The Michigan Methodist minister who says he lost his job because he has a same-sex partner has now married that partner.
The Rev. Benjamin Hutchison and Monty Hutchison married Friday on the steps of the Cass County courthouse in Cassopolis, Mich., the Kalamazoo Gazette reports. About 30 clergy members and 100 other guests attended.
“Walking around the courthouse and seeing all the support, seeing all clergy there gathered standing there saying that they support it, they’re not opposed to it, it really was a blessing today,” Benjamin Hutchison told the Gazette.
The minister had been pastor of Cassopolis United Methodist Church since January 2013. He said his relationship was well-known to the congregation, and he even legally changed his last name to his partner’s shortly after his hiring. He realized the relationship might be problematic for the denomination, as the Methodist church does not consider, as its Book of Discipline puts it, “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” to be suitable ministers.
But, Hutchison said, under his leadership the Cassopolis congregation (which had been diminishing) began growing and returned to a position of financial solvency. Yet apparently there was a complaint to the Methodist hierarchy, resulting in Hutchison being called in to see his district superintendent last week, and asked about his relationship. Hutchison said he would have been fired if he hadn’t resigned; church officials have declined comment on the matter, citing confidentiality of personnel-related actions.
There is substantial opposition within the Methodist church to its stance against gay clergy and same-sex marriage. The issues are likely to be debated at the church’s next General Conference, in 2016, as they have been at past conferences. The Hutchisons’ wedding was even officiated by a Methodist minister, Pastor Mark Thompson of Faith United Methodist Church in Grand Rapids, along with Ginny Mikita, a candidate for ordination as a Methodist minister.
“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 told the Gazette.
Cassopolis is located in southwestern Michigan, near several popular gay resort areas along Lake Michigan. The ceremony drew attendees from throughout the region as well as Detroit and Chicago.
“I want the church to change,” Hutchison told the newspaper. “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.”