United Methodist minister fired for performing same-sex marriage appeals

LINTHICUM, Md. - There were no cameras allowed inside the appeals hearing for Frank Schaefer , but there was a show of unity and support. 

Seven years ago, the Eastern Pennsylvania minister performed the marriage ceremony for his gay son in Massachusetts, where marriage was legal.

Schaefer had a 30-day suspension by the United Methodist Church for performing the wedding.  Plus, the trial jury, which is made up of members of the church, asked him to agree to never do it again.  Schaefer couldn't make that blanket statement.

"You can't punish somebody for something they haven't done," said Schaefer.  

That is the heart of what brings Schaefer to Maryland, where arguments to appeal his case went on for about three hours Friday morning.  Schaefer's attorney said he should not have been fired from his job.

"What the jury did would result to a fear tactic to coerce me and also to really discourage others from doing what I did," said Schaefer. 

Schaefer says the church wants him to discriminate against gay and lesbian members.

But a spokeswoman for the United Methodist Church pushed us to their website, which says "The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching... Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”  

"Ministering to people partially is a little bit like being a little pregnant," said Dorothee Benz, a Schaefer supporter. 

Schaefer would go to another church if he gets his job back, a decision that could reflect the future of the United Methodist Church.

"This would be a great symbolic gesture and sign for the church that the church is considering change," said Schaefer.   

The board has 20 days to make a decision, but the church is expecting to know if Schaefer will be allowed to minister again in the next 24 hours.


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