The appeal of the Rev. Frank Schaefer, the former pastor of Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, who was defrocked last year after performing his son's same-sex wedding, was heard this morning in Memphis by the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church (UMC). Schaefer is asking the UMC's high court to allow him to keep his ordination.
Schaefer officiated the wedding of his gay son last December, resulting in a 30-day paid suspension from ministerial duties. After the 30 days, Schaefer told the church that he could not promise to uphold the church's ban on same-sex unions. But a UMC appeals panel reversed the church's decision last June. In today's hearing, the church asked the Judicial Council to throw out the appeal decision and revert back to the church's original defocking of Schaefer.
“I have no regrets. I did what I did based on my heart and my conscience. The church doctrine put my son in harm’s way," said Schaefer after the hearing.
Three of Schaefer's four children are gay, and he said he didn't realize the harm the church's doctrine on LGBT issues was doing until one of his sons, the one whose wedding he officiated, came out to him. He said that son suffered from depression because church teachings made him feel as though he were sinful for being who he was. Schaefer said he now believes the church is wrong when it comes to issues of LGBT equality. He said he his hopeful the church will come around on these issues.
“We are created in the image of God. We have the same rights as everyone else. Stop putting us in a special category," Schaefer said.
The UMC Judicial Council is expected to rule in several days.