Pennsylvania pastor trial underway

Supporters of The Rev. Frank Schaefer wait to gain admission to today's trial at Camp Innabah in Sprint City, Pa. UMR Photo by Erik Alsgaard

Supporters of The Rev. Frank Schaefer wait to gain admission to today’s trial at Camp Innabah in Sprint City, Pa. UMR Photo by Erik Alsgaard

SPRING CITY, Pa. — The Rev. Frank Schaefer has pleaded not guilty to two charges of violating The United Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline. Schaefer, a clergy member of the eastern Pennsylvania Conference, is charged with performing a same-sex wedding in April 2007, which is prohibited under church law. He faces those charges, as well as disobedience to the order and discipline of the church.

Schaefer conducted the wedding of his son, Tim Schaefer, and Robert Frank Bertulis in Massachusetts, where same-sex marriage is legal.

Both sides in the case do not dispute the fact that Schaefer conducted the wedding. During opening arguments, Counsel for the Church, the Rev. Dr. Christopher Fisher, presented a copy of the marriage license and passed it out to the 15-member jury, which includes two alternates.

The jury, comprised of ordained elders and deacons from the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, will hear evidence of the case, meeting at Camp Innabah just west of Philadelphia, and, if Schaefer is found guilty, will decide an appropriate penalty.

Bishop Alfred Gwinn, retired, is the presiding officer for the trial.

In his opening argument, Counsel for the Respondent, the Rev. Robert G. Coombe, said that Schaefer performed his son’s wedding out of love. “His actions were rooted in his love for his son,” he said. “Frank made the loving father’s decision, and for that, we are here this week.”

Erik Alsgaard, UMR Correspondent

Erik Alsgaard

UMR Correspondent The Rev. Erik Alsgaard is a member of the Detroit Conference, on loan to the Baltimore-Washington Conference, serving in the Ministry of Communications there as Editor of the UMConnection newspaper.

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praying that my man is acquitted or slapped very lightly on the wrist.

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