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Retired Mennonite Pastor Loses Credentials After Officiating Gay Son's Wedding

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Retired 96-year-old Mennonite Pastor Chester Wenger of East Lampeter Township found his credentials dismissed on September 10 after the Lancaster Mennonite Conference discovered Wenger officiated his gay son's wedding on June 21 reports LancasterOnline. Pastor Wenger addressed the church and its decision in an open letter to The Mennonite, a Mennonite Church USA publication.

Wenger said:

"My dear companion of 70 years and I declare our enduring love for Lancaster Mennonite Conference, for the Mennonite Church, for the Meserete Kristos Church and for all God’s people. We carry no bitterness or regret for our actions. Our hearts are filled with love for all."

"I know persons will accuse me for my transgression, but my act of love was done on behalf of the church I love, and my conscience is clear."

L. Keith Weaver, a moderator from the Lancaster Mennonite Conference, said in an email that the credentialing commission terminated Wenger's retired ministerial credentials after Wenger violated a Mennonite Church USA guideline that states, "Pastors holding credentials in a conference of Mennonite Church USA may not perform a same-sex covenant." The ceremony in question was held in the couple's backyard with a small handful of guests, and not in a Mennonite church reports LancasterOnline.

The ruling is raising discussions about church leadership regarding the ruling with Erin Stutzman, Executive Director of Mennonite Church USA, weighing in on the process of the church's decision making processes.

Stutzman wrote:

The differences in the Constituency Leaders Council largely reflect the variety of leadership practices within the 21 area conferences across our church who currently hold the credentials for their leaders. They do not all agree on what it means to be recognized as a minister across Mennonite Church USA, not just within the confines of a local church or area conference.

Many believe that while area conferences have authority to grant leadership credentials, they must do so in keeping with the written agreements made on the national level. In the current environment, that will affect the credentialing policies for persons who perform same-sex unions, or who are part of such a union. Others believe that area conferences should have freedom to interpret national polities as guidelines, not rules that govern practices regarding same-sex unions.

The Virginia Mennonite Conference ordained Wenger in 1949, at the request of the Lancaster Mennonite Conference for his missionary work in Ethiopia where he founded the Bible Academy of Nazareth. There he was the first elected chairman of Ethiopia’s Meserete Kristos Church, which is now the largest Mennonite church in the world. Pastor Wenger's service with the church spans 65 years.

Pastor Wenger's son, Phil Wenger who wed longtime partner Steve Dinnocenti in June, remarked he would have never asked his father to officiate at the wedding had he known the consequences.

Watch Phil Wenger's interview with WGAL Channel 8 news, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Retired Mennonite Pastor Loses Credentials After Officiating Gay Son's Wedding" »


LGBT Hate Crimes Bill Advances in Philly As Statewide Bill Stalls in Harrisburg

Mixed news out of Pennsylvania this week as the city of Philadelphia moved forward with a bill adding LGBT protections to hate crimes laws while a similar, statewide bill stalled in committee at the capitol in Harrisburg. 

Philadelphia Gay News reports:

BrownThe Public Safety Committee of Philadelphia City Council on Tuesday unanimously passed Bill 140720, which adds a new chapter to the Philadelphia Code to provide for additional penalties for criminal conduct motivated by hatred regarding sexual orientation, gender identity and disabilities.

The bill, sponsored by Councilmembers Blondell Reynolds-Brown and Jim Kenney, was scheduled to receive a first reading before the full Council on Thursday. Then, the public will be given a week to submit comments before a second reading will occur and a final vote can be taken.

Given that the bill passed from the committee with a favorable recommendation, Reynolds-Brown said she was optimistic her colleagues will approve the legislation.

“I feel positive it will pass in every way — absolutely,” she said. “The state has run into a brick wall. Given the testimony we have heard today, and the very insightful questions that were raised, I am confident that it will move to the mayor’s desk and become law.”

In Harrisburg, meanwhile, legislators failed to bring Rep. Brendan Boyle's bill up for a last minute House vote this week. PGN reports only once scheduled session day remains (November 12) and it not been announced yet if lawmakers will even meet that day. 

