HRC Blog

Mennonite Pastor under Review for Officiating Same-Sex Wedding

ChurchAfter officiating a same-sex wedding, the Mennonite church will review the credentials of Pastor Karl Shelly.

Shelly, who is co-pastor of Assembly Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana, will have to face the Mennonite Indiana-Michigan conference. Shelly is sticking by his decision to officiate the wedding, even though Mennonite Church USA guidelines prevent pastors from performing a same-sex covenant ceremony. 

According to the Elkhart Truth, Pastor Karl Shelly wrote in a statement that, "being born with a same-sex sexual orientation and entering into a life-long covenant of fidelity and love with another human being is not sin."

Shelly has also worked to have his church become a member of the Supportive Communities Network, which is part of a Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT interests.

Rev. Carol Wise, the Executive Director for Brethren Mennonite Council for LGBT Interests, explained the background of the Mennonite Church to HRC.

“The Mennonite Church USA was formed in 2002 by the merger of the General Conference Mennonite Church and the Mennonite Church,” Wise said. “There were some very significant differences in the styles and ethos of the two groups, so the merger was a challenge. LGBT people were sacrificed in order for the merger to move forward - the section on membership includes a whole piece entitled, ‘Issues Related to Homosexuality and Membership’ and explicitly forbids credentialed pastors from performing same sex covenant ceremonies. If a pastor does conduct such a service, her or his credentials are to be reviewed, which is what happened to Karl.” 

Wise told HRC that Shelly was not the first Mennonit pasor to be reviewed. Wise said, “…this has also happened to Megan Ramer (Chicago Community Mennonite), Weldon Nisly (Seattle Mennonite), Sheri Hostetler (Fist Mennonite San Francisco) and Cindy Lapp (Hyattsville Mennonite), and Joanna Harader (Peace Mennonite of Lawrence, Kansas).” 

Nancy Kauffmann, denominational minister for Mennonite Church USA, told The News Dispatch that the issue of Mennonite churches and pastors performing same-sex covenant ceremonies will likely be discussed at the Mennonite Church USA national assembly next year.

HRC’s Religion and Faith Program works to create a world where nobody is forced to choose between who they are or who they love and what they believe. Learn more here.

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