December 20th, 2013
10:36 AM ET

Methodist Minister Defrocked for Officiating Son's Same-Sex Wedding

A Pennsylvania minister was defrocked after he was found guilty in a church trial for officiating his son's same-sex wedding, according to church officials.

Frank Schaefer, 51, the pastor at Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in Lebanon, had already been suspended for 30 days in November after a jury of 13 clergy members found him guilty of officiating a same-sex wedding and being disobedient to the discipline and order of the church, according to Cathy Husid-Shamir, a Schaefer family spokeswoman.

During his 30-day suspension, Schaefer was to decide whether his advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community would prevent him from fully complying with church law in the future, according to a statement from Bishop Peggy Johnson of the United Methodist Church.

Schaefer told the Board of Ordained Ministry that he could not uphold the church's Book of Discipline in its entirety because it discriminates against gay people.

Schaefer was asked to immediately surrender his credentials, but he refused, forcing church officials to defrock him, the statement said.

"I am somewhat in shock still," Schaefer said at a news conference Thursday.

"When I went into the hearing this morning," he said, "I was hopeful that it wouldn't come to what it has come to."

Schaefer appeared on "New Day"  and said his son, Tim, asked him to officiate his wedding seven years ago, and he decided to do it "out of love for him."

Although he once believed that homosexuality was incompatible with his Christian beliefs, Schaefer said his views on the controversial topic evolved.

"By the time our son came out, I was ready to embrace him," Schaefer said.

The complaint was filed by one of Schaefer's church members, and the church leadership decided to act upon it, according to Schaefer.

The church told Schaefer he could avoid a trial if he agreed never to perform another same-sex marriage. He refused.

"I can't commit to a statement like that, especially in light of the fact that I have two more children that are gay," said Schaefer, who has four children.

He said he has already filed an appeal and hopes to become reinstated to the Methodist clergy.

Schaefer's case will now be reviewed by the appeals committee of the United Methodist Church's northeast jurisdiction. It could also go to the judicial counsel which is equivalent to the supreme court of the church, according to Schaefer's attorney, Bill Ewing.

"I have been a part of this church for more than 20 years," Schaefer said Thursday. "Being a United Methodist minister is the only kind of minister I know how to be."

Ewing expects the appeal to be tried some time in 2015.

Schaefer said, "You try to work for change from within, and that's what I'm trying to do with my church."

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  1. caroline

    I was raised in the Methodist church, and I would like to join my local Methodist church, but I cannot support or be part of a supposedly "Christian" church that maintains such unchristian practices, which is what bias against homosexuals is. It sickens me that Christianity has become such a hate-monger.

    December 25, 2013 at 9:04 am | Reply

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