LEBANON COUNTY, Pa., June 24 (UPI) -- A Methodist pastor who was defrocked for performing his son's same-sex marriage has been formally reinstated by the church.
Rev. Frank Schaefer of Lebanon, Pa., was stripped of his ministerial qualifications in December 2013 for presiding over his son's 2007 wedding and refusing to promise never to perform a same-sex wedding again.
"I really felt sad, it was a huge loss to me. There were moments when I was losing hope, I even asked myself will I ever set foot in another church ever again," Rev. Schaefer told central Pa. Fox affiliate WPMT.
On Tuesday, the nine-person Northeastern Jurisdictional Committee of Appeals of the United Methodist Church reversed the decision, effectively "refrocking" Rev. Schaefer.
"The church is not at liberty to add a penalty based on what a person may or may not do," Rev. Schaefer's Campbell's council argued.
"The act of marrying his son was the only thing [Rev. Schaefer] was on trial for."
The appeals committee agreed by 8 to 1 majority that the decision to defrock Rev. Schaefer was a manifestation of "errors in church law."
"I can't even begin to describe how meaningful this 'refrocking' is to me," Rev. Schaefer said in a statement. "I never did understand the severity of my punishment for an act of love for my son Tim."
"Indeed, people throughout the United Methodist Church, who invited me into their pulpits, sat with me at their dinner tables and supported my family with their donations, have refrocked me already. They recognized that I was wrongfully punished for standing with those who are discriminated against. How hopeful is this decision for the transgender sister who shared with me that she was no longer allowed to worship at her church. How hopeful is this decision for the brother who was made to feel "the worst of sinners" based on his sexual orientation. Today's decision is a sign that the church is starting to listen!"