Share This Page

Ministers back colleague at same-sex wedding ceremony

| Sunday, Nov. 10, 2013, 8:27 p.m.

PHILADELPHIA — About 50 ministers gave their symbolic support to a colleague facing sanctions from the United Methodist Church by participating in a same-sex wedding.

The wedding on Saturday in Philadelphia was about a week before the Rev. Frank Schaefer of Lebanon, about 90 miles to the west, will have a church trial for officiating over his son's marriage to another man.

The clergy filled the front of the Arch Street United Methodist Church, blessing the marriage in defiance of church law, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The closest rested their hands on the couple, Bill Gatewood and Rick Taylor. The others placed their palms on other clergy.

“Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder,” they said in unison.

A spokesman for the church's Eastern Pennsylvania conference would not comment about whether any of the participants may face discipline. Most of the 50 are Methodist ministers.

Taylor, 55, and Gatewood, 70, told the newspaper that all they ever wanted was a traditional wedding — with a blessing in front of the altar, an exchange of vows and a reception in the basement.

The event was largely symbolic, as same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Pennsylvania.

The couple, who met in a Philadelphia gay bar, have been together for 25 years. They said the church has helped them through some difficult times.

The Arch Street congregation, which is committed to the inclusion of people of all sexual orientations, had ministers who consoled them, added the names of their sick friends to the church's prayer lists and performed funerals when their friends died.

“That's why we want to get married in our church. We have many, many people who say, ‘Why don't you just go to New York or Delaware?' ” Taylor told the newspaper. “And it's because we live in Pennsylvania and our church home is here and it means the world to us.”

Schaefer, 51, could be suspended, reprimanded or lose his credentials because he performed a wedding ceremony for his son in 2007 in Massachusetts. He had informed his superiors about it beforehand and did not face any consequences until April, when a congregant filed a complaint.

The United Methodist Church formally accepts gay and lesbian members but teaches that homosexuality is not compatible with Christian teaching.

Schaefer's trial will begin on Nov. 18 at a Methodist retreat in Spring City. He could avoid trial by agreeing not to perform another same-sex marriage, but he has decided not to do that. Three of his four children are gay.

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.