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Church suspends pastor, forbids him from performing future same-sex weddings

Pastor suspended by United Methodist Church

EAST VINCENT TWP., Pa. - A United Methodist minister from Lebanon County has been handed his sentence.

The Rev. Frank Schaefer was convicted of breaking church law by officiating at the same-sex wedding of his son in Massachusetts iin 2007.

A jury ruled Tuesday night he will serve a 30-day suspension, effective immediately.  If he performs another same-sex marriage, he must surrender his credentials, the jury ruled. 

Schaefer said he will not change his mind. He said he will no longer be a silent supporter, rather an outspoken advocate. He called the biblical word antiquated when it says marriage is between a man and a woman. He expects to be defrocked in 30 days.

During these 30 days, Schaefer must take the opportunity to discern his newly discovered calling for the LGBT community.

If at the end of 30 days, Schaefer has determined he cannot uphold the discipline in its entirety, he must surrender his credentials.

Schaefer faced penalties ranging from a temporary suspension to completely losing his credentials.

Schaefer could have avoided a trial if he agreed to never again perform a same-gender wedding, but he declined because three of his four children are gay.

The church trial, held in East Vincent Twp., Chester Co., began Monday.

Schaefer told jurors he has been called by God to be an advocate for the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people. He said the church needs to stop treating them as "second-class Christians."

Following the penalty hearing, there was overwhelming support for Schaefer. People flipped over their chairs and began singing the hymn, "Were you there when they crucified our Lord?" as they surrounded his family.

Following the singing, Schaefer served communion to his followers.

A spokeswoman for the United Methodist Church said same-sex marriage is a difficult issue for people of faith and it is causing pain for many in the church.

A jury consisting of Methodist clergy convicted Schaefer on Monday of breaking a church law that forbids pastors from marrying same-sex partners.

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