A Pennsylvania pastor is facing a church trial for officiating his gay son’s wedding ceremony in Massachusetts.
Rev. Frank Schaefer of the Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in Labanon said his son Tim was so afraid to tell his parents and the church community that he is gay that he contemplated suicide. Schaefer and his wife embraced their son’s lifestyle.
He agreed to preside over Tim’s wedding in 2007 in Massachusetts.
“We just love him so much it was an honor to be asked. Had I said no to him, it would have negated all the affirmations we gave him for all those year…that we believe you are just as worthy and precious in God’s sight as anybody else,” he told The Patiot-News.
Just 26 days before the statute of limitations would have run out, Schaefer’s congregation filed a complaint against him with church officials.
The church’s Book of Discipline opposes same-sex marriage, but Schaeffer says the book is full of contradictions. It says all people are of sacred worth. On the other hand, it says “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
The book also bans clergy from performing “ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions.”
Schaefer will stand trial before a jury of his peers and a presiding bishop who will operate as a judge. He must prove that what he did conforms to the laws of the Methodist church.
“Sadly, our church is once again being led down the path of a costly and divisive trial by a pastor who chose to disregard the prayerful and consistent teaching of our church that Christian marriage is the holy union of one man and one woman,” evangelical United Methodist Rev. Thomas Lambrecht told UMC Connections. “As a father, I share Rev. Schaefer’s desire to affirm his son, but there are ways of doing so that do not require a pastor to break the Discipline and the covenant that all United Methodist pastors agree to uphold.”
Schaefer claims marrying his son was an answer to a higher law.
“To me this is a human rights issue,” Schaefer told Patriot-News in an interview. “If being of a certain sexual orientation is who you are as a person, if that is genetic, who are we to say that these persons do not have the same rights as everybody else.”
“I’m supposed to minister to everybody,” he added. “That I feel is my call.”
The “worst case scenario,” he says, is that he will lose his ordination credentials. He has been ordained since 1996.
Schaefer’s supporters organized a concert of the Chaz DePaolo Band on Sunday to raise funds for his legal defence.
A Facebook fan page called “Stand with Pastor Frank: Support Equality” has more than 1,200 likes.