Rev. Frank Schaefer of Lebanon who was defrocked Thursday by United Methodist church officials for officiating his son's gay wedding in Massachusetts says he's upset by the church's decision but is determined to continue to be a voice for the LGBT community.
"I am upset and I am disappointed, but I’m not upset at people or at my collegues, or at the church people, I’m upset at the exclusionary policies that we have in place, and we must change those policies," Schaefer said at a Thursday afternoon press conference.
"Im here to tell you that I will not give up the fight. I am still a minister in my heart and I will continue to be a voice for the LGBT community."
Schaefer was visibly shaken when he appeared with his counsel for a press conference at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown Thursday afternoon. He recalled the morning meeting with the Board of Ordained Ministry as an emotional experience. Schaefer said several members of the church committee who handed down the decision--some close friends of his--were in tears over the decision.
Schaefer had already been suspended when he met with church officials to determine whether he would continue as a pastor. His decision to officiate the wedding was seen as contradictory to church teachings.
Schaefer had been told to resign from the clergy by Thursday if he could not follow the denomination's Book of Discipline. But Schaefer, who argues the book discriminates against gay people, vowed this week that he would not voluntarily surrender his credentials.
Church spokesman John Coleman confirmed Thursday that officials decided to remove him.
Schaefer was told to give up his pulpit in central Pennsylvania by Thursday if he could not support the denomination's Book of Discipline.
Bishop Peggy A. johnson issued a statement on behalf of the United Methodist Church shortly after the Thursday morning meeting, which read in part:
"When asked to surrender his credentials as required by the verdict, he refused to do so. 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."
But Schaefer, who describes the book as contradictory and biased against gay people, said he will not go quietly.
“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.”
Schaefer was serving a 30-day suspension for officiating the 2007 wedding of his gay son in Massachusetts, where same-sex unions are legal. Although the Methodist church accepts gay and lesbian members, it rejects the practice of homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teaching.”
Jurors who convicted Schaefer in a church trial last month said he should use the suspension time to decide whether he could follow church doctrine. They ordered him to resign from the clergy if he could not.
Schaefer gave his answer publicly Monday during a news conference at Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, surrounded by dozens of sympathetic ministers and laity.
"I cannot voluntarily surrender my credentials because I am a force now for many, for tens of thousands of LGBT members in our church," said Schaefer at a news conference Monday in Philadelphia.
Schaefer confirmed that he has already filed an appeal to reverse the church's decision and that he will continue to do ministry while the appeal is pending.
"I would like to first see the result of the appeal," he said. "In the meantime, I will do whatever I can in ministry. Just because I'm outside of the Methodist Church doesn't mean I'm outside of the kingdom of God."