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11/11/2014

Mennonite Minister Defrocked for Officiating at Gay Son's Wedding

Although it cost him his credentials, a longtime Mennonite minister who officiated at his own gay son’s wedding earlier this year isn't backing down on his support for marriage equality. In fact, he's asking the church to embrace it.

Chester Wenger, 96, was defrocked in September, after officiating at the wedding of his gay son in June after Pennsylvania embraced marriage equality the month before, ThinkProgress reports. Although the pastor was retired after 65 years of service to the church when he performed his son's marriage, church authorities "formally retired Wenger’s ministerial credentials" in September, arguing that "his actions violated established church guidelines," according to ThinkProgress.

Wenger once again sparked conversation within the conservative faith this month when he wote a column for The Mennonite proclaiming that he could "no longer hide the light the Lord has lit within me, under a bushel," expressing support for marriage equality.

Here is an excerpt from the column:

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When my wife and I read the Bible with today’s fractured, anxious church in mind, we ask, what is Jesus calling us to do with those sons and daughters who are among the most despised people in the world — in all races and communities?

What would Jesus do with our sons and daughters who are bullied, homeless, sexually abused, and driven to suicide at far higher rates than our heterosexual children? …

My dear wife Sara Jane and I love all of our children. We give thanks for the remarkable Kingdom work each of them is doing. We know that several of our children believe that the church should not endorse same-sex marriage. And several of our children believe that same-sex marriage is a faithful and godly choice when blessed by the church.

While the tension around this issue is painful in our family, we continue to love each other, to sing, pray and play together …

We know that while many of us hear different things from the Scriptures, God’s deepest desire, as made known in Jesus Christ, is "to seek and to save that which was lost." We believe this is an opportune moment for the church to boldly proclaim a pastoral, grace-filled readiness to include both homosexuals and heterosexuals within the blessing of a marriage covenant designed to be wholesome and God-honoring.

Last month, the United Methodist Church affirmed the reinstatement of a minister who, like Wenger, had performed marriage rites for his gay son.

The Methodist church did not change its official stance against marriage for same-sex couples with the reinstatement of Rev. Frank Schaefer. The church court that convicted Schaefer of disobeying denominational law by presiding over the wedding had punished him with a 30-day suspension. Then, his regional ministerial board took away his credentials when he would not surrender them voluntarily or pledge to never again perform a same-sex wedding. The church’s Supreme Judicial Council found that the board’s action had improperly changed the penalty imposed by the trial court, and therefore reinstated Schafer on a technicality.

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