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A pastor who officiated his son's gay marriage ceremony has been defrocked by The United Methodist Church over refusing to comply with the denomination's rules on homosexuality.
Frank Schaefer of Pennsylvania had his position as a minister terminated by UMC officials after he met with the Board of Ordained Ministry and refused to turn over his clergy credentials.
John Coleman, spokesman for the UMC, told media that Schaefer was told he had to voluntarily surrender his credentials if he could not comply with the denomination's ban on clergy officiating same-sex weddings.
"When asked to surrender his credentials as required by the verdict, he refused to do so…Therefore, because of his decision, the board was compelled by the jury's decision to deem his credentials surrendered," said Coleman.
Born in Germany, Schaefer was ordained a deacon in 1996 and then as an elder in 1998. He served as pastor at Zion United Methodist Church in Lebanon, Pa. In 2006, Schaefer's eldest son became engaged to a man and asked his father to perform the ceremony.
The UMC Book of Discipline bars clergy from overseeing same-sex wedding ceremonies even in locations with legalized gay marriage. While the ceremony was performed in April 2007, it was not until roughly six years later that a Zion UMC member filed a complaint against Schaefer earlier this year.
In November, a 13-member United Methodist jury found Schaefer guilty of violating his pastoral vows. He was suspended for 30 days and told that he must give up his clergy credentials if he refuses to comply with the Book of Discipline's rules.
"True love draws boundaries. Scripture says that true love does not rejoice in evil," said the Rev. Dr. Christopher Fisher, arguing as counsel for the church. "Cheap grace does not lead to being conformed to the image and likeness of Christ. We ought not turn the grace of God into immorality. Is it true to tell young people that their identity can be determined by something like our sexuality?"
In a statement following the jury's decision, Schaefer said he refused to voluntarily surrender his clergy credentials while also refusing to adhere to the Book of Discipline's controversial stance on homosexuality.
"I also cannot in good conscience surrender my credentials voluntarily as I feel called to represent, minister to, and advocate for tens of thousands of LGBT members and their families within the United Methodist Church," said Schaefer.
"By surrendering my credentials, I feel as though I would abandon those under my spiritual care and especially those I feel called to advocate for."
According to the Associated Press, upon being defrocked Schaefer left his meeting with the Board of Ordained Ministry without providing comment.