PHILADELPHIA -- A United Methodist pastor from central Pennsylvania who was defrocked after officiating his son's gay wedding in 2007 was invited by a California Methodist bishop to serve in her region.
Frank Schaefer said he is deciding whether to accept the offer from Bishop Minerva G. Carcano to join the California-Pacific Annual Conference.
A church jury suspended him for 30 days and told him to decide whether he would uphold the church's Book of Discipline or resign. Schaefer refused to surrender his credentials and the church's Board of Ordained Ministry defrocked him.
He appealed the board's decision on Friday.
John Coleman, a spokesman for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference of the denomination, said Thursday that Schaefer left officials no choice after defying the order of a religious jury to resign.
Schaefer said that he has never met Carcano and first spoke to her when she called to offer him the position on Friday.
"It was such a feeling of welcome I sensed from her and just understanding and comfort," he said. "For somebody like her, a bishop, to reach out to me and say, 'you know what you did was absolutely right and we are proud of you,' it just felt great."
Carcano said in a statement on the California-Pacific Annual Conference's website that the church's position on homosexuality is wrong. Although the church accepts gay and lesbian members, it rejects homosexual acts as "incompatible with Christian teaching" and bars clergy from performing same-sex unions.
"I believe that the time has come for we United Methodists to stand on the side of Jesus and declare in every good way that the United Methodist Church is wrong in its position on homosexuality, wrong in its exclusion of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, and wrong in its incessant demand to determine through political processes who can be fully members of the body of Christ," Carcano wrote.
Most other Protestant denominations have decided their position on the issue. But the Methodists, with about 7.7 million members in the U.S. and many more overseas, remain divided. At their last national meeting in 2012, delegates reaffirmed the church's 40-year-old policy on gays.
Yet hundreds of Methodist ministers have publicly rejected the doctrine, and some face discipline for presiding over same-sex unions. Last month, in a public challenge to church rules, a retired Methodist bishop officiated at a wedding for two men in Alabama.