(Photo: Melissa Lauber)
An panel from the United Methodist Church has agreed to hear an appeal from a Pennsylvania pastor who officiated his son's same-sex wedding. The appeals committee plans to hear the case of defrocked pastor Frank Schaefer this coming summer.
Jen Ihlo, president of the UMC Northeastern Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals, said in a statement that the appeal will be tried under the authority of the Book of Discipline and will take place on June 20.
The "practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching," according to the UMC Book of Discipline. "Therefore, self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church."
The Discipline also states: "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches."
While efforts by some have been made to change the Discipline's language, these measures have always failed at the UMC General Conference level.
Ordained a deacon in 1996 and then an elder in 1998, Schaefer served as pastor at Zion United Methodist Church in Lebanon, Pa. In 2006, Schaefer's eldest son became engaged to a man and he performed the ceremony in April 2007.
About six years later, a Zion UMC member filed a complaint against Schaefer over officiating the ceremony and the church trial was held last year.
Last November, the 13-member United Methodist jury found Schaefer guilty of violating his pastoral vows. He was suspended for 30 days and by December was defrocked for refusing to observe the Book of Discipline's rules on blessing homosexual unions.
"I cannot go back to being silent. I am now an advocate for LGBT people in the world and in the church," said Schaefer during the church trial.
The UMC does not automatically grant appeals, but rather an appeal must be made within 30 days of a decision and inside the jurisdiction of the given appeals committee, in this case the Northeastern Jurisdiction.
Although seeking to have clergy credentials restored, Schaefer has explained to UMC media that he does seek to go through another church trial.
"I did not think I have the stomach to go through another trial," said Schaefer to United Methodist News Service.