PHILADELPHIA — United Methodist officials defrocked a pastor from central Pennsylvania on Thursday for violating church doctrine by officiating his son’s gay marriage, leaving the minister shocked and upset he could be punished for an “act of love.”
Frank Schaefer immediately appealed the penalty, which he thought was meted out reluctantly by many members of the regional Board of Ordained Ministry.
“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?’”
Board members declined to comment after the private meeting at church offices in Norristown. But John Coleman, a spokesman for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the denomination, said Schaefer left officials no choice after defying the order of a religious jury to resign.
“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 has led a congregation in the town of Lebanon more than a decade. Earlier this year, a church member filed a complaint about Schaefer performing the 2007 wedding of his son in Massachusetts, where same-sex unions are legal.