Frank Schaefer reinstated as United Methodist pastor

Photo by Melissa Lauber, Baltimore-Washington Conference, for UMNS

Frank Schaefer speaks to media Friday, June 20, after a hearing before the Northeastern Jurisdiction Committee on Appeals. The hearing took place in Linthicum Heights, Md. At left is Dorothee Benz of Methodists in New Directions, an unofficial group in the New York Annual (regional) Conference. She is serving as a consultant for Schaefer.

Frank Schaefer reinstated as United Methodist pastor

By Kathy L. Gilbert and Heather Hahn
June 24, 2014 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)

The Rev. Frank Schaefer had his ministerial credentials reinstated by a United Methodist regional appeals committee June 23, three days after a hearing held near Baltimore.The denomination’s Northeastern Jurisdictional Committee on Appeals restored his credentials and ordered the Eastern Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference to compensate Schaefer for all lost salary and benefits dating from Dec. 19, 2013.

The nine-member panel unanimously ruled the lower church court’s penalty against Schaefer was “illegal.” An eight-member majority of the committee supported a penalty modification to the 30-day suspension Schaefer had already undergone. The committee’s ruling still could be appealed to the Judicial Council, the denomination’s top court.

The former pastor of Iona United Methodist Church in eastern Pennsylvania, Schaefer was defrocked after a November 2013 church trial found him guilty of violating The United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book, by conducting a same-sex marriage ceremony for his son. He also was found guilty of violating the church’s order and discipline.

In the penalty stage of the trial, the court suspended Schaefer from his ministerial duties for 30 days and declared that if he could not “uphold the Discipline in its entirety” at the end of the suspension, he would surrender his credentials. He refused to do that, and on Dec. 19, the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Board of Ordained Ministry asked him to give up his credentials.

In a statement immediately after the decision was released, Schaefer expressed happiness over his “refrocking” by the committee.

“I never did understand the severity of my punishment for an act of love for my son Tim,” Schaefer said. “The committee of appeals understood that my defrocking sought to penalize me not for what I did but for what I might do in the future.”

The Rev. Christopher Fisher — who served as counsel for the church, the equivalent of a prosecutor — said he will “be prayerfully examining the appeal ruling to determine if it is in compliance with church law.”  Fisher said he had no further comment.

Tim Schaefer, Frank’s son who now lives and works in Boston, said he knew something significant had happened “because my phone would not stop vibrating on my pocket for almost an hour with texts, calls and Twitter updates.”

“I am thrilled about the decision and I’m incredibly proud of my dad for fighting to remain with The United Methodist Church to be an advocate for LGBTQ community,” he said.

Read more here.

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