The Rev. Michael Tupper is sleeping in a tent outside his Kalamazoo, Mich. home to protest how his church leadership treats LGBT people. The pastor of the Parchment United Methodist Church started his vigil on November 30 and plans to continue for 175 consecutive nights.
“It’s a symbol of how our denomination, the United Methodist Church, is responding to LGBTQ persons and pushing them outside the church,” Tupper told the Associated Press. “My ultimate goal is to raise awareness of the problems of discrimination and to inspire people to make a change to allow for LGBTQ persons to be married in our church and to allow LGBTQ persons to serve as pastors in our church."
Tupper has repeatedly faced church discipline proceedings for his participation in same-sex weddings. In 2014, he signed his lesbian daughter's marriage license after she married her wife in Baltimore. In 2015, he signed the marriage license for a gay fellow minister. Benjamin Hutchison, the pastor of Cassopolis United Methodist Church, says he was forced out of his position after he was married.
While Tupper most often sleeps just steps from his bedroom in his own front yard, he has taken his tent on the road to Methodist offices in Indianapolis and Madison, Wisconsin. He says he plans to camp outside offices in Des Moines, Iowa, and Columbus, Ohio, before packing up for the church’s General Conference in Portland, Ore. There, conference attendees, consisting of laity and clergy, are expected to discuss the church's position on LGBT pastors.