A Pennsylvania pastor who was put on “trial” by his congregation after officiating at his own son’s same-sex wedding has now been found guilty for violating church law.
Frank Schaefer, a pastor of the Zion United Methodist Church, testified he had conflicted feelings when he agreed to help his son and his partner marry back in 2007, but chose to defy his denomination out of love for his family.
In an interview he said: “We just love him so much it was an honour to be asked. Had I said no to him, it would have negated all the affirmations we gave him for all those year…that we believe you are just as worthy and precious in God’s sight as anybody else.”
Reuters reports the verdict came after an all-day hearing at a Pennsylvania church camp and was delivered by the jury of nine men and four women.
Alfred Gwinn, a retired bishop, said there were at least nine votes for a guilty verdict, as outlined by church law.
In a statement at the opening of the trial Mr Schaefer said: “I did not want to make this a protest about the doctrine of the church. I was ready to choose between my son and my career.”
He was convicted of both officiating at a same-sex wedding and showing “disobedience to the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church.”
Testifying against the pastor was Jon Boger, a member of his congregation who had informed church officials of the ceremony taking place.
Mr Boger said: “He kept it silent from the congregation. Nobody knew. It was a lie and a broken covenant.”
However, he added he understood the pastor’s motivations.
He said: “It’s his son. He loves his son. In a way I felt bad for him. But he’s also shown no remorse or repentance, nor has he apologised to anyone.”
Mr Schaefer now faces the possibility of disciplinary action, or may be defrocked for officiating at the wedding.
Outside the trial, about 100 supporters attended to show solidarity for the pastor.
The campaigners held banners which read “We are Open and Affirming,” as well as signs reading “God so loved his son too” and “Law or Love – Jesus Chose Love.”
Reverend Hal Taussig of Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill United Church said: “We oppose the homophobic position of the United Methodist denomination.”
Previously Mr Schaefer said: “To me this is a human rights issue. If being of a certain sexual orientation is who you are as a person, if that is genetic, who are we to say that these persons do not have the same rights as everybody else.”
“I’m supposed to minister to everybody,” he added. “That I feel is my call.”
The jury is now to consider on Tuesday what penalty it will levy against the pastor.