(RNS) A United Methodist jury Monday night found the Rev. Frank Schaefer guilty of violating church law for officiating at the 2007 wedding of his son and another man.
The jury will consider his punishment on Tuesday, which could include the loss of his clergy credentials.
The verdict came about 7:15 p.m., nearly 12 hours after the jury selection began at a United Methodist retreat center in Spring City, Pa. A jury of 13 pastors and two alternates heard testimony.
Schaefer was found guilty of two charges: performing a same-sex wedding and disobeying church law. The United Methodist Church considers homosexuality “incompatible with Christian teachings.”
The pastor of Zion United Methodist Church in Lebanon, Pa., Schafer has said that the church’s Book of Discipline also calls for equality and compassion in ministering to all people.
“Maybe I compromised my ritual purity,” Schaefer testified at the trial. ”It is what Jesus called me to do for the sake of love.”
The charges against Schaefer are among at least four open cases involving United Methodist clergy facing disciplinary action for defying church law on gay marriage and homosexuality. On Nov. 9, 36 United Methodist clergy and nine clergy from other traditions presided at a same-sex ceremony in Philadelphia to show support for Schaefer.
On Friday, the denomination’s Council of Bishops recommended charges be filed against retired Bishop Melvin Talbert for presiding at the Oct. 26 wedding of two men.
“Sadly, the UMC continues to place legalism over love, the (Book of) Discipline over Jesus,” tweeted Methodists in New Directions, the New York Conference’s affiliate of Reconciling Ministries Network.
Schaefer is not the first Methodist minister to be found guilty of breaking church law for officiating at same-sex weddings. Jimmy Creech, a former ordained elder in Nebraska lost his clergy credentials in 1999 after a church trial found him guilty of presiding at gay weddings.
That same year, the Rev. Greg Dell of Chicago was also found guilty of officiating at a same-sex wedding and suspended for a year.
More recently, the Rev. Amy DeLong, a lesbian clergywoman in Wisconsin, was found guilty of officiating at the union of a lesbian couple in 2011, and suspended for a month.
“I’m not surprised by the guilty verdict,” said Creech, who lives in Raleigh, N.C. “It was a foregone conclusion. The penalty will be much more interesting. I’m hoping the clergy on the jury will act with compassion and reason. If they are punitive to Frank, it will be a sign that LGBT members are not welcome in the church.”
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Video courtesy NBC Philadelphia
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