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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 31 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 44
Methodist pastor Frank Schaefer cleared by church court
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Methodist pastor Frank Schaefer cleared by church court

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Methodist pastor Frank Schaefer, once defrocked by his denomination for officiating at his Gay son's same-sex wedding, was cleared of all charges by his church's Judicial Council on October 27.

Schaefer, who delivered the annual Matthew Shepard Memorial Sermon at Seattle's Trinity Episcopal Church on October 12, performed his son's wedding in 2007. He was brought up on charges of 'disobeying the church' - which does not sanction same-sex marriage - last year.

His conviction ended an 11-year stint as pastor of Zion United Methodist Church in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. This June, however, his conviction was overturned on appeal and he accepted a new position at a Methodist church in Santa Barbara, California.

The church attorney who initially prosecuted him appealed the appeal, however, bringing Schaefer's case before the church's Judicial Council.

In a statement, the Judicial Council upheld the appeals committee, and left Schaefer in his ministerial position.

'The Judicial Council upon careful review of the decision of the Northeastern Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals in the matter of the Rev. Frank Schaefer and the questions of law presented by the counsel for the church finds there are no errors in the application of the church law and judicial decision,' the group said in a statement. 'The penalty as modified by the Committee on Appeals stands.'

Schaefer, who told SGN [October 10, 2014] when he was in town that a win for him would be a major setback for conservative forces within the Methodist church, called for greater openness towards the LGBT community.

'Today, we are witnessing a small, but significant step toward taking another look at the exclusionary policies of The United Methodist Church,' he said.

'The UM Church needs to find a way toward reconciliation, full inclusion of our LGBTQ community and an open altar for all God's beloved children. I will continue the fight alongside thousands of others in the reconciling movement for full inclusion and an open altar for all.'

The Methodist Judicial Council reportedly made its decision on technical grounds only, and did not endorse the idea of same-sex marriage.

The Methodist church has some 12 million members worldwide, many of them in Africa and Latin America, where LGBT relationships are not widely accepted.

Schaefer told SGN that three of his four children identify as LGBT and that he has 'absolutely no regrets' about defying church authorities.

'I did what I did based on my heart and my conscience,' he said. 'What I did for my son, quite frankly, I had to do.'

Traditional Methodist teaching on human sexuality and marriage harms LGBT people, Schaefer stressed. His own son, he said, considered suicide because he had been taught that he would be excluded from heaven.

'He did not want to live any more. He was in so much pain,' Schaefer said.

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