“It wasn’t only my place of employment, it was the love of my life”, said Pastor Benjamin Hutchison.
A former parishioner of First UM’s current pastor, Rev. Patricia Cleary, guest organist Snyder also now serves as Vocal Director of Music Ministries and Titular Organist at Perry Highway Lutheran Church in Wexford, PA. “And it’s important that we all bear witness”.
“It’s a long time coming”, said United Methodist Pastor John Fisher.
“If we say, ‘No, you’re not welcomed here, ‘ then what example are we of God? And for the Methodist Church to treat him this way is totally unacceptable to our church and everybody in this community”, said church member Bill Loux. Hershberger said he and his family had been looking for a church. Everyone got to know him.
But he wonders why the issue came up now, three years after he was appointed to the church. It was real close. They said they have known since the start that he was gay and they don’t mind.
Hutchison’s congregation is also stunned and upset, manifesting their grief in black tulle draped over the pastor’s pulpit and chair.
“I’m straight”, Hershberger said.
“I knew when we started that he was gay, but he’s not in your face about it”, Hershberger told MLive. In Cass, he found acceptance. They even posted signs and set up a display inside the church meant to symbolize their loss. “There’s nobody in that church who had a problem (with it)”.
The Kalamazoo Gazette and South Bend Tribune report the Rev. Benjamin Hutchison married Monty Hutchison Friday in Cassopolis outside southwestern Michigan’s historic Cass County Courthouse.
Hutchison, who has master’s degrees in social work, divinity and theology, said he plans to look for a job as a social worker in a hospital in the Ann Arbor or Detroit areas.
“I’m still waiting for the shell shock to wear off”, Hutchison said.
The district office did not return a request for a comment. “”In response, the United Methodist Church issued a statement that the” church’s official position on these matters” will be discussed in May 2016 during a general conference.