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Methodist Pastor Defrocked Following Trial for Conducting Same-Sex Marriage

"Eastern Pennsylvania United Methodist leaders acted with integrity, grace and dignity through this process." --UMAction Director John Lomperis

Contact: Jeff Walton, Institute on Religion and Democracy, 202-682-4131, 202-413-5639 cell, jwalton@TheIRD.org

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2013 /Christian Newswire/ -- A United Methodist clergyman who conducted a same-sex wedding in violation of denominational rules has been defrocked. Pastor Frank Schaefer's clergy credentials were revoked today by church officials following his decision to not adhere to the United Methodist Book of Discipline by promising not to conduct further same-sex ceremonies.

The move follows a 30-day suspension that Schaefer was issued at the conclusion of a clergy trial in November.

IRD's United Methodist Action Director John Lomperis commented:

    "In the penalty, the jury of Schaefer's clergy peers was very gracious, giving him a 30-day suspension period to either re-commit to following our church's biblical covenant or to surrender his credentials as a United Methodist minister.

    "I commend Eastern Pennsylvania UMC officials for upholding our biblical standards and protecting the vitality of local churches from further destruction like what Mr. Schaefer brought to his former congregation.

    "Church officials acted with integrity, dignity, and grace through this process. I lament that the same cannot be truthfully said about Schaefer and many of his supporters. I invite my fellow evangelical United Methodists to pray for Frank Schaefer as he enters this time of transition.

    "This outcome should surprise no one who understands how United Methodism works. Conference officials did the only thing they could do, after bending over backwards to be gracious to Mr. Schaefer and offer him opportunities for restoration. He was not the first United Methodist minister to be defrocked for crossing these lines and will not be the last.

    "The United Methodist Book of Discipline is very clear that we do not allow our ministers to bless same-sex unions, yet Schaefer's supporters supposedly cannot believe that Schaefer would face any consequences for violating the Discipline. His sentence was clear, but they are acting shocked that its terms were followed with integrity.

    "This episode highlights the importance of churches in all traditions protecting themselves and the cause of Christ by carefully screening would-be pastors for biblical grounding and moral character, and having effective means of accountability."