In 2007, Rev. Frank Schaefer of southeastern Pennsylvnia presided over the marriage of his gay son Tim in Massachusetts. On Monday, the United Methodist Church (UMC) convicted him of two charges of breaking his pastoral vows: officiated a same-sex wedding and showing “disobedience to the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church.”
A member of Schaefer’s congregation, Jon Boger, had learned of the marriage and turned evidence over to the UMC in April, less than a month before the Church’s six month statute of limitations would have expired.
Schaefer was offered the opportunity to avoid the trial if he pledged to never perform a same-sex wedding again, but he refused because three of his four children are gay. The son he married had struggled with coming out, even contemplating suicide because he could not reconcile his identity with the Church’s teachings. Schaefer agree to officiate the wedding because, “To say no to his request would have negated all the affirmations I gave him over the years.” Nevertheless, he pleaded not guilty, explaining that he believes “there are so many good things about the United Methodist Church except for that one rule.”
The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.[...]
While persons set apart by the Church for ordained ministry are subject to all the frailties of the human condition and the pressures of society, they are required to maintain the highest standards of holy living in the world. The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.
The jury reconvenes Tuesday to consider the penalty for Schaefer’s crimes against the Church, which could range from a reprimand to his defrocking.