By Emily Lawler
United Methodist pastors from different parts of the state Tuesday traded in the pulpit for a press conference podium and a pledge to support the Rev. Benjamin Hutchison, an openly gay pastor who said he was forced to resign because he has a husband.
Hutchison said he was forced to resign from the United Methodist church in Cassopolis after the church’s district superintendent found out that Hutchinson had a gay partner. The church allows gay members, but not gay pastors. After resigning, Hutchinson officially married his partner, which landed other pastors who participated in the ceremony in hot water with church leadership.
More than 50 supporters of Hutchison and LGBT inclusion in the United Methodist Church gathered at the church bishop’s office at 1011
Northcrest Road in Lansing to read a pledge and tape it to the office door. It was a symbolic nod to Martin Luther, who helped start the Protestant Reformation by posting his Ninety-Five Theses on a church door in 1517.
The modern-day pledge taped to doors by advocates asks for inclusiveness of the LGBT community in all of the church’s ministry, including as pastors. Representatives from the bishop’s office were not present at Tuesday’s event.
The Rev. Lois McCullen Parr is a national representative to the Reconciling Ministries Network, which advocates for full participation of LGBT people in the United Methodist Church. She said she’s spoken with church members who hadn’t had a good experience with their churches.
“What they told me is that they’d been harmed by the institutional church,” McCullen Parr said.
She and others advocated to “Stop the Harm” and have a truly inclusive church.
Hutchison said that when he was asked to resign two weeks ago, he couldn’t have anticipated the effect it would have.
“I would never imagine this, and I could have never imagined the support not only from my local congregation, who is in an uproar about it, but also from my community. The chief of police and county commissioners have come to the church requesting ‘what’s happened? We need him in our community,’ and beyond,” Hutchison said. “All over the world people have sent me Facebook messages and told me they’re here to support me.”
The Rev. Michael Tupper, who signed Hutchison’s marriage license, said the issue was close to him because his own daughter is gay, and said she’d been harmed by the church.
“It’s time for that to stop,” he said.
Hutchison said Tuesday’s event was especially moving because his own family made him choose between his partner, Monty, and them.
“It’s been a great thing for me emotionally to see the support because I never received it from my own family,” Hutchison said.
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