United Methodist Church Appeals 'Refrocking' of Pastor Who Performed Son's Gay Wedding

A decision allowing a United Methodist Church pastor to regain his clergy credentials after losing them over officiating a same-sex wedding will be appealed.

Frank Schaefer, a Pennsylvania pastor who oversaw his son's gay marriage in 2007, will again have to face a church trial.

Frank Schaefer
Frank Schaefer, United Methodist Church pastor defrocked for officiating his son's same-sex wedding, at Foundry UMC in Washington, DC on Sunday, December 22, 2013. |

The Rev. Christopher L. Fisher, counsel for the UMC, filed an appeal with the United Methodist Judicial Council, the highest court in the denomination.

Fisher's appeal has been placed on the Judicial Council's agenda as Docket 1014-21; the UMJC will convene this October.

"I am writing as Counsel for the Church of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church in the matter of Rev. Frank Schaefer," read the Fisher letter in the docket.

"I am appealing the Northeast Jurisdiction Committee on Appeal's Decision of June 24, 2014 in the matter of Rev. Schaefer. That Decision appears to be at variance with The Book of Discipline and prior Judicial Council decisions."

In his letter, placed in Docket 1014-21, Fisher requested oral arguments before the Judicial Council regarding the Schaefer case.

Born in Germany, Schaefer was ordained a deacon in 1996 and then an elder in 1998. He served as the pastor at Zion United Methodist Church in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

In April 2007, Schaefer officiated the same-sex wedding of his eldest son, even though UMC Book of Discipline forbids clergy from overseeing same-sex weddings.

Last year, a member of Zion UMC filed a formal complaint against Schaefer on the charge of violating the Book of Discipline.

Schaefer was found guilty by a church trial and suspended for 30 days, with the additional obligation that he must stop blessing gay unions. After refusing to not perform any future gay marriages, Church officials defrocked Schaefer.

In March, an appeals panel agreed to hear Schaefer's case. Last month, the panel ruled in favor of Schaefer, restoring his clergy credentials.

Schaefer's church trial has garnered national attention, with many viewing it as a microcosm for the internal debate in the United Methodist Church over the mainline Protestant denomination's position on homosexuality.

Regarding the appeal, Schaefer told United Methodist News Service that it "was a real possibility" and he "sort of expected it to happen."

"I am just hoping and praying the Judicial Council will really keep in mind our LGBQT community first because harm is still being done to them," continued Schaefer.

"I am hoping they will really review this case also in light of the fact that we are a diverse church and that we have many LGBQT members in our churches."

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