Pa. Pastor Facing Church Trial Over Gay Marriage
A Pennsylvania pastor charged under United Methodist law with officiating his son’s same-sex marriage is scheduled to go on trial.
The Rev. Frank Schaefer, 51, could be defrocked if a jury comprised of fellow Methodist clergy convicts him of breaking his pastoral vows by officiating the 2007 ceremony in Massachusetts. Schaefer’s supporters argue that church teaching on homosexuality is outmoded.
“Public opinion has changed very rapidly,” said the pastor’s son, Tim Schaefer, 29. “I hope this leads to a renewed conversation to revisit these policies to see if they are a little archaic.”
The nation’s largest mainline Protestant denomination accepts gay and lesbian members, but rejects the practice of homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teaching.” Clergy who perform same-sex unions risk punishment ranging from a reprimand to suspension to losing their minister’s credentials.
The issue has split the church. Hundreds of Methodist ministers have publicly rejected church doctrine on homosexuality, and some of them face discipline for presiding over same-gender unions.
Critics say those pastors are sowing division within the church and ignoring the church’s democratic decision-making process. Indeed, the denomination’s top legislative body, the 1,000-member General Conference, reaffirmed the church’s 40-year-old policy on gays at its last worldwide meeting in 2012.