The Wenger Daughters and the Bible


Chester and Sara Wenger

Chester and Sara Jane Wenger’s open letter to the church has been widely distributed by both church and secular media.  The Wengers are parents of two daughters who have also written openly to the church that they and their parents have served well.

One of the daughters introduced herself and and her husband thus: “We are Richard and Jewel (Wenger) Showalter. As church planters, missionaries, educators, mission administrators, parents and now grandparents, we have walked as part of the Mennonite family throughout our lives.” They confessed their love for Jewel’s parents and the Mennonite Church and wrote respectfully of both.

In spite of this respect, Jewel was obviously disappointed by the

Richard and Jewel Wenger Showalter

Richard and Jewel Wenger Showalter

marriage of her brother and his partner by her father. The Showalters followed the model of the Anabaptist founders who asked their opponents to “show us from the scriptures.”  Obiously they trust the Bible.

Their challenge brings us to the other daughter of Chester, Sara Wenger Shenk. She is a biblical scholar and president of  the Anabaptist Mennonite Seminary. Sara writes a blog that describes her “as a woman, mother, author, educator, lover of God, Sara is a restless scout—searching out ways that lead toward God’s shalom. She doesn’t assert answers so much as pose questions, test assumptions, resist labels, play with possibilities, experiment with integration, practice wholeness. She hopes this blog will provide a spacious forum for thoughtful discernment around sometimes contentious issues.” Get access to the entire blog by clicking on  Sara Wenger Shenk.  Here are some excerpts:
Sarah Wenger Shenk

Sarah Wenger Shenk

“It’s a sleepless night. I can’t remember another one. Short nights, yes. But one entirely without sleep? No. At least not since those notorious all-nighters during college to cram for a test.

Am I anxious? Probably. My father’s letter is breaking sound barriers. Our family fabric is threatening to fray. Our denominations (MC USA and MC Canada) are feeling fragile and in danger of serious fracturing. Political paralysis and polarization pervade the nation.
*    *     *
I am grateful for the sturdy rootedness in the loamy, rich soil of the Bible they (my parents) and many good teachers since have provided for me and countless others.
To be a leader with integrity and wisdom in anxious times requires deep knowledge of God’s mercy-filled vision for this messed up marvel that is our world, found in the Scriptures.
*     *     *
Perhaps now I can sleep, remembering that “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble…. Be still, and know that I am God!”
To be continued

About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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2 Responses to The Wenger Daughters and the Bible

  1. Solid, very good writing on your part. Balance, beauty, and bravery, all in one. Thanks old friend.

  2. Roberta Showalter Kreider says:

    I have never met Jewel Showalter or Sarah Wenger Shenk, my second cousins. But I have met their parents Chester and Sara Jane, and I have met their brother and his partner and have been a guest in their grace filled home. Chester is a first cousin to my deceased father, Oliver B. Showalter, whose mother was Lydia Wenger Showalter. The last time I counted, my ancestors (past and present) numbered at least 12 who were born as either lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Two are my relatives through my mother, but the rest are all from my Wenger ancestors. It seems to me that we can safely conclude that there will likely be more in the generations to come.

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