SPRING CITY, Pa. - The Lebanon County pastor whose church put him on trial for breaking his vows by officiating his son's same-sex marriage has been found guilty.
Reverend Frank Schaefer was found guilty on two charges; one for conducting the same-sex marriage six years ago and the other for disobeying the church.
The Schaefer family was greeted with supportive hugs as they exited the courtroom Monday evening following the guilty verdict in East Vincent Township, Chester County.
"I am obviously very saddened so what we are hoping for tomorrow is a light sentence," said Reverend Schaefer's son Tim Schaefer.
Dozens of people protested in support of Rev. Schaefer.
"We are here to say we stand by Frank," said supporter Chett Pritchett.
But some feel same-sex marriage is causing a division in the church.
"I am against division, I think it is one of the biggest problems that we have. I think all people deserve to be loved equally and given an equal opportunity at anything," said supporter Sarah Cobb.
Members of the church say they are seeking a greater understanding of same-sex marriage even if they do not agree.
"It has been an ongoing concern and a matter for prayer. And we keep on discussing and trying to deliberate together and come to a better understanding," said United Methodist Church spokesperson Michele Bartlow.
Rev. Schaefer was brought to trail after church member Jon Boger filed the complaint against him.
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.
A 13-member jury found Reverend Schaefer guilty in a church trial. Nine votes were needed for the verdict.
The penalty phase of the trial will start Tuesday at 9 a.m.
Rev. Schaefer could face penalties ranging from a temporary suspension to completely losing his credentials.
Seven votes are needed for any penalty. His son Tim is expected to take the stand Tuesday.
Allentown, PA 18102
- Lehigh Valley 69 News