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Ministers back colleague at Pa. same-sex ceremony

PHILADELPHIA — About 50 ministers gave their symbolic support to a colleague facing sanctions from the United Methodist Church by participating in a same-sex wedding.

The wedding Saturday in Philadelphia was held about a week before the Rev. Frank Schaefer of Lebanon, about 90 miles to the west, will face a church trial for officiating over his son’s marriage to another man.

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The clergy filled the front of the Arch Street United Methodist Church, blessing the marriage in defiance of church law, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The closest rested their hands on the couple, Bill Gatewood and Rick Taylor. The others placed their palms on other clergy.

‘‘Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder,’’ they said in unison.

A spokesman for the church’s eastern Pennsylvania conference would not comment about whether any of the participants may face discipline. Most of the 50 are Methodist ministers.

The event was largely symbolic, as same-sex marriage is not legally recognized in Pennsylvania.

Schaefer, 51, could be suspended, reprimanded, or lose his credentials because he performed a wedding ceremony for his son in 2007 in Massachusetts. His trial will begin Nov. 18 at a Methodist retreat.

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