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U.S. pastor who performed son's gay marriage defrocked

By Dave Warner

LOWER PROVIDENCE, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - An embattled Methodist pastor who conducted his son's same-sex wedding ceremony was defrocked on Thursday after he refused to vow to never perform another gay marriage.

The fate of Reverend Frank Schaefer, pastor of the Zion United Methodist Church in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, was decided by a United Methodist church board in a closed-door session in a church office located in a suburban Philadelphia office park.

"He no longer holds the ministerial office in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference by virtue of his decision," Bishop Peggy Johnson said in a statement.

Schaefer left the site without comment but scheduled a press conference for Thursday afternoon.

Schaefer was defrocked less than a month after he was found guilty in a church trial of violating church law by performing the ceremony for his son, Tim, in 2007.

He was sentenced by a church jury, made up of pastors, to a 30-day suspension and ordered to resign by Thursday if he could not uphold church doctrine, which is outlined in the United Methodist Book of Discipline.

Schaefer has been publicly defiant since then, saying immediately after the verdict that he would not change his mind and that the rules discriminate against gay people.

Bishop Johnson has acknowledged that several statements in the Book of Discipline on gay issues are discriminatory, specifically those forbidding ordination of homosexuals and forbidding pastors from conducting same sex marriages.

The clergy board acted on Thursday morning in a brief 15-minute session attended by Schaefer after he refused to comply with the verdict.

"Rev. Schaefer met with the board of ordained ministry today and declared that he is not willing or able to uphold the laws of the Book of Discipline in its entirety in the future as required by the trial court's verdict," Johnson said in the statement.

"When asked to surrender his credentials as required by the verdict, he refused to do so," Johnson said. "Therefore, because of his decision, the board was compelled by the jury's decision to deem his credentials surrendered."

(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Andrew Hay)

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