PHILADELPHIA — A United Methodist minister from Pennsylvania is refusing to give up his credentials after he was ordered last month to repent of officiating same-sex ‘weddings’ within 30 days or relinquish his rights to pastor within the denomination.
As previously reported, Frank Schaefer, 51, who oversees Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in Lebanon, was found guilty on in November of “conducting a ceremony that celebrates same-sex unions” and “disobedience to order and discipline of the Methodist Church.” In 2007, he traveled to Massachusetts to officiate a ceremony between his son Tim and Tim’s homosexual partner.
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.”
Schaefer said that the knew what he was doing was against church law, but chose to proceed with the ceremony anyway.
“The love for my son took over the fear of losing my job with the United Methodist Church,” Schaefer 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.”
However, some in Schaefer’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, and Schaefer was ordered to stand trial.
Last month, Schaefer told a jury of thirteen United Methodist ministers that he would continue to advocate for homosexuality and wore a rainbow stole as a sign of his support.
“I cannot go back to being silent,” he said. “I am now an advocate for LGBT people in the world and in the Church.”
At the end of the three-day trial, Schaefer was found guilty and given the ultimatum of repenting of his actions within 30 days or turning in his credentials.
But on Monday, at a press conference at Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, Schaefer told those gathered that he will not be relinquishing his ministerial license voluntarily. Approximately 50 others, including fellow United Methodist ministers, stood with Schaefer in solidarity.
“I cannot voluntarily surrender my credentials because I am a voice now for many of the tens of thousands of LGBT members in our church,” he stated. “I have received hundreds of petitions from LGBT members, colleagues, and even three bishops, not to surrender my credentials.”
“I just can’t surrender my credentials,” he continued. “I know it sounds rebellious, but it isn’t. I have to do what God wants me to do.”
But some have stated that supporting sexual behavior between those of the same gender is not what God wants from Shaefer—or any pastor.
“His work against the Word of God is something that will haunt him all the days of his life,” one commenter wrote. “Unfortunately if he is not defrocked, he will be a stumbling block to those he ministers to, because he’s leading the sheep down the wrong path to destruction.”
Shaefer is scheduled to meet with Church officials on Thursday. He states that he is unsure of his fate, but notes that he has received invitations from the United Church of Christ and the Episcopal Church to join their denomination if defrocked.