CASSOPOLIS, Mich. - An openly gay pastor has been forced to resign from a United Methodist church in Cassopolis, sparking outrage not only in the congregation but in the community. Rev. Benjamin Hutchison had been senior pastorat Cassopolis United Methodist Church since January 2013.
Hutchison tells FOX 17 he was forced to resign Monday, July 13, leaving behind a church that he loved. He says those in power decided his sexuality made him unfit as a senior pastor.
"The first eight weeks I preached, we quadrupled the size of the church," said Hutchison. "We had over over 100 people the eighth week I preached."
Hutchison legally changed his last name to his partner's in February of 2013, which was commonly known and accepted throughout the congregation.
"I would never deny Monty to anybody," said Hutchison. "He is my life partner. I have chosen him and he has chosen me to be life partners."
Superintendent of the Kalamazoo District for the United Methodist Church, Rev. John Boley, whose office did not return phone calls nor emails, disapproved of Hutchinson's sexuality and forced the pastor to either resign or face termination. Hutchison chose resignation, a choice local church members find heartbreaking.
"He’s a great guy, the community will suffer a great loss with him gone," said church member James Solloway. "What his personal life is is his personal business."
Solloway's wife agreed. "I'm very hurt by their decision. They knew all of this in advance and kept him here and they just abruptly came in and had that decision made and not ask anyone of us what we thought of him in the community and what he's done for us."
Hutchison said the despite his resignation he will be marrying his partner July 16 on the front steps of the old historic courthouse. After the ceremony, he will join a protest with United Methodist clergy, some even willing to risk their ordinations by signing the marriage license.