United Methodist Minister Found Guilty at Church Trial for Officiating Son’s Same-Sex ‘Wedding’


schaeffer fbSPRING CITY, Pa. – A United Methodist minister from Pennsylvania has been found guilty before the Eastern Pennsylvania Methodist Conference for officiating his son’s same-sex ‘wedding’ against the denomination’s prohibitions against it.

As previously reported, Frank Schaeffer, 51, oversees Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in Lebanon. In 2007, he traveled to Massachusetts to officiate a ceremony between his son Tim and Tim’s homosexual partner. Massachusetts has permitted same-sex nuptials since 2004, but Pennsylvania defines marriage as being solely between a man and a woman.

The United Methodist Book of Discipline outlines that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” and that “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” may not be ordained as ministers in the denomination. It also forbids ministers from hosting or participating in “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions.”

“The love for my son took over the fear of losing my job with the United Methodist Church,” Schaeffer told the Lebanon Daily News. “It was a tough decision in some sense, but I just knew I had to make it. I had to follow my heart.”

Schaeffer states that when his son came to him to advise that he was struggling with homosexual temptations, he and his wife expressed their support.

“He prayed to God that God would change him and make him ‘normal’ and when that didn’t happen he became suicidal,” he outlined. “When he came out, my wife and I just loved and supported him and told him there was nothing wrong with him. I said, ‘You were created in the image of God just like everyone else.’”

However, some in Schaeffer’s church was not so supportive when they learned that their shepherd had officiated over the ceremony. One member, Jon Boger, filed a complaint with the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference just before the statute of limitations ran out. He appeared at Schaeffer’s church trial on Monday at the Innabah Camp and Retreat Center in Chester County.

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“He loves his son. In a way I felt bad for him,” Boger said. “But he’s also shown no remorse or repentance, nor has he apologized to anyone.”

Longtime church member William Bailey also testified as well.

“I believe in the Bible, and the [Methodist Book of Discipline] is enforcing the Bible and the Ten Commandments,” he stated. “Violating a rule makes me very, very stubborn. Because if I violate a rule, I expect to be punished, and I expect nothing else from our church.”

But Schaeffer told those gathered that although he knew he was violating the Book of Discipline, he believed he was pleasing God by being a minister to all people.

“I did not want to make this a protest about the doctrine of the Church. I wasn’t trying to be an advocate,” Schaeffer stated to a jury of thirteen fellow United Methodist Ministers. “I just wanted this to be a beautiful family affair, and it was that.”

Prosecutor Christopher Fisher, pastor of First United Methodist Church of Schuylkill Haven and director of United Methodist Studies at Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown, condemned homosexuality in a strong speech to both those gathered and the jury of his peers.

“You’ll give an account for that at the last day, as we all will,” Fisher warned the panel, urging them to find Schaeffer guilty.

In the end, the the jury agreed and found Schaeffer guilty of two offenses: “conducting a ceremony that celebrates same-sex unions” and “disobedience to order and discipline of the Methodist Church.” Sentencing hearings are underway today as the jury decides whether to defrock Schaeffer or issue a lighter sentence.

According to reports, Schaeffer could have avoided punishment had he agreed to never conduct a same-sex ceremony again, but he refused the offer as three of his four children are homosexual.

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  • Webb

    Schaefer is neither a Christian nor a pastor. They don’t need to defrock him, just take this pagan pretender off their ministerial roster and drop him from the payroll. This “church” needs to reform itself as they have many more like him, both in the pulpit and in the pews. Give him a rainbow-colored pink slip.

    • Stop the Hurt

      And take Pastor Sandy Brown of 1st UMC Seattle with him. He is also defiantly officiating these types of ceremonies as well! In fact the entire UMC needs to have a meeting with all pastors to refresh and reinforce in their minds this regulation in the book of discipline. At the end of the meeting, ask any pastor to come forward that doesn’t agree and remove their credentials post haste. Officiating and asking for blessings of a same sex union is not ministering to their needs in any shape or form; it is in fact akin to affirming their sin and asking God’s blessing for it. This is not what the United Methodist Church is about.

