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Methodist Pastor Suspended for Officiating Gay Wedding Announcing ‘Next Steps’ in Trial

Rev. Frank Schaefer, punished after a church trial in Spring City for officiating the marriage of his gay son, must denounce gay marriage or risk losing his job.

Frank Schaefer and his wife, Bridget, at the wedding of his son, Tim. Credit: Frank Schaefer.
Frank Schaefer and his wife, Bridget, at the wedding of his son, Tim. Credit: Frank Schaefer.

United Methodist Church Pastor Frank Schaefer will hold a press conference on Monday in Philadelphia to announce the next steps in his punishment after being tried and convicted by a church jury for violating his position after he officiated his gay son’s wedding ceremony in 2006.

The press conference, to be held at Arch Street United Methodist Church on Broad Street,  will include a group of UMC pastors who will present a new petition to Bishop Peggy Johnson, asking her to call an end for all discrimination in the UMC and to declare a moratorium on same-sex marriage trials. The petitions is supported and co-sponsored by the Reconciling Untied Methodists of Eastern PA.

Schaefer was convicted on Nov. 19 of violating the church’s Book of Discipline, which does not permit same-sex marriage. His punishment was a 30-day suspension, during which he must decide if he can uphold all aspects of Methodist teachings, including the belief that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Shaefer said that he was honest with the jury during his trial, and that he must “continue to serve all people – no exceptions.”

“It's a matter of conscience,” Schaefer said in a statement after the trial. “I simply cannot discriminate against God's beloved children.”

Johnson previously came out in support of gay rights in a September letter to the editor in the Philadelphia Inquirer, though not specifically same-sex marriage.

“I am speaking up for my lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) brothers and sisters,” said Johnson in the letter, which supported an antidiscrimination law.  “I was surprised to learn Pennsylvania’s laws don’t treat all people equally, and that it’s entirely legal to fire someone, deny a mortgage, or refuse a  hotel room simply because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.”

This is not the only petition that Johnson has received on the subject.

On Nov. 22, a group of activists presented a petition with more than 19,000 signatures urging Bishop and her cabinet not to pursue charges against clergy who officiate same-sex marriages.

“Rev. Schaefer and his colleagues will ask their episcopal leaders (bishops) to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, to take leadership in the fight against discrimination and homophobia in the Church,” said a press release from Schaefer. “The pastors will call on all clergy of all Annual Conferences in the United Methodist Church to send their own petitions to their bishops.”

Mary Page December 13, 2013 at 05:09 PM
Why not move him to a ministry that fully uses his skills. Everyone has stated he is a good pastor. He has explained fully and all admit he is following what Christ has told him to do. He has shown dignity and grace under much d juju ress.
Mary Page December 13, 2013 at 05:14 PM
Duress. The system has forced pastors to lie and must be corrected. I believe it is a visible symbol of an inward spiritual practice indicating his grand gifts have a place in the UMC in another venue such as reconciling ministries. All stand corrected and all need to get on with the business of Christ.
Peter Clarkson December 13, 2013 at 07:02 PM
How can a church hold a court? How can you have Bishops presiding over a court, when the bible clearly states - Do Not Judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will measured to you - Matthew Ch 7 v 1-2 There is only one judge, and he will judge in the same way you have judged others, and no amount of justification will keep you from that judgement!! About time Church leaders practiced what they preached, instead of considering themselves above the bible, Jesus Said love one another as I have loved, so why don't some churches do that, especially when they claim to follow his teachings? Instead they just pick and choose parts of the bible, mainly to condemn and persecute others. Christians CANNOT claim they are being persecuted and discriminated against, whem they are doing just that. "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets - Matthew Ch 7 v 12 I take my hat off to Pastor Schaefer, he IS practicing what he preaches, Maybe Bishop Peggy should take a leaf out of his book, and READ her bible properly
John Thomas December 13, 2013 at 09:14 PM
for those who say Bishop Johnson can't do anything about this (she also makes this claim), there ARE things UM bishops can do here: from choosing a more affirming prosecutor on these cases, to choosing more affirming district superintendents (equivalent to assisting/aux. bishops) who select the jurors, and choose more affirming clergy to preside over the process before trial and finally, dismiss the complaint before trial (there's precedent for this).

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