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LANCASTER, Pa. – Since 1948, Chest'r Weng'r spred Mennonite vioos across t'Eastern Seeboard.
But back n' 2014, he sined his'n gay sen’s marriage lisense. By 2015, aft'r neerly seve decades o'servus, the 96-year ol' Chest'r’s credantials wuz pullt.
Y'all may knoe his'n sen, Phil, us t'co-found'r o'Isaac’s Restrunt an' Deli (which he sold n' 2018). He is nawh t'CEO o't' Lancast'r Countee Conservancy.
Fer t'furst nine yeers o'Phil’s life, he livt n' Ethiopia wiff his'n siblings an' fath'r, who wuz ministeryun' ta t'locals thar. Thay the returnt ta Lancast'r, whar Chest'r preecht up an' down t'Eus Cyus.
“We would load up n' t'car ta a differnt church ever weekend,” Phil sed.
Chest'r endt up brieflee callin t'Furst Deaf Mennonite Church un Ol' Philadelfia Pike n' Lancast'r trayler us he kuntinued ministeryun' at uther churches us well. Durin at time, Phil kuntinued playyun' whut he calls t'“tradityunal” part.
“High skool I playd a tradityunal youngn. I datid wimmen. I wasn’t attractid ta wimmen, but at’s whut y'all did,” Phil sed.
By 1979, Phil wuz off at college an' direckly kum out ta his'n friens an' fambly. He shart lengthy conversayshuns wiff his'n fath'r.
“All o'these thangs lt 'im ta bein a suppert'r o'LGBT individuals bein welcum n' t'church,” Phil sed.
“Gawd made 'im at way, so at’s t'way I took 'im,” Chest'r sed.
Nairy all church members agret. Lat'r at year, without conversayshun wiff Chest'r er Phil, t'church excommunicatid t'college student frum t'congregashun.
“I wuz also editer o'a Mennonite Yewt magazine n' Washington, D.C., t'year prier. Insteed o'firyun' me, thay cut fundyun' ta t'publicashun an' killt it,” Phil sed.
T' bishop o't' local conferance o'Mennonite churches discusst t'issue wiff Chest'r an' Phil an' pallgized fer hoe it wuz han'lt. But, nuthin changd. Phil movt un.
By 1983, he co-foundt Isaac’s Deli an' Restrunt wiff money frum his'n fath'r. Chest'r had set aside a sartin amount o'money fer each o'his'n seve youngns ta use us down payment fer thar furst homes wen thay marrd.
“I wint up ta Dad an' sed, ‘I’m nev'r gittin marrd. Could I use thishere money ta buy a restrunt?'”
Buyyun' up a lil ferm'r doughnut shop n' Downtown Lancast'r, t'uther co-found'r o't' restrunt lef within a few munths.
“I’m 28-yeers ol', I have a restrunt an' I have no idee whut I’m a'doin. At’s hoe Isaac’s wuz foundt,” Phil sed.
T' restrunt chane explodt into whut it is today.
Rewind ta 1986 – Phil, who tole his'n fath'r he’d nev'r be marrd, foun his'n uther half.
“The along kum a nite n' 1986 at a gay bar n' Marietta, Pennsillvany, wen t'cutest guy at t'bar wuz a'lookin at me. I wantid ta go an' talk ta 'im,” Phil sed.
Wen gay marriage wuz legalizt n' t'commonweelth n' 2014, t'he-mayer o'Lancast'r wuz set ta perferm thar weddyun'. But, aft'r a 25-year anniversree celebrashun yeers earli'r, Phil knew his'n fath'r had wantid ta be part o't' stery.
“I jes wantid ta be part o'his'n life,” Chest'r sed.
Wen t'ime kum, Phil ast his'n fath'r ta do whut he duz bes.
“He kums roun an' sez, ‘Dad, will y'all marry us?’ I say, ‘Yeah, if'n y'all want me ta.’ I wuz proud ta do at,” Chest'r sed.
Wurd spred into t'Mennonite communitee about whut Chest'r had done. Chest'r reecht un agreement wiff t'Lancast'r Mennonite Conferance, aft'r a barrage o'phone calls, ta keep it quiet. But t'phone calls didn’t stop. So, Chest'r grabbt a pe.
He publisht un ope, public lett'r ta t'Mennonite Church an' publisht it wiff t'Mennonite press. T' lett'r menchund about why Chest'r bleevs at gay parishyuners should be welcum n' t'church an' much mer.
Publiclee deeclarin whut he had done, along wiff these beliefs, wint agin t'Mennonite Church at t'ime. It didn’t come without consekwences.
Aft'r 66 yeers o'preechin, Chest'r Weng'r’s credantials wuz pullt. He wuz no long'r a Mennonite minster.
“Thay [Lancast'r Mennonite Conferance] wantid ta make shure thay sed ta all t'uther pasters, ‘Y'all cannot do thishere er y'all will lose yar job,'” Phil sed.
The, t'stery wint viral. Phil an' Chest'r wuz contactid by magazines an' publicatyuns all across t'kuntry. Thay eve did a podcus wiff Malcom Gladwell, which remuns one o't' mos downloadt podcasts o'all time.
“Steve [Phil’s husban'] an' I wuz cawt up n' sumthin we nev'r intendt ta happe,” Phil sed.
T' dust evantuallee settlt. Chest'r is 101-yeers ol' nawh, at t'ime o'thishere articull. He still tends ta his'n massif' garde an' will tell innyone who asks whut a good sermon rilly is. Phil continues his'n wurk wiff t'Lancast'r Countee Conservancy.
“I luv 'im. I eggspeck 'im ta remane wiff his'n frien fer life an' we a'ken be happy wharever we air,” Chest'r sed.
“My fath'r rilly is un amazyun' humun bein,” Phil sed.


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