  • Karate Kathleen

    Well, the issue really is did he or did he not know what the rules were of the organization that employed him? If he understood those rules as the working conditions he was agreeing to then yes he is wrong if he went against the agreement. Aside from the bible it doesn’t have to be more complicated than that. If he knew he could no longer keep to the agreement then he should have resigned and joined a church that does this sort of thing. For going against the agreement, yes he should get defrocked.

  • Andrew

    The religious backlashing on this topic is ridiculous. At the end of the day, any scripture painting an anti-homosexual image is simply too vague to consider in or out of context. Given the cultural differences in place when the bible was written along with the numerous translated texts I find it ludicrous that we as church feel the need to ostracize a whole group of people, some we may know and a majority we do not, just to be at peace with a God we may never know the honest truth about. Besides, what a consenting man or woman, or two of each decide to do with each other behind closed doors…or in public actually…has absolutely nothing to do with anyone but themselves. If you are repulsed by it or offended then avoid it, it’s that simple. If we could just learn to keep our noses out of other people’s business the world would be a better place. And obviously this pastor deserves a better and more supportive congregation anyway.

  • Mary Horsley

    I used to be a Methodist. Never again. He had every right to officiate at his son’s wedding. The church is wrong. I am so sorry to hear that Rev. Schaeffer was defrocked.

  • Don Peffley

    Pastor Frank was my Pastor a number of years ago at Avon Zion UM, here in Lebanon. He is my friend,and my brother. Jesus Christ asked only one thing from all of us, to accept him as our Lord and Savior, period. No stipulations were added. If we do this, he promises to defend us when we meet our Heavenly Father for our final judgement. I have a brother who is gay,and my oldest son is as well. If you have not walked in these shoes,you can’t possibly know what a father who has feels like. It tore my family apart. But by the grace of God, all have made amends, and we can all be tolerant of one another. If everyone worked on their own faults, instead of poiting out the faults of others, the world would be a better place. Pastor Frank is a good, decent man of God. You have no idea the number of lives he has helped in his life. He is and will always be my brother in Christ. Don Peffley, Lay Leader, Avon Zion UM, Lebanon, Pa.

    • Arnie

      I am sorry you have had these things to deal with. must be tough! In reading the old covenant, we are called to hate evil not pander to it nor placate it nor allow it room in our midst. Read Jesus words to the church in Rev 2 Rev.2 [6] “Yet this you have, you hate the works of the Nicola’itans, which I also hate.” Yes, Jesus hates the work of wickedness what ever it is. We cannot turn the grace of God into a license for sin—Paul spoke about this in Romans.

  • Andrew Cannon

    Having grown up in a Methodist church, AND growing up gay I was always welcome and accepted for who I was/am. I’ve even attended w/ a partner of mine. SO SAD to see it come to this.
    When will the church realize they’re standing on the WRONG side of history. Heck, even the Pope is making more headway than the Methodist Church on these subjects. This act of the UMC is so terribly UN-Christian-like it makes me ill. I hereby denounce and remove myself from ANY church that would do this.

  • jonathan flaum

    Homosexuality is a capital crime Iran executing people who practice
    It is one of the only rightious thing they do

  • Jenny Gee

    How sad some of you make me. It is no wonder that our young people hold “the church” at an arm’s length. They have been taught that Jesus commanded above all else to love God and love your neighbor, then they get in the doors and hear hatred and judgment spewed like a toxin to the soul. Methodists… read your book of discipline, focus on paragraph 138 – a call for inclusiveness… then go to 162(H) Equal Right regardless of sexual orientation. Don’t proof text your Bible, don’t pull out one line here or one line there… read what is actually said in the context it is said. Do you see the difference in raping the men of the army that lost the battle — and two people who love and are committed to each other? We will not know what Jesus thought about this since he never said anything, and of course had ample opportunity to… are you willing to risk that what Jesus meant when he said to love others actually meant love others… YOU will have to answer for your hatred and judgmental poison.