District Terminates Ordination of Pastor Who Performed Same-Sex Marriage

On Dec. 10 the Shenandoah District Leadership Team “terminated with possibility of reinstatement” the ordination of Chris Zepp, associate pastor of Bridgewater (Va.) Church of the Brethren. This action was taken at the recommendation of the district’s Ministerial Leadership Team, after Zepp officiated at a same-sex marriage.

This is the first time that a Church of the Brethren district has revoked a minister’s ordination since the Supreme Court decision that extended same-sex marriage to all 50 states. This action comes during a period of time, in the latter half of 2015, in which several district conferences have held conversations, adopted resolutions, or passed queries that have something to do with same-sex marriage or sexuality (see the Newsline reports at www.brethren.org/news/2015/southeastern-district-begins-query-process.html and www.brethren.org/news/2015/districts-take-action-on-same-sex-marriage.html .)

Zepp serves at the Bridgewater Church alongside senior pastor Jeff Carr. In May, the congregation empowered its ministers to perform any legal marriages, and later that month Zepp officiated at a same-sex marriage. Since then the congregation’s leadership has been in dialogue with the district leadership about that decision. This week the congregation’s Board of Administration issued a statement that said, in part, “our congregation will continue to employ Pastor Chris and will honor and expect all functions of pastoral ministry.”

Zepp has served in several leadership roles in the denomination including as vice chair and then as chair of the Ministers Association, and as a member of the worship planning team for the 2013 Annual Conference. He is a 2007 graduate of Bethany Theological Seminary, where he earned a master of divinity degree with distinction for his academic work in biblical studies.

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