Share This Page

Pastors to defy church, perform gay marriage

| Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013, 8:42 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA — A group of Methodist ministers will jointly officiate the marriage of a same-sex couple — in violation of church doctrine — to show solidarity with a colleague facing possible dismissal for presiding at his gay son's wedding.

More than 30 pastors from Lancaster to Reading to Philadelphia have pledged to officiate the same-sex marriage next month, despite the risk it poses for their careers, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Sunday.

“The more we get, the harder it will be for the church — it's not impossible — the harder it will be to go after any one person to take away their (religious) orders,” said the Rev. David Brown, of Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia.

The group is acting to support the Rev. Frank Schaefer, who leads Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in Lebanon. He faces a church trial on Nov. 18 for officiating his son's 2007 wedding in Massachusetts, where gay marriage is legal.

The United Methodist Church, which has about 12 million members worldwide, accepts gay members. However, it bars openly gay pastors and the blessing of same-sex unions.

A member of Schaefer's congregation filed a complaint against him in April, less than a month before the church's statute of limitations expired. The complaint is confidential, said Bishop Peggy Johnson, one of three Methodist bishops in Pennsylvania.

“I am in prayer for all involved in this process, and I urge everyone to join me in lifting up in prayer each of the persons involved,” Johnson said in a statement.

Schaefer's trial would be the first such proceeding in the church since the Supreme Court struck down parts of a federal law restricting the rights of gay couples.

“Once again,” he said, “society is bringing this to the church as a challenge.”

Schaefer said he would not help officiate the same-sex wedding next month. Ceremony details were not disclosed, including the name of the couple or where it will take place. Gay marriage is not legal in Pennsylvania, though several lawsuits are challenging that prohibition.

Ten other ministers are considering joining the 31 who have already pledged to officiate, Brown said. Names of participating pastors will be made public on the marriage certificate.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.