The Rev. Frank Schaefer, who officiated at his son’s gay marriage, was defrocked Thursday by the United Methodist church after he refused to change his position on gay marriage.
Schaefer, of Lebanon, Pa., was suspended last month for violating church policy on same-sex marriage. A church jury gave him 30 days to change his position or face being defrocked. The Methodist church accepts gay parishioners, but rejects the practice of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
On Thursday, the end of the 30-day period, Schaefer met with the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Board of Ordained Ministry and said he was unwilling to change his position and refused to voluntarily surrender his ministerial credentials.
“Therefore, because of his decision, the board was compelled by the jury’s decision to deem his credentials surrendered. He no longer holds the ministerial office in the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual Conference by virtue of his decision,” according to a statement by Bishop Peggy A. Johnson, head of the conference.
“No doubt, this has been a long, difficult ordeal for Rev. Schaefer and his family and for many members of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference,” Bishop Johnson stated. “As one church of Jesus Christ we must commit ourselves to engage in ongoing prayer and reflection, sensitive, peaceful dialogue and diligent study, so that we can better understand the needs and concerns of LGBT members and their broader community and so that we can more effectively and lovingly minister to all people in the name of Christ.”
Schaefer had no immediate comment after the short meeting in Norristown, Pa. He said he would hold a news conference later Thursday.
Earlier in the week, Schaefer told a news conference that he would not change his mind about officiating at gay marriages and said he could not support the denomination’s Book of Discipline, which he said was contradictory and biased against gays.
“I am actively committing to having those discriminatory laws changed and banished from our Book of Discipline,” Schaefer said. “That's the only way I can reconcile being a United Methodist at this point.”
He also said he would not voluntarily surrender his credentials.
“I cannot voluntarily surrender my credentials because I am a voice now for many — for tens of thousands — of LGBT members in our church,” he said then.