A Pennsylvania pastor will reportedly be be forced to stand trial in front of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the United Methodist Church for officiating his son's same-sex wedding six years ago.
According to Penn Live, Rev. Frank Schaefer, pastor at Zion United Methodist Church of Iona, married his son, Tim, and his husband in 2006. However, the action allegedly violates the church's law book, the Book Of Discipline, which does not permit same-sex marriage.
"The love for my son took over the fear of losing my job with the United Methodist Church," Shaefer told the Lebanon Daily News. "It was a tough decision in some sense, but I just knew I had to make it. I had to follow my heart."
Schaefer's son Tim came out six years before the wedding in 2000, after contemplating suicide as a result of the prospect of being ostracized from his family and faith community if they learned of his sexuality, according to the Penn Live report.
Schaefer officiated the ceremony in Massachusetts, which had previously legalized same-sex marriage in 2004. Regardless, members of his congregation filed a compliant against him -- just 26 days before the statute of limitations would have expired.
Evangelical United Methodist Rev. Thomas Lambrecht reportedly communicated the following statement to UMC Connections:
Sadly, our church is once again being led down the path of a costly and divisive trial by a pastor who chose to disregard the prayerful and consistent teaching of our church that Christian marriage is the holy union of one man and one woman. As a father, I share Rev. Schaefer’s desire to affirm his son, but there are ways of doing so that do not require a pastor to break the Discipline and the covenant that all United Methodist pastors agree to uphold.
Last week, another Pennsylvania pastor was fired from his church for officiating a gay wedding, which contradicted the state's legal standing on same-sex marriage. In an age where same-sex marriage is making incredible strides both politically and socially, it remains a divisive issue within faith-based communities.
Schaefer's trial is slated to begin on Nov. 18. The pastor says the worst case scenario would involve him being stripped of his ministerial credentials, despite the fact that he has been ordained in the United Methodist Church since 1996.