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Pennsylvania

Pa. pastor won’t quit voluntarily over officiating at gay son’s wedding

Monday, December 16, 2013

PHILADELPHIA — A United Methodist pastor vowed Monday to defy a religious order to surrender his credentials for performing a same-sex wedding, saying church officials will have to defrock him if they want him out of the ministry.

The Rev. Frank Schaefer has been told to give up his pulpit in central Pennsylvania by Thursday if he cannot support the denomination’s Book of Discipline. But Schaefer, who describes the book as contradictory and biased against gay people, said he will not go quietly.

“I am actively committing to having those discriminatory laws changed and banished from our Book of Discipline,” Schaefer said. “That’s the only way I can reconcile being a United Methodist at this point.”

Schaefer is serving a 30-day suspension for officiating 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.”

Jurors who convicted Schaefer in a church trial last month said he should use the suspension time to decide whether he could follow church doctrine. They ordered him to resign if he could not.

Schaefer gave his answer publicly Monday during a news conference at Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, surrounded by dozens of sympathetic ministers and laity.

“I cannot voluntarily surrender my credentials because I am a voice now for many – for tens of thousands – of LGBT members in our church,” he said.

His supporters then called on Bishop Peggy Johnson to help change the anti-gay language and to stop holding religious trials for clergy who perform same-sex ceremonies.

Johnson, who leads the church’s eastern Pennsylvania conference, later issued a statement acknowledging the turmoil over the issue. Church doctrine contains both affirming and discriminatory language about gay people, she said, leading many to wonder “how we can talk out of two sides of our mouth.”

Johnson noted that some people support religious trials because they force the church to debate the issue. But she also called them a waste of time and resources.

“I will continue to try in every way, as far as it depends on me, to not have church trials,” she said.

Schaefer said he doesn’t know what will happen when he meets with church authorities Thursday. He hopes officials will allow him to continue leading his congregation in Lebanon, about 70 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

“That, of course, would be my preference,” said Schaefer. “That would be a path toward healing.”

If he is defrocked, Schaefer said he might join another denomination, noting the Episcopal and United Church of Christ branches have approached him.

Phil Gressman, a member of the Arch Street church, said that Schaefer’s decision “shows a lot of integrity.”

“It’s a really big question mark what’s going to happen next,” Gressman said.

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81 more reader comments:

  1. Good for him! I hope the people of this country stand up for him!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:46pm
  2. I like this guy

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:47pm
  3. Yeh, good for him! Love conquers dogma!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:47pm
  4. What I don’t get is why would anybody want to be a member of a bigoted church?

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:48pm
  5. I get that but I also see it as standing ground. Not backing down like HE had done something wrong. Proving a point to say the least.

    Replied on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:51pm
  6. I get that too.

    Replied on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:19pm
  7. I stand firmly with him.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:48pm
  8. Didn’t read it yet but I like this guy already

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:48pm
  9. Good for him xx

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:48pm
  10. Good for him:)

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:49pm
  11. Good for him it should not matter of what type of wedding it is.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:49pm
  12. Good job!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:49pm
  13. Great hold your ground!
    YOU HAVE MY 110% SUPPORT.
    I would love to have you as my minister.
    Honor your children, as I’m sure your son does you. I recommend you as FATHER of the YEAR!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:49pm
  14. the world needs more people like this

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:49pm
  15. Nor should he!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:50pm
  16. Stand strong my friend…This is PRECEDENT setting and we’ve ALL got your back!!!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:50pm
  17. No do not quit. Let them show what low life’s they really are!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:50pm
  18. Yay for him , don’t give up

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:51pm
  19. it is good he stand up for his principles. He is want a pastor should be!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:51pm
  20. If I were his son I ould be really proud of him. Wait, I’m really proud of him.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:52pm
  21. Good I stand behind him all the way

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:52pm
  22. I am so proud of you Pastor Frank. With you all the way!!!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:52pm
  23. Wonderful.. Good going, we need more ministers just like this man. My husband and I are extremely proud of him…

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:53pm
  24. I’m guessing the Methodist church is kicking itself, hard, right about now.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:54pm
  25. STAND YOUR GROUND!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:54pm
  26. Good for him…he needs everones suport…Keep him where is belongs…

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:56pm
  27. This man is a hero. He is a great man and clearly a great father.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:56pm
  28. Why should he have to quit? Just Wrong!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:56pm
  29. Good! In no way should he make this easy on the narrow minded people that are trying to pull this stunt.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:56pm
  30. Good for him! As an episcopalian…we’d love to welcome him into our church. :)

