A Pennsylvania minister was suspended for 30 days on Tuesday after he was found guilty in a church trial for officiating his son’s same-sex wedding, according to church officials.
Frank Schaefer, 51, the pastor at Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, was found guilty by a jury of 13 ordained clergy members on two counts: officiating a same-sex wedding and being disobedient to the discipline and order of the church, according to Cathy Husid-Shamir, a Schaefer family spokesperson.
Schaefer received a concurrent 30-day suspension for both counts. If he does not uphold the church’s discipline after the suspension, he must surrender his credentials, according to Husid-Shamir.
The jury had full power in determining Schaefer’s penalty, which could have ranged from a reprimand to a full defrocking.
“I’m obviously relieved to receive a lighter penalty than defrocking,” Schaefer said in a statement to CNN after receiving his sentence. “I gave the jury every excuse to take my credentials when I was honest with them and said that I must continue to serve all people — no exceptions.”
Schaefer previously told CNN’s Zoraida Sambolin that his son, Tim, asked him to officiate his wedding seven years ago, and he decided to do it “out of love for him.”
Despite at one point believing that homosexuality was incompatible with his Christian beliefs, Schaefer told CNN his views on the controversial topic began to change over time.
“By the time our son came out, I was ready to embrace him,” Schaefer told Sambolin on November 14.
The complaint was filed by one of Schaefer’s church members, and the church leadership decided to act upon it, according to Schaefer.
The church told Schaefer he could avoid a trial if he agreed never to perform another same-sex marriage again, but he refused.
“I can’t commit to a statement like that, especially in light of the fact that I have two more children that are gay.”
“We want to express care and concern for everyone involved in this difficult process,” Michele Bartlow, district superintendent of the United Methodist Church, said in a statement after the guilty verdict. “We ask for prayer.”
“Today, grace and love won over a controversial church law,” Schaefer told CNN.