Pennsylvania Pastor Faces Church Trial for Officiating Gay Son’s Marriage

20131110__422684~p1_300Over the weekend, Rev. Frank Schaefer joined with his supporters at Coleman Chapel in Lebanon, Pennsylvania for a candlelight vigil.  No one had died: the vigil was for Schaefer himself, who is facing a church trial for officiating his gay son's wedding in Massachusetts in 2007.  The Lebanon Daily News reports:

Schaefer is pastor of Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in South Lebanon Township.

"We know of a lot of churches that are doing it," said Schaefer, "but we're hoping that a lot of churches that we don't know of are doing it."

Schaeffer said the prayer vigil were not just for him but for the gay community.

"People are called upon to pray for me as I prepare for trial, for my family, but also for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community at large, because this is for a cause. This is not just for an individual."

Schaefer could lose his ministry if he is convicted of violating church rules.  The United Methodist Church allows its members to be gay, but does not recognize marriage equality or allow LGBT people to join the clergy.

According to the Daily News, a group of over 30 United Methodist pastors in Pennsylvnia who support Schaefer say they will officiate a joint same-sex wedding.

Schaefer hopes that his church will reconsider its position on homosexuality, and credits his son with changing his own views:

"Everything changed for me when I learned that my oldest son was gay," he said. "I think we need to look at this issue again. This is not just an issue of theology. This is an issue of life and death for our young people."

Schaefer said that as a teenager, his son considered suicide because of his struggle with his sexual identity.

"We, as parents and as Christians, rallied around him and affirmed him, and it brought him through some very rough times," he said.

Schaefer's trial will begin on November 18th.

(photo: Earl Brightbill & Lebanon Daily News)


  1. says

    Dear Rick Warren, if you’d been more like this reverend then your own son would probably not have committed suicide. Oh well, you chose hate.

    Dear Christian Right-Wing and Fox News Nation, surely you’re going to jump onto this story and defend the man for his right to his religious beliefs, right? That he has a right to practice and express his faith in his congregation right?


  2. says

    I grew up with a kid who was raised Catholic his whole life. As an adult, he studied to become a Catholic priest. After a few years, he said, “I want to get married and have kids,” so he left the Catholic church and became a Lutheran minister. He loves his life now.

    What’s the point? I guess I’m trying to say that these days, if your religion isn’t doing it for you anymore, hop onto another one. It worked for my friend.

  3. Bubba says

    Seriously, stop supporting organizations that don’t want you to be a part of them. Just leave. These churches were created and maintained by men,obviously with narrow, hate filled minds.

  4. John says

    I thought the Methodist church proclaimed themselves to be with:

    “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors”

    Guess not! Religion is poison and causes mental illness!!! God is nothing more than Santa Clause for adults who purposely and willfully suspend critical thinking.

  5. Dave C. says

    It is important to celebrate a father who will stand by his son, his Gay son. The Rev.Shaefer is also pastor of a church and member of the Methodist. To just leave and join a different church would be easier. Instead he wants to also stand by his church, and bear witness to the need for them to change. More power to him.

  6. Seattle Mike says

    The challenge in the United Methodist Church is that policy is set at an international level, every four years at what is called the General Conference. Delegates are awarded proportionally to church membership, and the UM church is growing in Africa and the Phillipines, two regions that are notoriously anti-gay. The conservatives from those delegations partner with the southern US conservatives and prevent any progress on LGBT issues.

    The only hope within the UMC is to strengthen more local units called Annual Conferences which correspond roughly to states in the US. Here in the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference we are extremely progressive on these issues and are fighting to improve the church’s policies rather than abandon it. We have gay clergy and celebrate same sex weddings.

  7. terry says

    If you’re stupid enough to believe in sky beings watching over us you don’t get my sympathy. The weird part of this story is that he would want to stay with this cult.

  8. Mary says

    Actually, Kiwi this is exactly what I’m going to do. This minister certainly has a right to his beliefs and to officiate at his son’s wedding. But if he is a minister of the UMC he need to adhere to church policy. It sound to me as if he really just needs to find another denomination that is more liberal in its theology. This is not in and of itself a tragic situation. Many Christian churches support gay rights and now a number of denominations actually officiate gay marriages. When pastors and parishioners are matched up with the church that shares their theology everyone wins in the long run. It’s not like this man is being exiled from the whole Christian community.

    As to whether the more traditional churches will change over time, this is something that we’ll have to see. But remember a church isn’t a government agency. Churches have a right to discriminate just as those who are offended by this have a right to leave for other churches.

  9. Mary says

    “The United Methodist Church allows its members to be gay, but does not recognize marriage equality or allow LGBT people to join the clergy.”

    I laughed out loud when reading this! “Allows” its members to be gay? Even in an evangelical church a person is not likely to be expelled for being gay. The congregation wouldn’t want to push him further away from God by forcing him out of the church. And it is well-known that many evangelicals remain single and admit to violating the church’s ban on premarital sex. Given that a percentage of the population is gay or bi it’s only logical to assume that the churches also contain a number of people whose non-marital relationships and/or encounters are same-sex. Church member are given a lot of leeway in terms of personal behavior regardless of what official church policy is. And evangelicals in large cities are more socially liberal (or open to becoming liberal) than their rural counterparts.

  10. northalabma says

    cue the pitchforks and torches.

    this “religion” can fire any staff it chooses. members, likewise, can go elsewhere, or not at all. i hope they see the light.

  11. Bill says

    Church trails are a shadow of their former selves. It’s been downhill ever since burning people at the stake went out of style.

    Wisecracks aside, I hope the guy in question does OK financially. Maybe some gay-friendly churches should provide a mechanism to make it easy to hire pastors from other denominations/sects that have been ousted for not going along with discrimination.

    Also, nothing prevents his congregation from setting up their own church and hiring him. They can call it “Methodist Version 2″, keep the rituals they are comfortable with and dump the homophobia. Any attempt to stop them would run into 1st Amendment issues.

  12. MaryM says

    he needs to quit his vile church and take his congregation with him.

    no ifs, ands or buts about it.

    If his church is bigoted then he needs to leave.

    If there is a ‘god’ (clue – there isn’t) then it does not matter whether he belongs to a particular church or not, as the mythical sky fairy is the same for all churches.

    I hope he gets treatment for his religious belief.

  13. says

    Closeted gays, brought up as fundamentalists, are at great risk of suicide and failure in their own eyes. Too often, they do not understand how this mistaken idea of God hating gays is an unnecessary conflict for them. If this is the case for you or someone you know, point them to There is a book that explores this conflict between gays and their faith.

  14. Dakotahgeo says

    This kind minister needs to find a different UMC congregation and conference because the UMC is changing lightning fast with, or without the UMC Headquarters fascist rules. As an ordained minister, he would find MANY mainline denominations (Protestant) who would welcome him with open arms. He simply does not need to take this abuse from a church with 3rd rate rules! (And his retirement goes with him, or a lawsuit in the millions would do nicely also!).

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