On July 13th 2015 Rev. Benjamin Hutchison, Pastor of Cassopolis United Methodist Church was removed from his pastorate, following his admission to Rev. John Boley, the Superintendent of Kalamazoo District for the United Methodist Church (UMC), that he was a practicing homosexual.
Rev. Hutchison’s congregation and supporters were not happy, especially considering that Hutchison’s homosexuality was common knowledge. Equally known among supporters was the fact that Hutchison had a gay partner. Neither of these facts had provoked alarm.
Of course, in supporting Hutchison, his allies were defending not only his homosexuality, but his premarital sexual relations.
Why exactly did the UMC crackdown on Rev. Hutchison for being a practicing homosexual, especially when his homosexuality was taken for granted by his congregation?
Rev. Boley asked Hutchison whether or not he had a partner and he responded affirmatively. That made him a “self-avowed practicing homosexual.”
The UMC’s Book of Discipline clearly states,
“The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be…appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” [Emphasis added]
He was therefore disqualified from his position pastoring a United Methodist Church.
The Book of Discipline is so binding that not even Hutchison’s status as African Methodist Itinerant Elder on loan to the UMC is able to save him; he simply cannot be a practicing homosexual and serve as a pastor in the UMC regardless of denomination.
Following his dismissal, Hutchison quickly married his partner, Monty.
His wedding was attended by nearly 30 UMC clergy, one of whom, Rev. Matt Weiler, of Sunnyside UMC in Kalamazoo, openly acknowledged his defiance of the UMC’s Book of Discipline on officiating gay weddings,
“I’m here because I believe in the full inclusion of our LBGTQ community. I’m also here because I believe that what we are doing here today is an act of biblical obedience, even if it is considered disobedient of our Book of Discipline.”
Michigan law limits the number of marriage certificate officiants to just two people. The ministers who ultimately officiated the ceremony have interesting histories. Pastor Ginny Mikita, who was in the midst of undergoing the ordination process at the UMC, got ordained by the Universal Life Church (a website best described as a clergyman’s diploma mill) on July 14 specifically so she could be ready to perform the ceremony on July 18.
This may present a serious problem for Mikita. A senior official with the UMC’s Discipleship Ministries observed that, according to the UMC Discipline, Mikita may have unwittingly removed herself from the UMC candidacy process with her online ordination. With this in mind, any officials on her Board of Ordained Ministry could potentially face complaints against themselves for “disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church” if they continue to treat Mikita as a valid United Methodist ordination candidate.
The second minister was Rev. Mike Tupper, who less than one year prior, escaped church trial for officiating his daughter’s same-sex marriage by a just resolution.
In defense of his officiating Hutchison’s wedding, Tupper noted that “There are a couple of (biblical) scriptures that are anti-gay. But the Scripture is clear about being accepting of all people.”
When a United Methodist minister engages in this sort of open disobedience as Tupper’s latest publicity stunt, anyone can write to their bishop to lodge a formal complaint against them.
Regardless whether or not Tupper, Mikita, and Weiler face any penalty for their actions, the Hutchison case demonstrates that enforcement of the Book of Discipline’s edicts remains alive in some corners of the UMC.
UPDATE: According to the Christian Examiner, Rev. Michael Tupper and several other ministers have been charged with a new complaint for their involvement in the homosexual wedding. The Michigan outlet Mlive.com reports that Tupper yielded to the UMC district superintend in Kalamazoo the identities of nine of the roughly fifteen pastors who pronounced Hutchison and Monty “husband and husband.” Tupper insists that he warned the pastors that their actions would violate the Book of Discipline, making them guilty of open defiance. These nine pastors could face disciplinary measures for their rebellious activities.