Pastor Wants to Be Voice for LGBT Church Members

A United Methodist minister punished for officiating at his gay son's wedding has rebuffed an order to give up his religious credentials, saying he wants to stay with the church and push for change.

"I cannot voluntarily surrender my credentials because I am a force now for many, for tens of thousands of LGBT members in our church," said the Rev. Frank Schaefer at a news conference Monday in Philadelphia.

Schaefer is serving a 30-day suspension from his central Pennsylvania church for leading his son's 2007 wedding in Massachusetts. The Methodist church accepts gay and lesbian members but rejects the practice of homosexuality as “incompatible with Christian teaching.” He has been ordered to surrender his religious credentials by Thursday if he can't adhere to church doctrine.

"I cannot uphold the United Methodist Book of Discipline in its entirety," Schaefer said. 
"I just cannot. In fact, I dont' believe anyone can."

The minister says the Book of Discipline is filled with contradictory statements making it difficult for any clergymen to support all the competing ideas it describes.  

For Schaefer, the Methodist church laws that affect his gay son are the most challenging.

"In particular," he said, "I cannot uphold those discrimantory laws ...that are hurtful and harmful to our homomsexual brothers and sisters in the church."

The minister will not surrender his credentials, leaving his fate up to the church.

"They have the power to either defrock me," he said, "Or keep my credentials in place, thus affirming me as a LGBT voice in the church."

Other denominations have reached out to Schaefer, but he says he wants to continue in the United Methodist Church if permitted.

Allowing him to remain a Methodist minister would be a "path towards healing," he said.  "I'd prefer to remain a United Methodist minister so I can do work...towards dismantling the discrimination."

About 30 Methodist ministers, who signed a petition being presented to Bishop Peggy Johnson, took the stage in a show of support.

The "loving letter" asks her to stop holding religious trials for pastors who perform gay weddings.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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