February 03, 1997 12:00 PM

THE BRIDE WHO DRESSED AS Sleeping Beauty and the cocker spaniel who served as best dog are no longer the oddest sights ever seen at Victoria’s Chapel, a tiny house of worship in Las Vegas. John Wayne Bobbitt, the ex-Marine whose penis was cut off by his wife in 1993, was ordained there last December as a minister of the Universal Life Church.

Moments after the ordination, Bobbitt helped Las Vegans Bill Samuel, 65, and his wife, Diane, 50, renew their wedding vows. “God bless you,” the Reverend Bobbitt said to the happy couple. “Go in love and peace.”

To hear him tell it, becoming a minister was his way of setting the record straight. “Everyone thinks I’m a bad guy, and I’m not,” says Bobbitt, 29, who says he found God three months ago while at glitzy Spago restaurant in Las Vegas. That’s when a patron walked by and—spotting him with his manager Jack Gordon (LaToya Jackson’s husband)—asked, “What is this, a wife-beater’s convention?” Recalls Bobbitt: “That hurt. So I went home and picked up a Bible and started reading.”

None too soon. His ex-wife Lorena, 29, had dismembered him in retaliation, she claimed, for his sexual abuse. (Found not guilty of malicious wounding by reason of insanity, she still works as a manicurist in Virginia.) After surgical repairs, Bobbitt made a porno film in 1994, the same year he served 12 days in jail for battery of a former fiancée. A year later he paid $5,000 toward settling a paternity claim lodged by another woman, then did a second porno film. “I drifted away from who I was,” says Bobbitt, who was raised as an Episcopalian in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Currently single, Bobbitt “won’t be womanizing like I used to,” he swears, now that he expects to handle baptisms, weddings and funerals. But relinquishing his claim to fame is another matter. Asked what he might call his own congregation—he’s now searching for a site in Las Vegas—Bobbitt smiles. “I think,” he says, “John Wayne Bobbitt’s Church Without an Organ.”

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