Petitions posted, then torn down at church in support of gay reverend

Posted at 9:46 PM, Jul 28, 2015

LANSING, Mich. -- A press conference was held in support of a gay reverend in Cass County who said that he was forced from his job with the United Methodist Church in Lansing on Tuesday evening.

The group posted petitions to the door of the United Methodist Church Bishop's office. A couple hours after they were posted, a member of the community tore them all down.

The group claims that the church's views on homosexuality is creating "harm" in their community.

The outcry comes about two weeks after Benjamin Hutchison said that he was forced to resign from his position as pastor of the Cassopilis United Methodist Church.

"It really has been an emotional roller coaster. Up and downs, good and bad. I'm thankful that my faith has kept me close to God, that I am a beloved child," said Rev. Hutchison.

Hutchison said that he's received a lot of support since we first sat down with him, telling his side of why he said that he was forced from his position in the church.

"Young people who are experiencing homelessness, young people who are contemplating or who have died by suicide. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer youth," said Rev. Lois McCullen Parr with Reconciling Methodist Network.

Their petition calls for what they said is acceptance of all gay and lesbian members, and to allow them to hold senior positions within the church.

"I'm a queer christian.  When am I queer? Am I queer when I'm making breakfast in the morning, am I queer when I'm preaching? Am I queer when I'm reading the bible?' asked Rev. McCullen Parr.

As for Hutchison, he said that he's looking for another job. He also said that he is interested in maybe going back to school. Hutchison married his longtime partner Monty, whom he already shared a last name with a few days after he resigned.

"In some ways it makes me feel as though I'm not doing this in vain. That I'm not just doing it for myself. That there are other people out there watching and they need someone to somewhat be the face to stand strong and say we are not standing for this, we will back and support you," said Hutchison.

The petitions that were posted to the door at the church were torn down a couple hours later by a member of the community who was opposed to them being there.

Rev. McCullen Parr also said that she's hopeful that at next Spring's General Conference in Portland, the church will re-evaluate their stance on homosexual members.

FOX17 reached out to the United Methodist Church, and they released this statement:

"A press conference was held today in front of the Michigan Area Ministry Center and Office of the Bishop in Lansing, Michigan by individuals who seek to express their concern about the  treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer (LGBTQ) persons by The United Methodist Church. The Episcopal Office honors the right of all persons to be able to share their concerns about church  polity and we hold in prayer all those who are expressing pain around these issues.

Michigan Area Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey also made this statement: “As Episcopal leader for the Michigan Area, I grieve for this painful place in which we currently find ourselves in The United Methodist Church. As we have done in the past, I trust that with God’s help, we will find our way through these difficult times. I ask for your prayers for people on all sides of these issues.”

The relationship of LGBTQ persons in The United Methodist Church has been the source of intense emotional debate for decades. Faithful members of The United Methodist Church represent a diverse spectrum of belief on all sides of these matters. The church’s official position is contained in The Book of Discipline. The Book of Discipline is the instrument for setting forth the laws, plan, polity, and process by which United Methodists govern themselves. The Book of Discipline is reviewed and can be revised every four years only at General  Conference. This global meeting of United Methodist elected clergy and laity delegates will take place in Portland, Oregon in May 2016. Bishops, by definition, are required to uphold The Book of Discipline and are unable to change or vote on changes to church polity.

The West Michigan Conference and the Detroit Annual Conference comprise the Michigan Area of The United Methodist Church. Together, these annual conferences represent nearly 900 United Methodist churches and over 150,000 members in Michigan. The Michigan Area Office is located in Lansing, Michigan and is led by Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey. Bishop Kiesey has led the Michigan Area since September 2012."