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Lebanon County pastor faces church trial for officiating marriage of gay son
Reported by Jesse Knutson (JKnutson@sbgtv.com)
Today, churches across the country and here in Central Pennsylvania held candlelight vigils to show their support of Pastor Frank Schaefer of Lebanon and the LGBT community.
Pastor Frank Schaefer has been an ordained United Methodist minister for the past 17 years, and during his time, hes spread the message of God and the spirit of love and compassion.
Back in 2007, Pastor Schaefers son, who is homosexual, asked him if he would officiate his wedding in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage was legal.
Schaefer said it was a hard decision, but he decided nothing was more important than to support his family on such an important day.
Now 6 years later, that decision has put Pastor Schaefer in the hot seat.
Next Monday Im going to have to face a church trial, said Schaefer.
The church trial will decide whether Pastor Schaefer went against the United Methodist Churchs book of discipline.
It is not allowed by ministers of the United Methodist faith to perform same-sex marriages or unions, said Schaefer.
To show support leading up to next weeks trial, churches across the country and here in Central Pennsylvania held candlelight vigils to show their support.
We basically had people come and light a candle in solidarity of Frank and his family and drop by and just share a quick prayer and word with him for his trial, said Committee Chairman Marcus Sprecher.
Marcus Sprecher helped organize the gathering at Coleman Chapel in Lebanon.
When I heard about Franks story, you know, it just hit home, because if I was in his shoes, I would have done the same thing, Sprecher told CBS 21 News.
Marcus, who is homosexual, says he hopes Franks story and support of his beliefs will help the church change its ways.
If the law doesnt change in the discipline, its going to be very tough for me to get married in the church I attend," he said.
The LGBT community, theyre our family. Theyre in our churches, theyve always been, its just that now theyre not so much in the closet, and we have to do something about that," said Shellie Sterner, a former United Menthodist Church Pastor.
She says its only a matter of time before the church accepts the LGBT community.
Its not something that is a disease, its not something that we have to fear. Theyre human beings, were all human beings made in the image and likeness of God, said Sterner.
On the facebook page Stand with Pastor Frank: Support Equality, people from all over the country have been sending their support.
A Pastor at a United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City posted on the Facebook We stand with you. We are holding a prayer vigil for you and the UMC tomorrow night. Our prayers and our hearts are with you.
It just feels wonderful, to have so many people that are standing behind me, said Schaefer.
Pastor Schaefer hopes his actions and beliefs will help the church accept everyone for who they are.
It feels like Im part of a movement here, and its not so much about that little wedding that happened 6 years ago in Massachusetts, but now it is about so much more. Its about an issue that we need to readdress, said Schaefer.
The trial is set to take place in Spring City, Chester County, on Monday, November 18th.