Pa. pastor defrocked after performing same-sex wedding

The Rev. Frank Schaefer, a United Methodist clergyman convicted of breaking church law for officiating at his son's same-sex wedding, enters a news conference on Dec. 16, 2013, at the Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia. AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Last Updated Dec 19, 2013 2:28 PM EST

NORRISTOWN, Pa. --United Methodist church officials on Thursday defrocked a pastor from central Pennsylvania who officiated his son's same-sex wedding in Massachusetts, a move seen as contradictory to the denomination's beliefs.

"I was hopeful it wouldn't come to what it has come to," said the Rev. Frank Schaefer of Lebanon, at a press conference Thursday afternoon. 

"What I did was an act of love for my son," he added.

Schaefer had already been suspended for 30 days from active service when he met with church officials to determine whether he would continue as a pastor.

"I'm here to tell you I will not give up the fight. I'm still a minister in my heart. I will continue to minister and continue to be a voice for the LGBT," said Schaefer, referring to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. "I will appeal the penalty."

Schaefer, who says three of his four children are gay, was told to resign from the clergy by Thursday if he could not follow the denomination's Book of Discipline. But Schaefer says the book discriminates against gay people and says he wouldn't voluntarily surrender his credentials.

"Think about how I can reconcile continuing to do ministry to the LGBT community, which includes gay marriages, and uphold the church law at the same time," he said. "I had to say ultimately, 'I can't. I'm sorry but I can't reconcile that.' I can't uphold the Book of Discipline, our church law book because it has those discriminatory laws."

Church spokesman John Coleman said that officials decided to defrock him.

Earlier this week, Schaefer 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 before he was defrocked. "That's the only way I can reconcile being a United Methodist at this point."

Schaefer was serving a 30-day suspension for officiating 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."

"I could not have said no to my son to perform his wedding because I love him so much and I just wanted to affirm him," he said.

Jurors who convicted Schaefer in a church trial last month had said he should use the suspension time to decide whether he could follow church doctrine. They ordered him to resign from the clergy if he could not.

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.



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