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Defrocked Methodist pastor appealing punishment

  • In this June 14, 2014 photo, Frank Schaefer, left, and his son Tim Schaefer speak before a ceremony where Frank Schaefer received an award for his public advocacy marking 10 years of legal gay marriage in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. Schaefer, a Methodist pastor who was defrocked for officiating his son Tim's wedding to another man, accepted the award the weekend before a Methodist judicial panel was scheduled to hear his appeal to continue in the ministry. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

    In this June 14, 2014 photo, Frank Schaefer, left, and his son Tim Schaefer speak before a ceremony where Frank Schaefer received an award for his public advocacy marking 10 years of legal gay marriage in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. Schaefer, a Methodist pastor who was defrocked for officiating his son Tim's wedding to another man, accepted the award the weekend before a Methodist judicial panel was scheduled to hear his appeal to continue in the ministry. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

  • In this June 14, 2014 photo, Frank Schaefer, left. is shown the Open Door Award by Rev. Nancy Taylor, before a ceremony where Schaefer received the award for his public advocacy marking 10 years of legal gay marriage in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. Schaefer, a Methodist pastor who was defrocked for officiating his son Tim's wedding to another man, accepted the award the weekend before a Methodist judicial panel was scheduled to hear his appeal to continue in the ministry. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

    In this June 14, 2014 photo, Frank Schaefer, left. is shown the Open Door Award by Rev. Nancy Taylor, before a ceremony where Schaefer received the award for his public advocacy marking 10 years of legal gay marriage in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. Schaefer, a Methodist pastor who was defrocked for officiating his son Tim's wedding to another man, accepted the award the weekend before a Methodist judicial panel was scheduled to hear his appeal to continue in the ministry. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

  • In this June 14, 2014 photo, Brigitte Schaefer, left, her son Tim Schaefer, center, and Tim's partner, John Duncan, applaud as Frank Schaefer receives an Open Door Award for his public advocacy in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. Frank Schaefer, a Methodist pastor who was defrocked for officiating his son Tim's wedding to another man, accepted the award the weekend before a Methodist judicial panel was scheduled to hear his appeal to continue in the ministry. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

    In this June 14, 2014 photo, Brigitte Schaefer, left, her son Tim Schaefer, center, and Tim's partner, John Duncan, applaud as Frank Schaefer receives an Open Door Award for his public advocacy in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. Frank Schaefer, a Methodist pastor who was defrocked for officiating his son Tim's wedding to another man, accepted the award the weekend before a Methodist judicial panel was scheduled to hear his appeal to continue in the ministry. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

  • In this June 14, 2014 photo, Frank Schaefer, right, speaks with Rev. Nancy Taylor, left, before a ceremony where Schaefer received an Open Door Award for his public advocacy in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. Schaefer, a Methodist pastor who was defrocked for officiating his son Tim's wedding to another man, accepted the award the weekend before a Methodist judicial panel was scheduled to hear his appeal to continue in the ministry. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

    In this June 14, 2014 photo, Frank Schaefer, right, speaks with Rev. Nancy Taylor, left, before a ceremony where Schaefer received an Open Door Award for his public advocacy in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. Schaefer, a Methodist pastor who was defrocked for officiating his son Tim's wedding to another man, accepted the award the weekend before a Methodist judicial panel was scheduled to hear his appeal to continue in the ministry. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

  • In this June 14, 2014 photo, Frank Schaefer, center, speaks with Rev. Nancy Taylor, right, before a ceremony where Schaefer received an award for his public advocacy marking 10 years of legal gay marriage in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

    In this June 14, 2014 photo, Frank Schaefer, center, speaks with Rev. Nancy Taylor, right, before a ceremony where Schaefer received an award for his public advocacy marking 10 years of legal gay marriage in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

  • In this June 14, 2014 photo, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, left, Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, center, and Frank Schaefer, look on during a ceremony where the three were to receive Open Door Awards for their public advocacy at a service marking 10 years of legal gay marriage in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. Schaefer, a Methodist pastor who was defrocked for officiating his gay son's wedding, accepted the award the weekend before a Methodist judicial panel was scheduled to hear his appeal to continue in the ministry. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

    In this June 14, 2014 photo, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, left, Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, center, and Frank Schaefer, look on during a ceremony where the three were to receive Open Door Awards for their public advocacy at a service marking 10 years of legal gay marriage in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. Schaefer, a Methodist pastor who was defrocked for officiating his gay son's wedding, accepted the award the weekend before a Methodist judicial panel was scheduled to hear his appeal to continue in the ministry. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

  • In this June 14, 2014 photo, Frank Schaefer, speaks to parishioners after receiving an Open Door Award for his public advocacy during a ceremony marking 10 years of legal gay marriage in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. Schaefer, a Methodist pastor who was defrocked for officiating his gay son's wedding, accepted the award the weekend before a Methodist judicial panel was scheduled to hear his appeal to continue in the ministry. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

    In this June 14, 2014 photo, Frank Schaefer, speaks to parishioners after receiving an Open Door Award for his public advocacy during a ceremony marking 10 years of legal gay marriage in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. Schaefer, a Methodist pastor who was defrocked for officiating his gay son's wedding, accepted the award the weekend before a Methodist judicial panel was scheduled to hear his appeal to continue in the ministry. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

