mostlycloudy
Saturday July 4th, 2015 10:46PM

Methodist pastor defrocked over gay wedding is reinstated

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- A Pennsylvania pastor who broke church law by presiding over his son's same-sex wedding ceremony and then became an outspoken activist for gay rights can return to the pulpit after a United Methodist Church appeals panel on Tuesday overturned a decision to defrock him.<br /> <br /> The nine-person panel ordered the church to restore Frank Schaefer's pastoral credentials, saying the jury that convicted him last year erred when fashioning his punishment.<br /> <br /> "I've devoted my life to this church, to serving this church, and to be restored and to be able to call myself a reverend again and to speak with this voice means so much to me," an exultant Schaefer told The Associated Press, adding he intends to work for gay rights "with an even stronger voice from within the United Methodist Church."<br /> <br /> The church suspended Schaefer, of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, for officiating his son's 2007 wedding, then defrocked him when he refused to promise to uphold the Methodist law book "in its entirety," including its ban on clergy performing same-sex marriages.<br /> <br /> Schaefer appealed, arguing the decision was wrong because it was based on an assumption he would break church law in the future.<br /> <br /> The appeals panel, which met in Linthicum, Maryland, last week to hear the case, upheld a 30-day suspension that Schaefer has already served and said he should get back pay dating to when the suspension ended in December.<br /> <br /> Bishop Peggy Johnson of the church's eastern Pennsylvania conference said Tuesday she will abide by the panel's decision and return him to active service.<br /> <br /> The ruling can be appealed to the Methodist church's highest court. The pastor who prosecuted Schaefer, the Rev. Christopher Fisher, said he has not made a decision about an appeal.<br /> <br /> "I'm still in prayerful consideration about that," said Fisher, calling Tuesday's decision "not entirely unexpected."<br /> <br /> At a news conference in Philadelphia, Schaefer said he expects to take a job with the Methodist church in California, a liberal bastion where there is presumably little chance he would be punished for defying church doctrine on homosexuality.<br /> <br /> The issue of gay marriage has long roiled the United Methodist Church, the nation's second-largest Protestant denomination. Hundreds of Methodist ministers have publicly rejected church policies that allow gay members but ban "self-avowed practicing homosexuals" from becoming clergy and forbid ministers from performing same-sex marriages.<br /> <br /> Traditionalists say clergy have no right to break church law just because they disagree with it. Some conservative pastors are calling for a breakup of the denomination, which has 12 million members worldwide, saying the split over gay marriage is irreconcilable.<br /> <br /> Schaefer said Tuesday's decision "signals a major change within the United Methodist Church, for sure."<br /> <br /> The appeals panel, however, suggested it was not making a broader statement about the church's position on homosexuality but based its decision solely on the facts of Schaefer's case.<br /> <br /> The jury's punishment was illegal under church law, the appeals panel concluded, writing in its decision that "revoking his credentials cannot be squared with the well-established principle that our clergy can only be punished for what they have been convicted of doing in the past, not for what they may or may not do in the future."<br /> <br /> The decision also noted that Schaefer's son had asked him to perform the wedding; that the ceremony was small and private, held not in a Methodist church but in a Massachusetts restaurant; and that Schaefer did not publicize the wedding until a member of his congregation learned of it and filed the complaint in April 2013.<br /> <br /> "The committee notes that, in another case involving different facts, a majority of its members might well have concluded that a different penalty better serves the cause of achieving a just resolution," the panel said, adding that some of its members wanted a longer suspension for Schaefer.<br /> <br /> Schaefer, 52, said he expects the decision to stand.<br /> <br /> "The church is changing," he said, "and that is good news for everybody."
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Judge denies motions to move, delay Tsarnaev trial
Lawyers for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev asked a federal appeals court Wednesday to overturn a judge's decision to not move his upcoming trial out of state.
10:02PM ( 6 months ago )
High court to adopt electronic filing of cases
The Supreme Court is belatedly developing an electronic filing system similar to those used in courts around the country, Chief Justice John Roberts said Wednesday in his annual end-of-year report.
7:57PM ( 6 months ago )
Storm brings snow, cold to West for New Year's
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
5:19PM ( 6 months ago )
U.S. News
Grass fire impacts rush hour traffic on 985
Rush hour traffic on I-985 was slowed by a grass fire Wednesay afternoon with one lane closed while firefighters fought the blaze.
10:19PM ( 6 months ago )
Hall County conviction, sentencing to be reviewed by SCOGA
The State Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Hall County man when they reconvene in January.
2:37PM ( 6 months ago )
Local/State News
Committee leaves transportation funding to lawmakers
Georgia will have to cover a $1 billion to $1.5 billion transportation funding gap to stay economically competitive, a committee of lawmakers is warning in a report issued Tuesday.
5:36AM ( 6 months ago )
US off war footing at year's end, but wars go on
Taking America off a permanent war footing is proving harder than President Barack Obama may have suggested.
6:13PM ( 6 months ago )
GOP leader regrets talk to white supremacists; party leaders rally around him
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
6:08PM ( 6 months ago )
Politics
Utility drones could inspect equipment, scan for outages
LITHONIA, Ga. (AP) — When tornadoes and hurricanes topple power lines in the future, flying drones might be the first to pinpoint the damage.Power companies across the United States are testing whethe...
4:21PM ( 6 hours ago )
A year on, children caught on border struggle to stay, adapt
LOS ANGELES (AP) — At 1-year-old, a wide-eyed, restless Joshua Tinoco faces the prospect of deportation to his native Honduras, one of tens of thousands of children who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico bord...
4:09PM ( 6 hours ago )
Draft accords of sanctions relief at Iran nuke talks in hand
VIENNA (AP) — World powers and Iran have drawn up a draft document on the pace and timing of sanctions relief for the Islamic republic in exchange for curbs on Iran's nuclear program, advancing on one...
2:47PM ( 7 hours ago )
A 2nd monument to Confederacy defaced in Va.'s capital city
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A second monument in memory of the Confederacy has been vandalized in Richmond.Media reports state that the base of the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument was spray-painted...
1:44PM ( 9 hours ago )
After year of Washington legal pot sales, taxes top $70M
SEATTLE (AP) — Washington launched its second-in-the-nation legal marijuana market with just a handful of stores selling high-priced pot to long lines of customers. A year later, the state has about 1...
12:17PM ( 10 hours ago )