By Kathy L. Gilbert
SPRING CITY, Penn. (UMNS) — The Rev. Frank Schaefer has been given a 30-day suspension by the jury in his church trial and told that if he can’t uphold the Book of Discipline in its entirety he must surrender his credentials.
Schaefer was found guilty Nov. 18 of violating the church’s law against pastors performing same-gender unions and of disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church. He acknowledged having performed the same-sex wedding of his son, Tim, in 2007.
The 30 day-suspension will cover both convictions, the jury said in a decision announced about 9 p.m. Eastern Time. Schaefer also is to be monitored by his district superintendent in the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference and must meet with the conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry during the suspension period.
The Rev. Amy DeLong of the Wisconsin Conference was found guilty in 2011 of having officiated at a same-gender union and given a 20-day suspension, as well as assignments her jury felt were needed to restore the “covenant” relationship.
The jury of ordained ministers in the Schaefer trial heard a full day of penalty phase testimony Nov. 19, with Schaefer himself saying, “I cannot go back to being silent. I am now an advocate for LGBT people in the world and in the church.”
Schaefer’s words also echoed in closing arguments. He had earlier acknowledged performing the same-sex wedding of his son, Tim, and refused to promise not to perform a same-gender wedding again.
The Rev. Christopher Fisher, counsel for the church, told the jury, “You have heard him, he is non-repentive, unapologetic and committed to disobeying the Book of Discipline.”
The Rev. Robert Coombe, the opposing counsel, asked the jury, “Who was hurt by Rev. Schaefer performing his son’s wedding?”
Coombe added, “You have an opportunity… It is in your hands. I hope your hands are connected to your hearts.”
Fisher, in response to Coombe, told the jury, “We should let him (Schaefer) go, wish him well and free him from our church.”
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