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:57pm
  31. Proud of him!!!!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:58pm
  32. He gives hope to those of us within the church fighting for GLBT rights. We are all God’s kids and deserve equal recognition and rights within the church. This battle has been waged for decades and it’s time the UMC did the right thing.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 4:59pm
  33. I admire this man, it is hard to take on these crazy religious organizations as a lay person, let alone being a part of the organization.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:01pm
  34. great father! not many fathers would do that for their sons.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:03pm
  35. GOOD!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:05pm
  36. good for him, he shouldn’t just bow down to the hipocrits

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:06pm
  37. You have my support I’m proud you are standing for what you be live is right

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:07pm
  38. Good dad!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:16pm
  39. que bello

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:16pm
  40. stand your ground, pastor, at least God is on your side even if your church isn’t

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:20pm
  41. He shouldn’t have to QUIT the people that are telling him to quit should be FIRED!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:21pm
  42. I wonder how many commandments the people telling him to quit broke and are overlooking their own faults to annoy someone who is being a good parent. I think loving and supporting your children is more important than not being gay, but maybe it’s just us rational people who think that way.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:29pm
  43. This is fantastic.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:30pm
  44. Stand up for whats right!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:41pm
  45. yes.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:41pm
  46. Good for him!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:42pm
  47. good for him

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:43pm
  48. Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:46pm
  49. Church trial? Sounds like some cult shit.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:47pm
  50. I am glad he is standing his ground. This is what makes a man a father: standing up for and believing in his son. I also find it interesting that other denominations have been in contact with him. Is a change in Christian denominations in his future?

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:50pm
  51. Go pastor!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:54pm
  52. About time that the preachers and such start taking steps forward to get things done!!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 5:59pm
  53. stay in your gob. you did the right thing for your child

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 6:04pm
  54. Of all the things you have as a human the one thing they cannot take from you is your inteligence and your honor. You sell yourself short you have no person to blame except yourself. Stick to your convictions.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 6:09pm
  55. Nor should he quit.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 6:20pm
  56. Good for him! And God bless him!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 6:27pm
  57. Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 6:27pm
  58. I would so go to church if you were her. You have a higher calling then that small minded group.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 6:28pm
  59. I GO TO A METHODIST CHURCH, THEY ACCEPT ME AND MY GAY ROOMATE,WE ARE LOVED AND HELPED BYE THEM AND WE ARE BLESSED!!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 6:32pm
  60. I’m going to write to the PA Government and complain. Even though I will be putting myself in the front row of getting stung by the government, I personally think that a pastor should be free to officiate over any couple he or she chooses, whether said couple is a man marrying a woman, a woman marrying a woman, or a man marrying a man. In other words, I say good job to the pastor!! We need more people like him in the ministry!!!!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 6:37pm
  61. you go Dad

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 6:37pm
  62. We need more minister’s like him!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 6:49pm
  63. Awesome Dad
    True Christian

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 6:51pm
  64. He needs to start his own church.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 6:56pm
  65. That’s crap. Good for you for supporting your son. Your a good dad. God bless. And don’t let the Church walk all over you…

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 7:06pm
  66. Thank whomever that there are some religious leaders that act sensibly.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 7:07pm
  67. I think if i was the pastor id resign and not want to be associated with ths church whatsoever. Find a new church that accepts all equally. Leave these dinosaurs to their extinction.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 7:08pm
  68. What a great Dad!!!!!!!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 7:09pm
  69. Blessings for what you have done, and prayers for all you will do. You are truely walking the walk.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 7:10pm
  70. Good there is nothing to quit over. He is a good man standing up for his family. The last I checked those are qualities that you what in your clergy. That is what god would what.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 7:12pm
  71. God bless him

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 7:14pm
  72. Good for him..

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 7:51pm
  73. STICK TO YOUR GUNS….. GOOD JOB !!!!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 7:52pm
  74. GOOD FOR HIM !!!!!!! LOVE THIS GUY

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 8:00pm
  75. Christ like behavior is damning in America these days.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 8:08pm
  76. The CHURCH (and I could care less about which denomination or belief system it is either) is ALL ABOUT EGO POWER AND CONTROL.

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 8:13pm
  77. awesome

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 8:45pm
  78. Good for him for standing his ground and doing what’s right ! This is what’s wrong with organized religion today . Who are you to judge gods creation ????

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 8:52pm
  79. Good on him!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 8:54pm
  80. Well done! Proud of you!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 9:24pm
  81. The church that ends up with him will be lucky to have him! The UMC should be ashamed!

    Posted on Monday, December 16, 2013 at 9:52pm