A Pennsylvania pastor who found guilty of violating his church’s doctrine in a “trial” earlier this week, has rejected 30 days given by the church to repent.
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.
On Tuesday the jury at his “trial”, sentenced him to suspension for 30 days, in which time he was invited to reverse his position on same-sex marriage, or become defrocked at the end.
Schaefer declined, however, saying he was unapologetic, and that he would continue to support equal marriage.
“[The Church] needs to stop judging people based on their sexual orientation. We have to stop the hate speech. We have to stop treating them as second-class Christians. [...]
“I will never be silent again. This is what I have to do. [...]
“I have to minister to those who hurt and that’s what I’m doing.”
Three out of four of Schaefer;s children identify as gay.
He has said if a gay couple approaches him in the next 30 days asking for him to marry them, he will.
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.