PHILADELPHIA — More than 30 United Methodist pastors from Pennsylvania plan to jointly officiate a same-sex marriage next month, an unprecedented showing of solidarity for an embattled colleague that could lead to their ouster from the pulpit.
The colleague is the Rev. Frank Schaefer, who faces a Nov. 18 church trial in Chester County for officiating at the 2007 marriage between his son and another man.
Schaefer’s fellow pastors call that an act of love, not a prosecutable offense. They gathered last Thursday at a Philadelphia church and, after more than two hours, agreed to preside as a group at a same-sex marriage, a step they hope jolts the larger church.
“Out of respect and out of honor of his commitment to his family, he’s done this,” said the Rev. Robin Hynicka of Philadelphia’s Arch Street United Methodist Church, where the meeting was held. “Talk about family values, right. Let’s give it its due.”
The United Methodist church has about 12 million members worldwide. Church doctrine accepts homosexual members while barring openly gay pastors and the blessing of same-sex unions. About a half-dozen people have been put on trial for breaking those rules since 2000. Several trials ended with ministers being removed from their posts.