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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Same-Sex Marriage Roils Methodist Church

The Rev. Frank Schaefer, left, of Lebanon Pa., celebrates communion with supporters after the sentencing phase of the trial at Camp Innabah, a United Methodist retreat, in Spring City Pa. Tuesday Nov. 19, 2013. (Chris Knight/AP)

The Rev. Frank Schaefer, left, of Lebanon Pa., celebrates communion with supporters after the sentencing phase of the trial at Camp Innabah, a United Methodist retreat, in Spring City Pa. Tuesday Nov. 19, 2013. (Chris Knight/AP)

The issue of gay marriage is dividing the United Methodist Church. With 8.3 million members in the U.S., Methodists comprise the nation’s third-largest Christian denomination.

This week, a jury of Methodist pastors convicted Pennsylvania pastor Rev. Frank Schaefer of violating church law when he officiated his son’s same-sex wedding six years ago.

At least four other Methodist pastors are also facing similar charges, including Thomas Ogletree, the retired dean of Yale Divinity School.

In Schaefer’s case, the church has suspended him from all ministerial duties for 30 days, at the end of which, he has to decide if he can uphold the church’s book of discipline in its entirety.

While the United Methodist Church does not allow same-sex marriage or gay ministers, it has also gone out of its way to affirm the dignity of gay people, and emphasized that church pastors do minister to them.

Schaefer speaks to Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson.

Interview Highlights: Frank Schaefer

On what he’s going to do at the end of 30 days

“Honestly, I’m struggling with this. Of course I can’t change my convictions. I cannot agree to uphold those discriminatory laws, especially in light of the pain that they have caused my own son Tim, my family and thousands and thousands of United Methodists that are in the LGBT community.”

On why he officiated his son’s same-sex wedding

“I knew that it was against the discipline. I did it out of love. It was definitely an act of love toward my son … It was almost like if I had said no to him on his request, it would have been like talking the talk but not walking the walk. So I knew I could be in trouble. I also wanted to be very up-front with my superiors, so I put in writing, I addressed the bishop and the cabinet that I had agreed to perform this same-sex marriage.”

On finding out his son was gay and considering suicide

“We affirmed him and we said to him, look, you are made in the image of God just like everybody else. You are beautiful in the eyes of God. This is how God has created you. Obviously you did not choose to be homosexual, so you are homosexual, that’s who you are and that’s who God made you to be. And later on, as our other gay children came out, we did the same with them.”

Guest

  • Frank Schaefer, United Methodist minister in Pennsylvania, suspended for officiating his gay son’s wedding.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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