Methodist pastor the Rev. Frank Schaefer is facing a church trial on Nov. 18 in Pennsylvania for violating his pastoral vows by performing his son's marriage to another man at a 2007 ceremony in Massachusetts.
The pastor has argued that he went against church law "because I love him so much and didn't want to deny him that joy," but his credentials as a pastor are on the line because of this decision, The Associated Press reported. The 51-year-old pastor said that he is "charged to minister to all people, regardless of who they are and what they are, then it should be just so," even though performing same-sex marriage weddings goes against United Methodist Church teaching, which says homosexuality is incompatible with Christianity.
In 2012, the 1,000-member General Conference reaffirmed the church's 40-year-old policy on the issue.
Schaefer, who is the pastor of the Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in Lebanon County, has received support from other Methodist ministers who have also turned away from the official stance on homosexuality, however, and on Saturday over 50 of them will preside over another same-sex ceremony at a church in Philadelphia as a sign of support, The Inquirer reported.
"If we are operating under the position of open hearts, open minds and open doors, we can't close those doors to certain people," said the Rev. David Brown of Arch Street United Methodist Church, where the ceremony is scheduled to take place.
Those who support the church's traditional stance on the issue have argued, however, that Schaefer and other clergy should not be allowed to represent the Methodist church while openly disagreeing with its teaching.
The Rev. Thomas A. Lambrecht, vice president and general manager of Good News, an evangelical Methodist group, said that ministers who go against church teachings "have decided to take the law into their own hands, so to speak, and go ahead and violate the requirements of our (Book of) Discipline."
"They have in a sense renounced the process that we use to determine what the church believes about things. I don't think that is the appropriate way to handle disagreement," Lambrecht added.
Schaefer revealed that he had the option of avoiding the trial if he had agreed not to perform same-sex weddings again, but said that he could not make that promise, because three of his four children are gay.
"I do worry about losing my credentials, but I'm willing to lose them for an act of love," Schaefer said.