“I didn’t do this to make a rebellious statement against the church,” Rev. Franks Schaefer said on Friday, reflecting on the action taken by a United Methodist Church jury of fellow pastors that last week sentenced him to a 30-day suspension after convicting him of violating church law for having officiated over his son’s same-sex wedding in 2007. At the end of the 30-day period, the Lebanon, Penn., pastor will be defrocked unless he renounces same-sex marriage, including his own son’s marriage.
“I said to the jury, ‘Look, all of this, in the last few weeks, has really outed me to the world in terms of where I stand on my theology,’” he told me in an interview on SiriusXM Progress. “I have become an advocate for the LGBT community. I can no longer be a silent supporter.”
Schaefer described his statements to the jury as a "moment of honesty" in which he challenged the leadership of the nation's largest mainline Protestant denomination, which preaches that homosexuality is "not compatible with Christian teaching." He said he’d marry any other gay or lesbian couples who want to be married while he is a still a pastor. So far, none have come forward, but he has until December 18.
“I cannot fathom how I would change my mind in that time or in any time,” Schaefer said. “To me this is discrimination. It’s not right. So many people have been hurt. Not just my son -- my children -- but thousands of gay, lesbian bisexual, transgender people have been hurt by the church and by society. It has to stop. We’ve got to realize what we’re doing here with our theology, our doctrine, and really, our hate speech.”
The two counts of which he was found guilty go back to Schaefer having officiated over his gay son’s wedding in 2007 in Massachusetts. Schaefer’s son, Tim Schaefer, had come out to him in 2000, when the pastor spoke to his son after an anonymous caller told him his son was gay and was contemplating suicide.
“We said to him, 'You are made in the image of God just like everyone else,'” Schaefer said, thinking back to when his son first described his struggles with his homosexuality. “So when he asked me in 2007, ‘Dad, would you do my wedding?’ I was just honored.”
Listen to the interview below: