United Methodist Church officials on Thursday stripped the clergy credentials from a father who had officiated at his son’s same-sex wedding.
A church jury last month found Frank Schaefer guilty of violating United Methodist law and gave him a 30-day suspension to say whether he could fully comply with it.
Schaefer told the clergy board Thursday that he could not uphold doctrine he sees as sending mixed messages on the acceptance of gays and lesbians. Schaefer has three gay children.
The board then deemed his credentials surrendered, said a statement from the regional bishop, Peggy Johnson. “He no longer holds the ministerial office in the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference by virtue of his decision,” she said.
“I’ve given my best years to this organization, and all of a sudden I’m on the outside,” Schaefer said Thursday evening. “It’s not just an organization, it’s a church. For heaven’s sake, this has been my spiritual home for 20 years. All my children were baptized in it. It was . . . is . . . was my spiritual home, and now I am pushed out.”
After the board’s decision, Schaefer said some board members were in tears and others hugged him while some told him that they were praying for his redemption. The meeting began and ended with prayer.
“I commend Eastern Pennsylvania UMC officials for upholding our biblical standards and protecting the vitality of local churches from further destruction like what Mr. Schaefer brought to his former congregation,” John Lomperis, with the conservative Institute on Religion and Democracy, said in a statement.
Liam Casey, a member of Zion United Methodist of Iona, in Lebanon, Pa., where Schaefer had been minister, said he hoped the decision would not deter gays and lesbians from joining the church.
“We are telling people: ‘Please come to our church. We’re strong, and we’ll take you with open arms without judgment,’ ” Casey said.