In an epic miscarriage of justice, a United Methodist church court has sentenced the Rev. Frank Shaefer of Lebanon, PA to a thirty day suspension. Shaefer was convicted of breaking the official rules of the UMC when he solemnized the marriage of his gay son in a 2007 Massachusetts ceremony. The United Methodist Church, while welcoming LGBT members, asserts in its Book of Discipline that "avowed homosexual" behavior is "incompatible" with Christianity.
In a trial which resembled a scene from the Inquisition more than it did a mere meeting of Methodist ministers in Pennsylvania, the jury informed Shaefer that if he did not repent his position within the 30 day suspension, he would be defrocked. Recanting his position on marriage equality would not only mean backing down on principles, it would also mean denouncing his son's marriage. Shafer remains defiant though stating:
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.
Shaefer was accompanied to the trial by numerous supporters who held signs and sang hymns outside the retreat center where the court was seated 60 miles east of his parish. One supporter held a sign proclaiming "Law or love? Jesus chose love". In the thirty remaining days that he will continue to be able to call himself a Methodist pastor, Shaefer has offered to preside at the weddings of any interested LGBT couples.