The Rev. Gary L. Bender, son of Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Bender, was born June 18, 1950, in BentonHarbor, MI. He was received into the Kingdom of God by means of Holy Baptism on July 16, 1950, Rev. Harold Zink officiating. The family moved to the Coloma, MI area, and it was at Salem Lutheran Church that Gary was confirmed by Rev. Robert J. Voss. He attended Coloma Elementary and High Schools, graduating in 1968. He attended Concordia Jr.College at Ann Arbor, graduating in 1970, and ConcordiaSeniorCollege at Ft. Wayne, IN, receiving a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1972. Next he attended Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield, IL, where he earned a Master of Divinity Degree in 1976. During his seminary training Gary served as vicar at TrinityLutheranChurch, Cheyenne, WY, under Rev. William Stark. In 1998 Gary also received a Masters of Family Life Ministry Degree at ConcordiaUniversity, Seward, NE.
Gary was united in Holy Marriage to Millie L. Brown on February 23, 1974, at EmanuelLutheranChurch, New Haven, IN. The Lord has blessed them with two children. Stacey, age 43, and her husband, Victor Martinez, live in Maricopa, AZ. They have two children, Kylie, age 21, and Isabel, age 10. Jon, age 41, lives in Cudahy, WI. He and his wife, Christina, have one son, Luke, age 14.
After graduating from seminary, Gary was ordained at his home church in Coloma on July 11, 1976 by Rev. F. E. Kipp. He has served congregations at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Julesburg, CO (1976 – 1983), ImmanuelLutheranChurch, Ellsworth, KS (1983 – 2000), and St. Lorenz Lutheran Church, Frankenmuth, MI (2000 – 2016). Pastor Gary retired January 1, 2017 from St. Lorenz and is now involved in Intentional Interim Ministry. He served an Intentional Interim at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Wheeler, MI (2017 – 2019). He has also served on the Kansas District Family Life Committee, as a Circuit Counselor in both the Kansas and Michigan Districts and as a District Reconciler and part time Congregation Ministry Facilitator in the Michigan District.
Gary enjoys bowling, golf, bow hunting, and camping.