Christian Pastor Defrocked After Officiating Gay Son’s Wedding

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (TheBlaze/AP) — A pastor from central Pennsylvania was defrocked by United Methodist church officials on Thursday after officiating his son’s gay wedding — an action that ran counter to the denomination’s central beliefs.

As TheBlaze previously reported, Rev. Frank Schaefer of Lebanon, Pa., had already been suspended when he met with church officials to determine whether he would continue as a pastor.

Schaefer had presided over his son’s wedding in 2007 in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal. While Methodist regulations allow for gays and lesbians to join, homosexuality itself is seen as being “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Accompanied by his wife Brigitte, right, the Rev. Frank Schaefer, of Lebanon, Pa., center, departs after a meeting with officials at the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, in Norristown, Pa. (AP/Matt Rourke)

The pastor had been told to resign from the clergy by Thursday if he could not follow the denomination’s Book of Discipline.

But Schaefer, unwilling to stand down, has said the book discriminates against gay people and vowed this week that he would not voluntarily surrender his credentials.

In the end, though, the decision was out of his hands, as spokesman John Coleman said that officials decided to defrock him. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the meeting with church officials only lasted 15 minutes.

There was no indication that a different resolution would be met, as earlier this week, Schaefer publicly said he would defy the religious order to surrender his credentials for performing the same-sex wedding.

“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.”

Jurors who convicted Schaefer in a church trial last month — which resulted in a 30-day suspension — said he should use the time off to decide whether he could follow church doctrine. If he couldn’t do so, he was told to step down.

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 then.

Accompanied by his wife Brigitte, right, former United Methodist pastor Frank Schaefer, of Lebanon, Pa., departs after a meeting with officials at the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013, in Norristown, Pa. (AP/Matt Rourke)

Making his stance clear, he added, “I cannot uphold those discriminatory laws and the language in the Untied Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline that is hurtful and harmful to our homosexual brothers and sisters in the church.”

Now, after a very divisive and national story, the Methodist church must put the pieces back together. In a statement issued to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Bishop Peggy Johnson said that it is time to move forward in prayer and reflection.

“We also must strive to repent and forgive one another for the many hurts that have happened and are still happening as a result of this trial experience,” Johnson said.

TheBlaze asked readers in November if they believed Schaeffer should be defrocked. Of the 1,354 readers who took the online poll, 82 percent, or 1,105 people, said that he should be defrocked, with 18 percent or 249 saying that he should not be.