A December court date has been set for the three suspects charged in the September 11 attack on a gay couple in Center City, Philly that catalyzed these efforts to amend the state and local hate crimes laws. 


Rosie O'Donnell Speaks with Twitter Sleuth Who Helped Identify Suspects in Philly Gay Bashing: VIDEO

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Twitter user @FanSince09, who played an instrumental role in identifying the suspects in the September 11 gay bashing in Center City, Philadelphia, appeared on The View to share why (and how) he decided to put his social media skills to work and help solve a crime. 

Said @FanSince09, who chose to keep his identity anonymous:

"I did maybe about 45 minutes of work, but with crowd sourcing, we got at least three people identified within two hours"

Find out how, AFTER THE JUMP...

Last Monday, a bill that would amend Pennsylvania's hate crimes statues to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity passed the House Judiciary Committee 19-4.

Continue reading "Rosie O'Donnell Speaks with Twitter Sleuth Who Helped Identify Suspects in Philly Gay Bashing: VIDEO " »


Pennsylvania LGBT Hate Crimes Bill Passes House Judiciary Committee: VIDEO

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A bill that would amend Pennsylvania's hate crimes statues to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity passed the House Judiciary Committee today 19-4. 

Tweeted Rep. Brendan Boyle, who introduced the bill back in 2013:

The bill now goes before the full House, which consists of 111 Republicans and 92 Democrats. 

Watch Boyle speak out in favor of the bill in committee, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Pennsylvania LGBT Hate Crimes Bill Passes House Judiciary Committee: VIDEO" »


Philly Gay Bash Victims Speak Out For the First Time Since Attack: VIDEO

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At a "Love Over Hate" rally at the Bucks County Courthouse Wednesday, the two men brutally attacked during last month's gay bashing in Center City, Philadelphia spoke out for the first time via a statement read by organizers, The Intelligencer reports:

“Everyone keeps saying that they are sorry this happened to us. But the truth is, we’re sorry. We feel sorry for our attackers — people who believed it was OK, cool, maybe even funny, to use two innocent individuals as their punching bags and not even have the decency to apologize. Words are powerful. A simple, I’m sorry, would’ve went a long way with us ...

“You butchered my boyfriend’s beautiful face. You violated our rights. You jeopardized our health and safety in a city that we love and during a time where so much progress around human rights has been made. ... We are also determined to do everything in our power to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else again.”

The men said they haven’t released their identity because the story is not about them, but everyone who lives in fear. They called for passage of a hate crime bill in Pennsylvania. “It stops here. It stops today. It stops now.”

SuspectsKevin Harrigan, Kathryn Knott, and Philip Williams, the three Bucks County residents charged in the anti-gay assault, will face preliminary hearings in court December 16. 

Said Caryn Kunkle, a friend of the gay couple [pictured speaking above]:

We really want change in Bucks County. We want to be known as a place for equality and togetherness.

Check out video from the rally, AFTER THE JUMP...

Earlier today, we reported on the Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee's meeting yesterday on amending the state's hate crimes statutes to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

[photo via Facebook]

Continue reading "Philly Gay Bash Victims Speak Out For the First Time Since Attack: VIDEO" »


Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee Holds Hearing on LGBT Hate Crimes Laws

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The Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee held a public hearing on LGBT hate crimes Thursday - with lawmakers, advocates, and concerned citizens weighing in on the ongoing efforts to amend the state's hate crimes statues to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.

CBS Philly reports:

Sims“We have an uphill battle in this legislative climate to pass LGBT hate crimes laws,” said State representative Brian Sims [pictured right].

Sims called the hearing, which was held at the Kimmel Center. He told dozens who sat in the audience the goal is to build a record to support an amendment that would add sexual orientation, gender identity and disability to the state’s hate crime statute.

Victims, experts, and LGBT leaders testified. Alicia Gonzolez of GALEAI says LGBT people are disproportionately targeted:

“Many gay bashing crimes are unsolved and many more are unnoticed.”

Earlier this week, we reported that a December court date was set for the three suspects charged in the September 11 attack on a gay couple in Center City, Philly that catalyzed these efforts to amend the state's hate crimes laws.  

[photo via Twitter]


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