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Pastor defrocked for performing son's gay wedding will appeal

The Rev. Frank Schaefer, a United Methodist clergyman convicted of breaking church law for officiating at his son's same-sex wedding, was defrocked by the church Thursday. Matt Rourke / AP

A Pennsylvania pastor said Thursday that he will appeal United Methodist Church officials’ decision to defrock him for presiding over his gay son’s wedding in Massachusetts, an act that goes against the edicts of the denomination.

Rev. Frank Schaefer of Lebanon, Pa. was already serving a 30-day suspension from the church and met with officials Thursday morning to find out whether or not he could return to practicing as a pastor.

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According to church officials, their "Book of Discipline" condemns Schaefer’s behavior, and he was told to resign by Thursday if he could not respect the rules.

Jurors who convicted him in a church trial told Schaefer he should take the month to decide if he agreed with the church’s belief that homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching."

Schaefer decided not to voluntarily give up his United Methodist Church credentials because he said the Book of Discipline is discriminatory against gay people. 

After the hearing, church spokesman John Coleman announced that Schaefer had been defrocked.

In response, Schaefer said Thursday afternoon that in anticipation of the hearing, he was “hopeful that it wouldn’t come to what it came to — my defrockment.”

"Who would imagine that in a church one would be brought up on trial for loving," asked one of Schaefer’s supporters, United Methodist Rev. Bob Coombe.

"I will continue to be a voice for the LGBT community," Schaefer said Thursday. "Jesus called us to be inclusive," he added.

Schaefer said he will appeal the decision on the basis that he was suspended for the wedding he already performed, but officials decided to defrock him as a punishment for a rule that he’s expected to break in the future but has not yet breached.

The pastor, who has three gay children, said Thursday that he believes the church will be forced to evolve to more accepting practices "sooner rather than later."

"I am actively committing to having those discriminatory laws changed and banished from our Book of Discipline," Schaefer said earlier in the week. "That's the only way I can reconcile being a United Methodist at this point."

“I am upset and I’m disappointed but I’m not upset at people, or my colleagues or the church, I’m upset at the exclusionary policies that we have in place, and we must change those policies,” Schaefer said Thursday.

On Thursday, Schaefer thanked his supporters, but asked them not to act “rashly” in protest of the decision. “Whatever you do, do it in love,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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