Days after he was defrocked by the United Methodist Church, the Rev. Frank Schaefer was offered a job by a California bishop of the church.
Schaefer, the Lebanon County, Pa., minister who defied Methodist policy by officiating at his gay son's wedding, said he was strongly considering the offer from the California-Pacific Annual Conference.
"This is incredible," he said Saturday night in a phone interview.
Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, who leads the California conference, acknowledged in a Dec. 20 letter she could not restore Schaefer's ministerial credentials. But she can license him to function as a minister without the tenure he had, Schaefer said.
"Frank Schaefer chose to stand with Jesus as he extended love and care to his gay son and his partner," Carcaño wrote in a letter posted on the conference website. "We should stand with him and others who show such courage and faithfulness."
Carcaño said she had the support of Bishop Peggy Johnson of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference.
The California bishop likened welcoming Schaefer to the conference's 1963 welcoming of United Methodist ministers from Mississippi who were condemned for fighting against racial discrimination.
Schaefer said his family would be together at Christmas and would help him decide about the job then.
The offer came on Friday afternoon, Schaefer said, when he was in a cab in New York.
"I was by myself, and I was in a funk," he said. "The whole thing had sunk in. And then I received this phone call."
He had received offers from other denominations to join them, but that didn't feel right, Schaefer said.
"I have always said that I really feel like I'm United Methodist. I don't want to leave the church; I would like to continue this fight against discrimination from within," he said.
Regardless of whether he takes the California job, Schaefer said he was grateful to Carcaño, whom he had never met.
"She's in total defiance of what the church has told me," he said. "They told me they would not hire or appoint me. Some of my friends have called her a prophetic voice."
Schaefer's case has underscored deep divisions within the United Methodist Church on the issue of homosexuality.