The church case against a Mechanicsburg Lutheran pastor is now closed, resulting in his retirement from ministry 22 months after he was accused of soliciting sex from a woman he counseled.
The Lower Susquehanna Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will not detail the outcome of the matter, a spokesman said. However, the Rev. Alan C. Wenrich’s retirement last month was in response to the case’s resolution, said the Rev. Cliff Eshbach, a spokesman for the synod.
The Synod Council on Sept. 25 approved Wenrich’s application for retirement, and “he has no future (pastoral) assignments planned,” Eshbach said. “He’s not available for call or assignment.”
Last year, Hummelstown police charged Wenrich, 63, with misdemeanor solicitation and prostitution charges after he solicited sex from a woman he was counseling in his home office, according to public documents. Wenrich completed a county rehabilitation program for nonviolent offenders, and his record was expunged.
Bishop B. Penrose Hoover, who heads the synod, suspended Wenrich’s pastoral responsibilities after the incident but later allowed him to resume some duties — preaching and administering the sacraments — at his home parish in Harrisburg, which has since closed.
Hoover did not file formal misconduct charges against Wenrich. In June, 16 ELCA clergy did, charging him with “conduct incompatible with the character of the ministerial office” and requesting a disciplinary hearing in the church.
It was only the second time in the 22-year history of the denomination that written charges were brought by a group of pastors against one of their own, according to the secretary of the 4.6-million-member ELCA. (Usually, charges are filed by a regional bishop.)
Hoover referred the charges to an advisory committee, which considered the matter, interviewed Hoover, two synodical officers and 15 of the 16 accusers, according to the minutes of last month’s Synod Council meeting.
The panel submitted a confidential report to Hoover July 19, but he has not disclosed its recommendations, which he and the parties accepted.
“There were no appeals, therefore the matter is closed,” Eshbach said.