On Monday, July 13th, Rev. Benjamin Hutchison, a young AME pastor serving a United Methodist congregation, was told he must choose between resigning or being fired from Cassopolis United Methodist Church in Cassopolis, Michigan. After serving faithfully for three years and gaining the affection of his congregation, Rev. Hutchison was asked by the UM District Superintendent if he was in a relationship with another man. Although it was well known that he had a partner, Monty, until Monday it had never been an issue. When pressed, Rev. Hutchison unashamedly affirmed, “He is my partner, and I will never deny that.”

Since Rev. Hutchison became pastor of Cassopolis UMC, the congregation’s attendance quadrupled and finances were stabilized. Like so many before him, his calling, ministerial contributions, and personal dignity have been deemed of second importance to the denomination’s commitment to deeply harmful discriminatory policies.

In the face of this unexpected act of discrimination, Rev. Hutchison is most concerned with the pain his congregation is experiencing. They had become like family to him. In a phone interview he explained:

My own biological family did this same thing to me. They told me I had to choose: my partner Monty or my family. This pain is nothing new to me. A job can be replaced but the hardest thing in the whole process is watching my parishioners grieve and hurt.

Reconciling Ministries Network’s executive director, Matt Berryman, shares:

For those of us who have been down this road before, whose lives have been shaped by this injustice, and who long for the day when healing for us all may begin, the forced resignation of Rev. Benjamin Hutchison reopens so many of the traumatic feelings once experienced by our own bishops, our own District Superintendents, our own Annual Conferences, and indeed our United Methodist Church.  We are exhausted by the church’s fear-based institutional priorities when what we read in the gospel is a priority of Love.  We are exhausted by the church’s inability to turn its gaze toward a vision of inclusion and justice when Christ Jesus drew the circle wide. We are exhausted by church leaders whose fidelity to institutional covenants and rules trump their own personal commitments to Christ and to the gospel. We are exhausted by living in a world where such a vision is so desperately needed.  We are exhausted on behalf of Rev. Hutchison and his partner Monty, the people of  Cassopolis UMC, and every United Methodist who struggles to comprehend why any church grounded in the gospel of Christ would force the resignation of such a talented, inspiring, and beloved pastor.  Enough is enough.  Stop the Harm.

Rev. Hutchison and Monty will be getting legally married on Friday, July 17 at the Cass County Courthouse. West Michigan Reconciling United Methodists have planned a witness of support for their marriage and a protest to follow. All who wish to join in this act of support and call to #StopTheHarm are encouraged to join and clergy are asked to robe for the wedding. More details available here.

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Update: Watch a video recap of Reconciling support at Rev. Hutchison’s wedding

Media contact:
M Barclay
Director of Communications
Reconciling Ministries Network
m@rmnetwork.org
773-930-7040

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