  • In this June 14, 2014 photo, Frank Schaefer, left, and his son Tim Schaefer speak before a ceremony where Frank Schaefer received an award for his public advocacy marking 10 years of legal gay marriage in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. Schaefer, a Methodist pastor who was defrocked for officiating his son Tim's wedding to another man, accepted the award the weekend before a Methodist judicial panel was scheduled to hear his appeal to continue in the ministry. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)
  • In this June 14, 2014 photo, Frank Schaefer, left. is shown the Open Door Award by Rev. Nancy Taylor, before a ceremony where Schaefer received the award for his public advocacy marking 10 years of legal gay marriage in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. Schaefer, a Methodist pastor who was defrocked for officiating his son Tim's wedding to another man, accepted the award the weekend before a Methodist judicial panel was scheduled to hear his appeal to continue in the ministry. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)
  • In this June 14, 2014 photo, Brigitte Schaefer, left, her son Tim Schaefer, center, and Tim's partner, John Duncan, applaud as Frank Schaefer receives an Open Door Award for his public advocacy in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. Frank Schaefer, a Methodist pastor who was defrocked for officiating his son Tim's wedding to another man, accepted the award the weekend before a Methodist judicial panel was scheduled to hear his appeal to continue in the ministry. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)
  • In this June 14, 2014 photo, Frank Schaefer, right, speaks with Rev. Nancy Taylor, left, before a ceremony where Schaefer received an Open Door Award for his public advocacy in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. Schaefer, a Methodist pastor who was defrocked for officiating his son Tim's wedding to another man, accepted the award the weekend before a Methodist judicial panel was scheduled to hear his appeal to continue in the ministry. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)
  • In this June 14, 2014 photo, Frank Schaefer, center, speaks with Rev. Nancy Taylor, right, before a ceremony where Schaefer received an award for his public advocacy marking 10 years of legal gay marriage in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)
  • In this June 14, 2014 photo, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, left, Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, center, and Frank Schaefer, look on during a ceremony where the three were to receive Open Door Awards for their public advocacy at a service marking 10 years of legal gay marriage in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. Schaefer, a Methodist pastor who was defrocked for officiating his gay son's wedding, accepted the award the weekend before a Methodist judicial panel was scheduled to hear his appeal to continue in the ministry. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)
  • In this June 14, 2014 photo, Frank Schaefer, speaks to parishioners after receiving an Open Door Award for his public advocacy during a ceremony marking 10 years of legal gay marriage in Massachusetts, at Old South Church, in Boston. Schaefer, a Methodist pastor who was defrocked for officiating his gay son's wedding, accepted the award the weekend before a Methodist judicial panel was scheduled to hear his appeal to continue in the ministry. (AP Photo/Josh Reynolds)

Frank Schaefer lost his job but not his voice.

Defrocked by the United Methodist Church six months ago for officiating his son’s same-sex wedding, Schaefer has gained a following among reformers who want the nation’s second-largest Protestant denomination to loosen its policies on homosexuality.

He’s told his story dozens of times to largely sympathetic audiences across the country: how his son came out to him as a teenager who had contemplated suicide. How he hid the 2007 wedding from his conservative Pennsylvania congregation, fearing it would sow division. How he finally decided – in the midst of his high-profile church trial last fall – to become an outspoken advocate for gay rights at a time when his denomination is bitterly divided over the issue.

After his trial and conviction, “I thought I had lost everything,” recalled Schaefer, 52. “There was a moment of pain and depression and the next thing I knew, I was catapulted. I have more opportunities now than I ever did.”

Except the right to call himself a Methodist minister.

“I would like to get my credentials back,” said Schaefer, who will appear before a church panel in Baltimore this week to argue that his punishment was illegal under church law. “I’m hoping for a ‘re-frocking.’ ”

In little more than six months, Schaefer has become a public face of the movement to change church policy on gays. The Methodist church accepts gay and lesbian members but rejects sex outside of heterosexual marriage as “incompatible with Christian teaching.” Openly gay people may not serve as clergy, and ministers are forbidden from performing same-sex marriages.

The issue has roiled the Methodist church for more than 40 years, but the conflict between theological conservatives and liberals has intensified recently. Hundreds of Methodist ministers have publicly rejected church doctrine on homosexuality, while traditionalists say they have no right to break church law just because they disagree with it. Some conservative pastors are calling for a breakup of the denomination, which has 12 million members worldwide, saying the split over gay marriage is irreconcilable.

“The church is a little shell-shocked right now,” Schaefer said.

Church officials put the German-born preacher on trial in southeastern Pennsylvania after one of his congregants in Lebanon filed a complaint against him, accusing him of ignoring his pastoral vows by presiding over his son’s ceremony in Massachusetts.

Schaefer could have avoided the trial – and, after his conviction, kept his ordination – by promising he wouldn’t perform another same-gender wedding. But he refused, declaring he would officiate more gay marriages if asked.

His stand galvanized gay rights activists within the church, and he’s become a fixture on the lecture circuit. In between appearances, Schaefer wrote a book, Defrocked, that will be released later this month by Chalice Press.

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