A Mennonite pastor and missionary had his ministerial credentials pulled by the church after he officiated the wedding of his son to another man in Lancaster, Pennsylvania this past spring.
Chester Wenger, 96, was a longtime pastor and missionary who oversaw his son Phil's marriage to his partner Steve Dinnocenti in June. In September, the Mennonite Church revoked his credentials in accordance with church guidelines forbidding such a ceremony to be performed by pastors.
"I am profoundly reluctant to write this letter because I know there are those it will wound deeply," the retired minister recently wrote in an online opinion to The Mennonite. "But I have also come to the conviction that I can no longer hide the light the Lord has lit within me, under a bushel. I want to share with you what the Lord has been telling me and my dear life companion."
Wenger then goes on to list all he has done within the Mennonite tradition and cite Scripture that is meaningful for him, particularly surrounding the issue of same-sex marriage.
"My wife and I are devoted to our Lord, with a firm commitment to the authority of the Scriptures. We strive to be faithfully obedient to Jesus. We invite the church to courageously stake out new territory, much as the early church did. We invite the church to embrace the missional opportunity to extend the church's blessing of marriage to our homosexual children who desire to live in accountable, covenanted ways," he noted.
His line of thinking is in direct contrast to the teaching of the Mennonite Church and many of its believers.
Last year, Betty and Richard Odgaard, a Mennonite couple in Iowa, were sued by a same-sex couple who wanted to have their wedding on the Odgaard's property. The Odgaards decided to sue the Civil Rights Commission in the state for failure to protect them from the couple's lawsuit.
"A claim was originally filed against Betty and Richard before the Iowa Civil Rights Commission," Emily Hardman, communications director for the Becket Fun, told The Christian Post at the time. "So now we are simply asking Iowa courts to intervene to keep the commission from forcing Betty and Richard to publicly violate their beliefs. Iowa's judiciary has a long history of robustly protecting individual rights and we hope that they will do the same for Betty and Richard."
Hardman also noted that the Odgaards welcomed any and all persons onto their property and had a variety of persons in their employment. However, they drew the line at allowing a religious ceremony to take place on the property.
Wenger will not fight the Mennonite Church's decision to revoke his credentials but instead hopes to set a living example for others to follow.