US pastor facing church trial over son’s gay marriage
PENNSYLVANIA, United States – A United Methodist pastor who could be defrocked for officiating at his son’s same-sex wedding faces a church trial in south-eastern Pennsylvania.
The Rev Frank Schaefer, 51, could face punishment ranging from a reprimand to suspension to losing his minister’s credentials if a jury comprised of fellow Methodist clergy convicts him of breaking his pastoral vows by presiding over the 2007 ceremony in Massachusetts. Schaefer’s supporters argue that church teaching on homosexuality is outmoded.
“Public opinion has changed very rapidly,” said the pastor’s son, Tim Schaefer, 29. “I hope this leads to a renewed conversation to revisit these policies to see if they are a little archaic.”
The nation’s largest mainline Protestant denomination accepts gay and lesbian members, but it rejects the practice of homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teaching”.
The issue has split the church. Hundreds of Methodist ministers have publicly rejected church doctrine on homosexuality, and some of them face discipline for presiding over same-sex unions.
Critics say those pastors are sowing division within the church and ignoring the church’s democratic decision-making process. Indeed, the denomination’s top legislative body, the 1,000-member General Conference, reaffirmed the church’s 40-year-old policy on gays at its last worldwide meeting in 2012.
The Methodists have set aside three days for Schaefer’s trial, to be held at a church retreat in Spring City, Pennsylvania, beginning on Monday.
Tim Schaefer, of Hull, Massachusetts, will testify on his father’s behalf.
“(The defence wants) to highlight how hurtful the policy of the church is toward the LGBT community,” he said.
Tim Schaefer struggled as a teenager, aware of Methodist doctrine on homosexuality. He said he prayed every night that “God would make