Minister says Methodist church in Pennsylvania appealing his 'refrocking' over gay marriage


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PHILADELPHIA — A Methodist minister ousted and then reinstated after performing his son's gay marriage said Friday that a church official is appealing his refrocking.

The Rev. Frank Schaefer said he is disappointed to learn of the appeal, but not surprised.

Schaefer is moving to a California diocese this week after his decision to officiate at his son's 2007 same-sex marriage thwarted his church career in Pennsylvania. He has since become a gay rights activist. He said he hoped the church's Judicial Council would decline to take up the appeal.

"I sincerely hope and pray that the council members will keep our church's diversity in mind, especially our LGBTQ community and their relatives and friends, as they deliberate," Schaefer said in a statement. "I pray for a positive outcome which would signal a change toward healing the wounds of homophobia."

The counsel for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, the Rev. Christopher Fisher of Schuylkill Haven, did not immediately return a call for comment Friday.

A nine-person panel last month ordered the church to restore Schaefer's pastoral credentials, saying the jury that convicted him last year erred when fashioning his punishment.

The church had suspended the Lebanon pastor for officiating his son's 2007 wedding, then defrocked him when he refused to promise to uphold the Methodist law book, including its ban on clergy performing same-sex marriages.

Schaefer successfully appealed, arguing the decision was based on an assumption he would break church law again.

The issue of gay marriage has long divided the United Methodist Church, the nation's second-largest Protestant denomination. Hundreds of Methodist ministers have publicly rejected church policies that allow gay members but ban "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" from becoming clergy and forbid ministers from performing same-sex marriages.

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