Pastor Kenneth Wheeler
I grew up in the South. I’m old enough to have seen segregation and I know its hatred, and I have been called ugly names myself. After you’ve seen that, there is a part of you that says, ‘I don’t ever want to participate in that. I don’t ever want to be somebody who’s complicit in that.’ I’m 58 years old now. I’ll be retiring soon as a pastor at Cross Lutheran Church but I know the Lord isn’t finished with me yet. I think I have more work to do for Him.
I knew when I accepted the call that our church was one of the first in the area to perform commitment ceremonies for couples who are gay or lesbian. Once I became a permanent pastor at Cross I knew I’d be called on to do commitment ceremonies. To tell you the truth, I still had some mixed feelings about it.
I hoped I’d be able to get those feelings sorted out before I’d have to perform one of the ceremonies, but in the first month a lesbian couple came to me to ask me to perform their ceremony. I told them they would need to go through the same pre-marriage counseling as a heterosexual couple would. Well, by the end of our sessions together I found myself thinking that there was just no law in any book that should be able to deny the love and commitment between these two people
I performed their commitment ceremony to an absolutely packed church. As I finished and walked back to my office, a young African-American woman stopped me to give me a big hug. She said, ‘Pastor, I want to thank you for making me feel like a human being for the very first time in my life.’ Well, whatever hesitations I’d had along the way went right out the window.
Since then I’ve performed many of these ceremonies but that day was a turning point for me personally and a turning point for my congregation as well.