Nine pastors could be sacked for celebrating gay wedding

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Nine Methodist pastors may face disciplinary action for declaring a gay colleague and his husband married.

The Rev. Benjamin Hutchison and his partner Monty Hutchinson married last week in the pair’s home state of Michigan. Around 30 fellow clergy members – in defiance of the denomination’s stated beliefs on homosexuality – and 100 other guests attended.

While ten of the thirty pastors who were there pronounced the couple married, the ceremony was officiated by Minister Michael Tupper, and prospective minister Ginny Mikita.

Tupper and Mikita were the only two who signed the marriage licence, despite others wanting to.

But Tupper says he has now been forced to hand over the names of the nine other pastors who pronounced the men “husband and husband”.

“Folks were aware that it violated the book of discipline by saying those words,” Tupper told Michigan Live.

Hutchinson had been the pastor of Cassopolis United Methodist Church since January 2013.

He said his relationship was common knowledge within the congregation, and that he even legally changed his last name to his partner’s shortly after his hiring.

He added that under his leadership the congregation even began growing, with more people turning up to the church to listen to his sermons.

Yet after an apparent complaint was made to Methodist leaders, Hutchison was called in by church officials last week and asked if he had a male partner.

“They asked me if I did and I said yes,” Hutchison said.

“By that evening at 7:00 I resigned under the condition of immediate termination. If I wouldn’t have resigned, they would have fired me.”

Church officials have refused to comment on the matter, leading many to believe the ex-pastor’s version of events.

In recent years, there has been immense pressure from within the Methodist movement for the church to change its stance regarding gay clergy, with many supporting same-sex marriage between pastors.

This was echoed at the Hutchinsons’ wedding, which was even officiated by a Methodist minister, Pastor Mark Thompson.

“I believe that Benjamin and Monty are very much in love and they deserve to be married and to celebrate the gift of love that God gave them,” Thompson said.

“I want the church to change,” Hutchison added.

“I believe the congregation, specifically in Cassopolis and southwest Michigan and the Chicago area, has changed. The members have changed. They understand it. My members were in full support.”

Last year, a Methodist pastor was defrocked for officiating his son’s same-sex wedding – before being reinstated.

Frank Schaefer of the United Methodist Church was put on “trial” by his congregation after officiating at the wedding, and last November was found guilty for violating church law.

However, a decision was eventually made to reinstate him.

The church’s Book of Discipline currently states: “The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”