- Associated Press - Thursday, February 18, 2016

LAWRENCE, Mich. (AP) - A Michigan pastor has been sleeping outside in a tent for weeks to protest his denomination’s stance on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people.

The Rev. Michael Tupper of Parchment United Methodist Church near Kalamazoo started sleeping in a tent Nov. 30 and plans to continue doing so for 175 consecutive nights, Kalamazoo Gazette (https://bit.ly/1Ua7iOt ) reported. He usually heads outside around 9:30 p.m., spends the night in the tent, and then goes back inside around 6:30 a.m.

“It’s a symbol of how our denomination, the United Methodist Church, is responding to LGBTQ persons and pushing them outside the church,” Tupper said, adding that members of the LGBTQ community “are being forced out of our church and into the cold.”

Tupper often pitches the tent in the front yard of his Van Buren County home, but he has also taken it on the road, sleeping in front of United Methodist conference headquarters in Indianapolis and Madison, Wisconsin. He plans to camp outside of United Methodist offices in Columbus, Ohio and Des Moines, Iowa, and take his tent in May to the church’s General Conference in Portland, Oregon, where clergy and laity are expected to discuss the church’s official position on gay pastors.

“My ultimate goal is to raise awareness of the problems of discrimination and to inspire people to make a change to allow for LGBTQ persons to be married in our church and to allow LGBTQ persons to serve as pastors in our church,” Tupper said.

Tupper has faced discipline several times for supporting same-sex marriages.

In 2014, the district superintendent filed a complaint against Tupper, prompting an investigation, after he signed the marriage license for his daughter’s same-sex wedding in Baltimore.

Last summer, he signed the marriage license of Benjamin Hutchison, a gay pastor at Cassopolis United Methodist Church who said he was forced to resign after the district superintendent learned that he had a gay partner.

Tupper was among nine pastors from western Michigan who defied church doctrine, which says pastors can’t officiate gay weddings, after they pronounced Hutchison and his partner “husband and husband” at their wedding in July.

“It starts with family and then it extends out to Rev. Hutchison and others,” Tupper said of his advocacy in the church for LGBTQ people.


Information from: Kalamazoo Gazette, https://www.mlive.com/kalamazoo

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