ignore and may even do themselfs I quote to them JUDGE NOT LEST YE BE JUDGED

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:55pm
  84. I Aswan interview with him last night he refused to say he wouldn’t dour again good for him

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:56pm
  85. So much for loving Christians

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:56pm
  86. Shame on the church. Good for him.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:57pm
  87. @ AyJay Powell.. What kind of retarded comment is that. ..grrrr

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:57pm
  88. He just needs to affiliate with another more diverse oriented church…

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:58pm
  89. This gentleman is awesome. It’s their (the church officials) loss.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:58pm
  90. I am so glad I am no longer a Methodist. As a Wiccan Priest, I have no qualms about officiating at a same sex wedding here in NY.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:58pm
  91. Ministering churches where your inconclusive gospel will be welcome

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 3:59pm
  92. If I were him I would thank them. It’s obvious not a very good church to be a pastor in then. I would tell the church. Thank you NOW pay me the big settlement you’re going to have put against you now.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:01pm
  93. I guess there is no connection between love and man’s church, I say man’s because I sure Jesus would see there is no love in it.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:03pm
  94. What the hell is WRONG with the Methodist Church???

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:03pm
  95. Sad….

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:04pm
  96. what a shame, I’m sure his son is so proud of him.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:07pm
  97. shame on them!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:12pm
  98. Another fucked up church

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:12pm
  99. I am strongly in favor of gay rights and gay marriage. Yet the man said he choose between his son and his career. While I believe he did the right thing, he was fully aware this could be the consequence. Hopefully, he will find an more inclusive church in which to minister.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:13pm
  100. He should be thankful that he is not part of the bigots on the horrific place they call a “church”. We know who the evil sinners truly are.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:13pm
  101. Sad. Being fired for what is right and christian like. He shows us all what it mean to do the right thing.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:14pm
  102. don’t worry you have most of america on your side :)

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:15pm
  103. You are better off! Stand your ground!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:16pm
  104. Come be a Disciples of Christ, we can always use another good minister.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:19pm
  105. Makes me think organized religion just isn’t worth the bother

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:19pm
  106. Would gladly have him in NJ…….more character than I have

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:23pm
  107. So much for family values. Bless you for not giving in to bigotry

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:26pm
  108. What this article doesnt tell you (thank you Matthew C Tuttle for this) is that he DID ask for approval to perform his sons wedding…and was given an approving nod by his direct superiors THREE years ago when his son was married!! It wasnt until someone in his NEW church learned of his role in his sons wedding and complained to the upper church did this become a problem….all it takes is ONE person to ruin a mans life and discriminate….
    Now compare this action of the United Methodist Association to that of A&E’s actions against Phil Robertson “The Duck Commander”. Same reason but different angles. 2 heterosexual men. One was fired because he was FOR the gays and the other was fired because he was AGAINST the gays. They both felt they were right. One acted out of compassion while the other out of ignorance and hate. Both received the same punishment of being fired and stripped of all medals. Both are Christians. The church damned the compassionate one and embraced the ignorant one.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:26pm
  109. shame on them

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:26pm
  110. Thank you for standing by your son.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:27pm
  111. Good for him!!!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:28pm
  112. Before the bible …Jesus ministered without “papal” existence or “authority” or the bible, for that matter. No on owns “the word of god/goddess”. There are other avenues for teaching. expressing and sharing gods/goddesses’ love. Good luck, brother!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:32pm
  113. How incredibly Christian of them!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:35pm
  114. No matter. Now he’s free.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:36pm
  115. Thank you for not bowing to ignorance and hate.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:36pm
  116. Sometimes following your heart in what is right is met with abject rejection. Bravo sir and fight the good fight!

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:38pm
  117. To hell with hierarchies and organized religion. Create your own ways of worshiping. No one can dictate love.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:39pm
  118. Shame on the United Methodist Association

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:40pm
  119. Not surprising but still a shame

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:40pm
  120. Well, there’s always room for another in the Episcopal Church.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:40pm
  121. You are a better man for what you have done. You have so much support from everywhere. Thank you for standing for your son and your love for him. A resigned UMC member.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:42pm
  122. They shouldn’t call themselves or their church Christian.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:42pm
  123. bigots

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:43pm
  124. This sucks good men shouldn’t get defrocked for doing gods work but if he had cheated on his wife we wouldn’t be hearing about that

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:43pm
  125. Use of the word defrocking and gay in the same sentence makes me laugh.

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:45pm
  126. I am sure there will be another church to welcome him with open arms

    Posted on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 4:50pm