A campus pastor at a Chicago university could lose her job for officiating a same sex wedding, and the couple is speaking out on her behalf.
North Park University Pastor Judy Peterson is currently under an indefinite suspension after she officiated the wedding of her former colleague Marcus Mason-Vivit and his husband Roel.
“There was a level of awareness that something could happen,” Mason-Vivit said. “We just didn’t know to what level.”
Peterson traveled to California to perform the ceremony, despite the church banning clergy from officiating gay weddings.
“She just said, ‘Know how much you are loved and know how much you are of God’ and that just brought tears to my eyes," Roel Mason-Vivit said. "And she just radiates that for every single person.
After word spread of the wedding, the Evangelical Covenant Church suspended Peterson indefinitely from her role at the school.
“She said that this decision was not a flippant decision, that there was a lot of thought and prayer that went into this,” Roel Mason-Vivit said.
Peterson posted a message on her Facebook page after the suspension, saying that she believed a case could be made that she had acted appropriately.
“If we are looking for a reason to exclude people, I believe we can find it in the biblical text,” she said. “However, if we are looking for a reason to include people I believe we can find it there too.”
The church said in a statement that while it is "unreservedly committed to ministry to the LGBTQ community" it also "restricts its clergy from officiating at same-sex marriages."
"A pastor's credential is not one's own," Steve Wong, chair of the Board of the Ordered Ministry, wrote in a statement. "It is extended in trust by the Covenant to serve under the auspices of the Covenant."
Peterson wasn't the only pastor in the Covenant to be recently suspended. The church noted that Steve Armfield, a retired Covenant pastor, was also suspended for officiating his son's wedding.
"A suspension is always extended with the hope of restoration where possible," Wong wrote. "One mark of a pathway towards credential reinstatement is ongoing observance of current guidelines and practices. Both Judy and Steve have been invited to the next meeting of the board in June for further conversation and discernment."
An online petition, signed by nearly 5,000 church members and North Park students, however, asked the church to change its policies.
"I think that’s why there’s a little bit of uproar to some extent because they want [the church] to have that conversation," Marcus Mason-Vivit said. "They want them to be the denomination they claim to be.”
In a statement, North Park University said it is "committed to serving students regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity."
"The University sincerely regrets and is sorry for the hurt and confusion experienced by students, faculty, staff, and friends of the school in the days since the news of the actions taken by the Evangelical Covenant Church leading to the North Park University campus pastor’s sabbatical and suspension of her credential," the statement read. "The University administration and Board of Trustees affirm the remarkable and transformative work of Pastor Judy Peterson, as campus pastor. She is loved and respected by many in the North Park community and beyond. We have received messages of overwhelming support for her and many stories of the lives she has touched."
The university added that "all parties seek to remain in dialogue."
Still, with Peterson’s job status up in the air, Marcus and Roel hope something good can come out of this while they await the final outcome after the pastor’s suspension.
“There’s not enough words to describe the amount of love we have for her,” Marcus Mason-Vivit said. "She's such an inspiration."