Pastor Frank Schaefer from Pennsylvania broke church laws by presiding over his son’s same-sex marriage. On Tuesday, the United Methodist Church appeals panel overturned the decision to defrock Schaefer.
The panel, which consists of nine people, urged the church to restore Schaefer's pastoral credentials.
The wedding ceremony happened in 2007 and Schaefer was suspended and then defrocked, as he did not promise that he would not preside over gay marriages in the future. In an appeal, Schaefer said that the church’s decision to defrock him was wrong, since they decided based on a notion that he would break church laws again.
The appeals panel said in writing that “revoking his credentials cannot be squared with the well-established principle that our clergy can only be punished for what they have been convicted of doing in the past, not for what they may or may not do in the future.”
— Mark Albert (@malbertnews) June 24, 2014
Last week, the appeals panel met and decided that Schaefer’s 30-day suspension was enough. They also said that Schaefer should receive pay dating back to December when his suspension ended.
Schaefer, 52, said that he is ecstatic by the decision and will be celebrating by taking his son to the White House gay pride celebration on Monday. The pastor will be resuming his pastoral work in July when he will be ministering to college students.
In an interview, Schaefer said, “Today there was a very clear and strong signal from the church, and that message is, ‘Change is on the way.’” He also said that he has devoted his life to serving the church and getting back his position means so much.
Conservative Methodists are not in favor of the decision. Rev. Rob Renfroe said that the Methodists are “deeply divided.” Despite the United Methodist Church’s teaching that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, hundreds of Methodist ministers have already signed a statement saying that they are willing to preside over same-sex marriages.
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