The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

December 19, 2013

Pa. pastor defrocked after performing gay wedding

NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) — United Methodist church officials defrocked a pastor from central Pennsylvania on Thursday who violated religious doctrine by officiating his son's gay wedding, and he later said he was shocked by their decision, calling his involvement in the wedding an "act of love."

Frank Schaefer immediately appealed the penalty, which he believed was meted out reluctantly by many members of the regional Board of Ordained Ministry.

"So many of them came to me and they shook my hand and some hugged me, and so many of them had tears in their eyes," Schaefer said. "They said, 'We really don't want to do this, you know that, don't you?'"

John Coleman, a spokesman for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the denomination, said Schaefer left the board no choice after defying the order of a religious jury by refusing to resign.

"When asked to surrender his credentials as required by the verdict, he refused to do so," Coleman said. "Therefore, because of his decision, the board was compelled by the jury's decision to deem his credentials surrendered."

Schaefer has led a congregation in the central Pennsylvania town of Lebanon more than a decade. Earlier this year, a church member filed a complaint over Schaefer performing 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."

Last month, a church jury suspended Schaefer for 30 days and said he should use the time to decide whether he could uphold the church's Book of Discipline. If he decided he could not, he was told to resign from the clergy by Thursday.

Schaefer said he told officials Thursday morning that he could not uphold a book that he feels is contradictory and biased against gay people.

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