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Nov 19 2013

Pastor found guilty of officiating at son’s gay wedding

Frank Schaeffer is a Methodist minister. In 2007, his gay son asked him to officiate at his wedding and he did so, even though the Methodist Church does not approve of same sex marriage. It turns out that three of the pastor’s four children are gay and that the son who got married had earlier contemplated suicide because of the difficulties of being gay in a small rural conservative town in Pennsylvania.

One can imagine the difficulty of such a decision for the minister and he chose to conduct the service even though it brought out into the open an issue that church congregations prefer to keep hidden. Some of the parishioners had suspected that he was less than zealous about preaching conventional doctrine and this act confirmed it. He was reported to the church hierarchy who put him on trial.

Yesterday a jury of 13 Methodist pastors found him guilty of two charges: “conducting a ceremony that celebrates same-sex unions” and “disobedience to order and discipline of the Methodist Church.” The punishment could range from a short suspension to defrocking.

The Methodist Church is the second largest mainline Protestant denomination in the US with 8.3 million members but has been somewhat reactionary on this issue.

The Methodist Church, like the rest of mainline Protestantism, has been wrestling with issues surrounding gay rights for decades. It has added affirmations about the dignity of gays and lesbians and the importance of pastors to minister to them, but unlike some other mainline denominations, the Methodist Church has not expanded gay rights on things such as marriage and allowing clergy to be openly gay.

This problem is not going away for the church. Another four ministers have also conducted same-sex marriages, some for their own children, and they may face trials too.

I grew up in the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka and we had a very progressive minister whom I really liked. He is dead now but I sometimes wonder how he would have responded to the issue of same-sex marriage. I like to think that he would have been on the right side.

5 comments

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  1. 1
    Pierce R. Butler

    Is this the same Frank Schaeffer who rebelled against the Religious Right in general after growing up in the household of Francis “Servant Leadership” Schaeffer, who provided much of their ideology?

  2. 2
    colnago80

    Re Pierce R. Butler @ #1

    No, that Frank Schaeffer is a Hollywood screenwriter

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Schaeffer

    Apparently the wedding itself took place in Massachusetts so it is legal. I suspect that the son lives in that state, not in Pennsylvania where same sex marriage is still not recognized.

  3. 3
    doublereed

    I don’t know anything about Methodists. I was under the impression they are – in general – more progressive than most protestants.

    Yesterday a jury of 13 Methodist pastors found him guilty of two charges: “conducting a ceremony that celebrates same-sex unions” and “disobedience to order and discipline of the Methodist Church.” The punishment could range from a short suspension to defrocking.

    Like wtf? I thought this kind of thing was reserved for Catholics. They have a church hierarchy??? Do they have their own Pope? I’m so confused.

  4. 4
    northstar

    This pastor plainly felt he was forced to choose between his church and his child.

    I commend him for making the right choice.

    I also commend him for making that choice public, and confronting his hierarchy with the fact that such an inhuman choice had to be made. He is communicating a message to them for the benefit of many, many people.

    He is plainly a man of courage and conviction.

  5. 5
    Tish

    This man has said that if his son came to him and had a change of heart, he would also have to rethink his stance on same sex marriage. That doesn’t sound like a man of courage and conviction to me. Also, someone who has 3/4 children who are gay either has severe family issues or a child molester they’ve allowed into their house. One gay child, ok, but 3/4? The secular psychological community would even have a field day with this family.

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