EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

November 17, 2013

Methodist pastor facing church trial over son's gay marriage

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Years later, Schaefer knew he wanted his dad to perform his wedding ceremony.

“I remember thinking I have two choices: I can ask my dad and know I am putting him in a position ... where he would risk his career, or I could not ask my dad and really risk hurting his feelings. I think he would have been devastated if I hadn’t asked him,” he said.

Frank Schaefer has said he informed his superiors in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference that he planned to officiate his son’s wedding, and again after the ceremony, which took place at a restaurant near Boston. He said he faced no discipline until April — about a month before the church’s six-year statute of limitations was set to expire — when one of his congregants filed a complaint.

Schaefer could have avoided a trial if he had agreed to never again perform a same-gender wedding, but he declined because three of his four children are gay.

A Methodist trial resembles a secular trial in many ways, with counsel representing each side, a judge and jury, opening statements and closing arguments, and testimony and evidence.

The 13-member jury, called a “trial court,” will be selected from a pool of 35. It takes at least nine votes to convict. If Schaefer is convicted, the trial moves to a penalty phase, with the same jury settling on a punishment. At least seven members of the jury must agree on the penalty.

Schaefer can appeal a conviction, but neither the church nor the person who brought the charge may appeal an acquittal.

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