The Rev. Frank Schaefer was defrocked by the US’ United Methodist Church after he remained unrepentant after completing a 30 day suspension over his presiding over his gay son’s wedding in 2007.
Schaefer told the church’s ministry board that he could not say that he supported the United Methodist Book of Discipline in its entirety because of what it said about people in same-sex relationships.
Schaefer has said that he will appeal the decision and has said that he does not intend the leave the United Methodists for a more inclusive church.
Schaefer is a father of four children – three of whom are gay – and in 2007 he performed the service for his son Tim’s wedding in Massachusetts shortly after same-sex marriage was legalized there.
The complaint was brought against Schaefer only recently by the son of a man he had removed as a choir director and came only weeks before the church’s statute of limitations would have expired.
In an interview with the New York Times following his defrocking Schaefer said he had been floored by the church tribunal’s decision.
‘For 20 years, I’ve served this church, and it has now put me outside,’ he said.
‘I find myself totally shunned, excluded. It just felt awful.’
However Schaefer’s defrocking has not been in vain as it has resulted in a wave of other United Methodist ministers marrying same-sex couples in acts of civil disobedience and has galvanized the pro-gay marriage and pro-gay ordination wing of the church.
And on Monday Schaefer’s bishop Peggy Johnson released a statement in which she called the church’s stance on same-sex marriage and gay ordination discriminatory.
‘Several statements in our Book of Discipline are discriminatory,’ Bishop Johnson wrote.
‘There appear to be contradictions between the many affirming statements and these statements. This has led to confusion by many from the outside of the church wondering how we can talk out of two sides of our mouth.’
Johnson was referring to several affirming statements in the Book of Discipline that oppose discrimination against LGBTIs.
Johnson also said she would try to avoid more trials like Schaefer’s in future.
‘Church trials around the chargeable offenses that relate to the LGTB community are not helpful,’ Johnson said.
‘They use time, resources, and energy that could be better used for the ministry of the church. I will continue to try in every way, as far as it depends on me, to not have church trials.’
A 2012 General Conference of the church voted 55% against changing the church’s stance on same-sex marriage but it is likely to vote again on the issue at its 2016 conference.
However around 40% of the church’s representatives at the General Conference come from outside the US, with many from Africa and the Philippines who are likely to split from the church if it approves same-sex marriages.