Retired Mennonite pastor′s credentials revoked after conducting gay son's wedding

(Photo: REUTERS / Noah Berger)Rev. Paul Mowry leads a Sunday service at Sausalito Presbyterian Church in Sausalito, California June 23, 2013. Mowry planned to wed his same-sex partner of 27 years if the U.S. Supreme Court declares California's Proposition 8 ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Picture taken June 23, 2013.

Chester Wenger, 96, lost his ministering credentials after officiating at the June 21 same sex wedding of his son.

In an open letter in the December issue of "The Mennonite," a publication of the Mennonite Church USA, the retired pastor, missionary, and church leader says he happily agreed to officiate the wedding of his son.

"We held a private ceremony with only six persons present. Our son and his partner are members of an Episcopal Church, but they chose my wife and me to share with them in this holy covenant of marriage."

The simple wedding of Phil Wenger and Steve Dinnocenti was held in the backyard of the men's West Chestnut Street home.

Wenger said he knew that people would not understand his decision, but he said his conscience is clear.

He believes that what he did was comparable to what Peter and Paul did when they welcomed the uncircumcised into the Church.

A former pastor at Blossom Hill Mennonite Church in Manheim Township, Pennsylvania, Wenger said he prays for greater church acceptance of gays and lesbians.

"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," Wenger said.

L. Keith Weaver, moderator for the Lancaster Mennonite Conference, said Wenger's credential was terminated September 10.

The revokation was based on church guidelines stating that "pastors holding credentials in a conference of Mennonite Church USA may not perform a same-sex covenant," Fox News reported on November 9.

But he added that the termination of the credentialing commission of Wenger's retired ministerial credential was done with grace and respect.

Wenger's son, Phil said he would never have asked for his father to officiate his wedding if he had known the repercussions.

He revealed that his father wrote the open letter because of fear that the Mennonite Church USA may "splinter" over acceptance of gay members and pastors.

Readers had varied thoughts on the open letter. Dick Benner considered it a powerful testimony from a wise elder.

Merv Horst thanks the pastor and his wife for "remaining faithful to the spirit of the Gospel and not the letter of the law."

Meanwhile, Dan Clark said that if one truly loves the sinner, one should help them to sin no more rather than encourage them of an unrepentant life.

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