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Pastor Convicted, Suspended for Officiating Son’s Same-Sex Wedding

Spring City became the center of a church debate this week, as Pastor Frank Schaefer must surrender his credentials if he can’t ‘uphold all the discipline’ of the church.

Bridget, Tim and Frank Schaefer at Tim's wedding in 2007. Credit: Frank Schaefer.
Bridget, Tim and Frank Schaefer at Tim's wedding in 2007. Credit: Frank Schaefer.

A quiet Methodist retreat in Spring City became the center of the same-sex marriage debate this week, as a pastor was tried and convicted by a church jury of his peers for officiating his son’s same-sex marriage six years ago.

Frank Schaefer, pastor at Zion Methodist Church in Iona, Pa. who officiated his son’s same-sex wedding in 2007 in Massachusetts, has been suspended 30 days, during which he must decide if he can uphold all aspects of Methodist teachings, including the belief that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.” If not, he will have to surrender his credentials.

While responses to the verdict varied widely, Schaefer seemed relieved.

"I'm obviously relieved to receive a lighter penalty than defrocking,” Schaefer said via email after the punishment was announced Tuesday. “I gave the jury every excuse to take my credentials when I was honest with them and said that I must continue to serve all people—no exceptions.”

On Monday, Schaefer testified that he tried to follow God’s command to minister to everyone, even if it disobeyed the teachings of the church.

Schaefer could have avoided trial by agreeing not to officiate any more same-sex marriages. He refused, as three of his four children are gay.

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

Jon Boger, a member of Schaefer's congregation, was the complainant and the church’s only witness, stating that it “undermines the integrity of the church as a whole,” according to the Huffington Post.

Many members of the church expressed support for Schaefer; some were in Spring City for the trial.

“Thank you, Frank and Bridgette, for being a shining example of love,” said a member of the Stand with Pastor Frank Facebook group. “Please know that there are thousands who stand beside you.” Schaefer said the church trial court's decision is a positive one, and “provides a path towards healing.”

“Today, grace and love won over a controversial church law,” Schaefer said.  “The jury went with the defense’s plea for a lesser penalty, a decision which acknowledges the diversity of opinions within the united Methodist church.”

Despite Schaeffer's conviction, at least one Methodist pastor committed to LGBT rights stands undeterred.

“I am still not afraid to do same-sex weddings,” said Reverend Vicki Flippin, of Church of the Village in New York City, on Twitter.  “God’s judgement is more important to me than a jury’s.”

 

Gil Zimmerman November 24, 2013 at 09:12 AM
Wallst, I would hope that your observations would cause many of the zealots and bigots to reflect on the narrowness of their chosen ideologies but I fear it will take much more than a recap of history or a review of the Bible to make them give up their prejudices. Small mindedness has infected our country and civilization. In some countries and cultures, too many are willing to kill for their tribe's point of view. While Christians and Jews have mostly evolved beyond sanctioned murders to assuage their political or ideological differences, Islam remains the one 'religion', if you chose to call it such, that not only sanctions violence and dishonesty in support of its precepts, but its followers commit crimes against non-believers or anyone who fits their description of undesirable. Our liberal, multicultural media and political leadership chooses to cover their eyes. Feminist left-wing activists are largely silent on the issue of forced marriages and honor killings, which in recent years have been occurring in the US and Canada, and which happen daily in other predominantly muslim countries. Only the Canadians have taken any initiative to combat these atrocities committed mostly by families against their offspring or spouses. The sanctioning of violence, including jihad, by so-called religious leaders is just one step beyond the bigotry espoused by many hard-line churches. It is a fine line and easily crossed by those who follow the instructions of politically motivated leaders rather than the expactations of civilized humans.
Gil Zimmerman November 24, 2013 at 09:14 AM
Wearecreative, you invite the wrath of all who favor retention and growth of big government. People like Obama and Bloomberg know much better than you what's good for you. Be a good citizen, sit down, shut up, and do what Dear Leader asks. All you have to do is just go along.
John Q. Public November 24, 2013 at 03:54 PM
Jesus's teaching on marriage was "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh." Jesus taught a wife was a man? That "two become one flesh" referred to some type of homosexual act? Give me a break.
Wallst November 24, 2013 at 05:46 PM
We live in a secular country not a religious one. I would tell all of you who point to a bible as the reason for your hatred...go live in Iran, where the law of the land is "religious rule" and maybe you'll be happier.
marcthepig November 24, 2013 at 09:07 PM
Having one gay kid is no big deal these days. Doesn't shock anyone anymore. I think the question no one is asking is: How did 3 of his 4 kids end up gay? That can't be a coincidence.

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