Gay wedding: US pastor to learn fate

2013-11-19 15:14

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Spring City - A United Methodist minister convicted under church law of performing his son's same-sex wedding ceremony could learn if he'll be defrocked.

A jury of his pastoral peers convicted the Reverend Frank Schaefer on Monday of breaking his vows by officiating the 2007 ceremony in Massachusetts after a trial that has rekindled debate over the denomination's policies on homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

The jury reconvenes on Tuesday morning for the penalty phase, at which both sides will present witnesses. Schaefer could face punishment ranging from a reprimand to a suspension to losing his minister's credentials.

"Obviously I'm very saddened. What we're hoping for tomorrow is a light sentence," Schaefer's son, Tim Schaefer, 29, whose wedding led to the charges, said after the verdict Monday night.

Schaefer didn't deny that he performed his son's wedding, but said he did it out of love, not a desire to flout church teaching on homosexuality.

"I did not want to make this a protest about the doctrine of the church. I wasn't trying to be an advocate," Schaefer testified at his trial, held at a Methodist retreat in south-eastern Pennsylvania. "I just wanted this to be a beautiful family affair, and it was that."

But the Reverend Christopher Fisher, who acted as the church's prosecutor, told jurors that Schaefer's disobedience couldn't go unpunished.

"Ministers are not free to reinterpret [their] vows according to personal preference," said Fisher, whose closing argument condemning homosexuality prompted Schaefer's supporters to stand in silent protest in the gymnasium that served as a temporary courtroom.

Ritual purity

"As a father, I understand the desire to show love and support to my children," Fisher said. "It's not always true we can do for our children everything they want us to do. True love draws boundaries."

The nation's largest mainline Protestant denomination accepts gay and lesbian members, but it rejects the practice of homosexuality as "incompatible with Christian teaching" and forbids pastors from marrying same-sex partners.

Testifying in his defence on  Monday, Schaefer said he might have lost what he called his "ritual purity" by disobeying the Methodist Book of Discipline, but said he felt he was obeying God's command to minister to everyone.

The church's sole witness was Jon Boger, a member of Schaefer's congregation, who filed a complaint against the pastor less than a month before the six-year statute of limitations was set to expire.

He said he felt betrayed when he learned earlier this year that Schaefer, who had baptized his children and buried his grandparents, had presided over a gay wedding.

"When pastors take the law of the church in their own hand ... it undermines their own credibility as a leader and also undermines the integrity of the church as a whole," Boger said.

Read more on:    us  |  gay rights

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.