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Judicial Council Rules Isla Vista Pastor Can Continue His Work in Ministry

The Rev. Frank Schaefer faced an uncertain future as a member of the clergy after officiating his gay son's wedding

An Isla Vista pastor will be allowed to continue his work as a member of the clergy after a judicial body ruled he could keep his position after officiating his gay son's wedding.

The Rev. Frank Schaefer, who is pastor of the United Methodist Korean Church in Isla Vista, will be allowed to continue his ministry after the the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church conducted a hearing on whether the pastor's actions conformed to church law. 

The United Methodist Church accepts gay and lesbian members but does not sanction officiating gay and lesbian weddings.

The top court's decision, which was made public Monday, upheld an earlier decision to reinstate Schaefer's credentials after an earlier decision said he had violated church policy for officiating the same-sex wedding for his son in 2007.

The decision was a technical one, however, and did not outline a larger stance from the denomination on gay marriage.  

The council found that Schaefer had been subjected to two separate punishments, a 30-day suspension and defrocking for not upholding the church's Book of Discipline, a punishment that the council found was improperly imposed.

In a statement issued Monday, Schaefer called the decision a "small but significant step toward taking another look at the exclusionary policies of the United Methodist Church."

Schaefer said the judicial council had acted justly and wisely, and signals hope to the LGBTQ community.

"Today's decision also signals a willingness to continue dialogue and to seek solutions that will hopefully lead to a change in these archaic and harmful policies," he said.

Several vigils were held locally earlier this month in solidarity with Schaefer, in advance of the council hearing.

"I have so many emotions," he told Noozhawk, adding that they range from feeling happy and supported by his flock to being tired from the seven-year battle stemming from his decision to officiate his son's wedding.  

Schaefer was formerly the pastor of Zion United Methodist Church of Iona in Lebanon, Penn., and appealed the defrocking. He was reinstated in another hearing held last December, and moved from his church in Pennsylvania to the United Methodist Korean Church in Isla Vista this summer.

The final hearing on the issue was held last week in Memphis and began on Oct. 22.

On Monday, Schaefer said the church needs to find a way toward "reconciliation, full inclusion of our LGBTQ community and an open altar for all God's beloved children," adding that he would continued to fight alongside others for "full inclusion and an open altar for all."

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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