Former United Methodist Pastor Frank Schaefer, who was defrocked Thursday for officiating his son's gay wedding in 2007, said he plans to appeal the church's decision to remove his credentials.
Schaefer, who oversaw a congregation in Lebanon, Pa., was put on a 30-day suspension following a church trial during which jurors determined he violated the church's "Book of Discipline" by presiding over his gay son's wedding in 2007 in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal. The purpose of the 30-day decision was to give Schaefer time to do decide if he wanted to abide by the church's rules regarding same-sex marriage or turn over his credentials to officials at a meeting yesterday. Schaefer said earlier this week that he would not voluntarily turn over his credentials and hoped the officials would allow him to remain a pastor and a voice for the LGBT community, but ultimately he was defrocked.
Schaefer said at a press conference following the church's Thursday hearing that he had been "hopeful that it wouldn't come to what it came to – my defrockment," and that he plans to appeal the church's decision. "I will continue to be a voice for the LGBT community … Jesus called us to be inclusive."
The former reverend added on Thursday that he is "somewhat in shock still" of the church's decision to take away his credentials. He added that the reason he chose to immediately appeal the defrocking decision was because he believes many members of the regional Board of Ordained Ministry were reluctant in making their decision.
"So many of them came to me and they shook my hand and some hugged me, and so many of them had tears in their eyes," Schaefer said. "They said, 'We really don't want to do this, you know that, don't you?'"
Although the board did not comment on their decision, John Coleman, a spokesman for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the UMC, told the Associated Press that Schaefer really left church officials no choice when he refused to voluntarily turn in his credentials.
"When asked to surrender his credentials as required by the verdict, he refused to do so," Coleman said. "Therefore, because of his decision, the board was compelled by the jury's decision to deem his credentials surrendered."
Schaefer said earlier this week that the only way he can reconcile still being a member of the United Methodist Church is if officials allow him to remain a pastor openly in support of homosexual behavior and same-sex marriage. "I am actively committing to having those discriminatory laws changed and banished from our Book of Discipline," Schaefer said. "That's the only way I can reconcile being a United Methodist at this point."
The United Methodist Church's "Book of Discipline" states that although it accepts homosexual members into its denomination, it does not condone homosexual acts, saying they are "incompatible with Christian teaching."