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Methodist Pastor Won't Quit Voluntarily After Officiating Gay Wedding

Image: Methodist Pastor Won't Quit Voluntarily After Officiating Gay Wedding

Tuesday, 17 Dec 2013 02:19 PM

By Michael Mullins

Methodist Pastor Frank Schaefer won't quit officiating same-sex marriages nor will he surrender his clerical credentials, despite receiving a decree from his church and being suspended for 30 days as his case is reviewed.

The 51-year-old Schaefer of Lebanon, Pa., was suspended and convicted by his church on Nov. 18 after breaking church law when he officiated his son's 2007 marriage to another man in Massachusetts. He was subsequently given the choice to uphold church doctrine and stop marrying same-sex couples or relinquish his ministering credentials in November.

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At a news conference on Monday, Schaefer discussed the ongoing case with reporters outside Philadelphia's Arch Street United Methodist Church, announcing his intention to defy the church's ultimatum, the New York Daily News reported.

"My honest answer has to be: No, I cannot uphold the Book of Discipline in its entirety. In fact, I don't believe anybody can … because it is filled with competing and contradictory statements," Schaefer said.

Schaefer, who was flanked by supporters in the religious community, told reporters on Monday that he had received offers from other Protestant denominations that embraced gay marriage, but he hoped to remain a pastor with the Methodist church. He said he is committed "to providing equal ministry to all people."

"I love the United Methodist Church. I've been a minister for almost 20 years and there are so many good things about the United Methodist Church except for that one rule," Schaefer said last month.

The Methodist church accepts gay and lesbian members but rejects the practice of homosexuality as "incompatible with Christian teaching."

"I have received hundreds of petitions from LGBT members, colleagues, and even three bishops, not to surrender my credentials," Schaefer added Monday. "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."

When the controversy first arose in November, the pastor said that of his four children, three are gay.

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On Thursday, Schaefer is scheduled to meet with church leaders at which point he could potentially be defrocked. Schaefer has been a pastor for the past 11 years at South Lebanon Township's Zion United Methodist Church of Iona.

The controversy stemmed from a complaint filed by a congregant in April.

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