Methodist panel reinstates Pa. minister who performed son’s same-sex marriage

 United Methodist pastor Frank Schaefer, right, hugs the Rev. David Wesley Brown Tuesday at First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia. Schaefer, who presided over his son's same-sex wedding ceremony and vowed to perform other gay marriages if asked, can return to the pulpit after a United Methodist Church appeals panel  overturned a decision to defrock him. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

United Methodist pastor Frank Schaefer, right, hugs the Rev. David Wesley Brown Tuesday at First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia. Schaefer, who presided over his son's same-sex wedding ceremony and vowed to perform other gay marriages if asked, can return to the pulpit after a United Methodist Church appeals panel overturned a decision to defrock him. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

The United Methodist Church has reinstated the Rev. Frank Schaefer.

The pastor who had led a flock in Iona, Pennsylvania, was suspended last year for officiating at the same-sex wedding of his son in 2007. He was defrocked when he refused to rule out the possibility of performing another.

Schaefer has won back his credentials on appeal.

His case has divided the Protestant denomination, whose members are split on the issue of gay marriage.

After a church appeals panel reinstated him Tuesday, Schaefer told supporters at the First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia that he considered the ruling a victory for his family and for the United Methodist Church.

“One of the first things I did was I called my son Tim and he was beside himself,” he said. “This is a good day. This is a very hopeful day, and I think change is coming. I don’t think the tide can be stemmed back. I think we can carry the momentum through.”

That said, Schaefer will be accepting leadership of a new congregation in California, where he says a more progressive environment will allow him to officiate other same-sex marriages without suffering repercussions.

This latest ruling can be appealed by church leaders, but it’s not clear if they will pursue that option.

Bishop Peggy Johnson of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference released a statement expressing her appreciation for “the diligent efforts made to ensure due process and uphold our United Methodist Discipline with respect, understanding and compassion for all involved.

“I also ask for continuing, supportive prayers for Mr. Schaefer, his family, and the members and churches of our conference and our denomination, as we struggle gracefully to find common ground,” she said.

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