An interview with Mike Tupper

Rev. Michael Tupper Photo courtesy of Mike Tupper

Rev. Michael Tupper
Photo courtesy of Mike Tupper

Earlier this week it was reported that the Rev. Michael Tupper and Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey had been unable to find a just resolution regarding the complaint made against Rev. Tupper in his presiding at the marriage of Rev. Benjamin David and Monty Hutchinson on July 17, 2015. As a resolution was unable to be reached, Bishop Kiesey has appointed the Rev. Elbert Dulworth, superintendent of the Marquette District of the Detroit Annual Conference to serve as the “counsel” for the church (in effect, serving as a prosecutor in a process that may ultimately lead to a church trial). Tupper is one nine United Methodist pastors under complaint for presiding at the July 17 service, but his is the only one that has moved forward beyond the resolution process.

Tupper has not denied his participation in the event, and in a notarized letter to Bishop Kiesey acknowledged that he had signed the marriage license. In a longer letter to Bishop Kiesey written on September 28, Tupper acknowledges his guilt in violating the provisions in the United Methodist Book of Discipline forbidding pastors from conducting same-sex marriage services, and recognizes that his actions may lead to a church trial. Noting the high expense of past trials, Tupper went on to suggest that his trial could be more cost-effective if both the prosecution and the defense would avoid using secular legal counsel.

“I lament the costs involved in a church trial,” Tupper wrote. “Therefore I invite Church Counsel and yourself to consider the following proposal to minimize the financial costs of a church trial: Do the investigation and trial with minimal costs and no lawyers. There is nothing in the Discipline which requires the participation of lawyers. There is nothing in the Discipline which requires exorbitant expenses for an investigation or trial. This makes sense because I’m pleading “guilty” to the offense. I will not contest the guilty verdict or the penalty decided on by a jury of my peers.”

Tupper recently sat down with The United Methodist Reporter to talk about the charges against him and the possible trial.

UMR:You clearly knew church law when you presided at the marriage of Monty and Ben Hutchinson in July. What was your decision-making process which led you to break your ordination vows in order to conduct this service?

Tupper: I don’t view signing the marriage license as “breaking my ordination vows”. I simply decided to not follow what I consider an unjust law in our Book of Discipline. I committed this “chargeable offense” because of the offense and harm our church continues to do to LGBTQ people. For example, the license was for Rev. Hutchison and Monty. Rev. Hutchison was an effective pastor of the Cassopolis for many years. He was asked to resign a few days before the wedding because he is a gay man. It reminds me of the harm my daughter has experienced as well. Sarah sent a letter out to thirty churches near where she lives. She said that she and her married partner were looking for a church which would be a good place to raise their future family. She did not hear back from any church that would be welcoming to them. I am committed to working to help our churches be welcoming to all people.

UMR:  As you met with Bishop Kiesey, you clearly felt that there was no resolution short of a trial. Can you describe those conversations, and why do you believe that a “just resolution” is impossible?

Tupper: I could not agree with a Just Resolution that would simply let me off the hook again. I presented to the Bishop some possible Just Resolutions that would have made a significant impact on the life of the West Michigan Conference. But the Bishop chose not to agree to any of them. In the end, I realized I needed to be willing to put my ministerial credentials on the line for the sake of what I believe.

UMR: You have said that you will go into the trial with no legal counsel, and have encouraged the Annual Conference to do likewise, thus holding down the expense of hosting a trial. Do you think legal counsel hurts the process, or is this solely about expense?

Tupper: I have chosen this process of no legal counsel for myself because of the cost and the time involved for the Conference. In addition, I believe investigations and trials should be focused on prayerful discernment.

UMR: You have been clear that you are guilty of the offense, and that you are willing to pay the price for your actions, including the removal of your clergy credentials. Given the admission of guilt and the inability to uphold the Discipline, why don’t you simply surrender your credentials? What are you hoping to accomplish in seeing the process through to a trial?

Tupper: My District Superintendent asked if I would be willing to surrender my credentials. I told him, “I will not willingly surrender my credentials because I value the United Methodist Church and my ordination in our church. I do not consider the violation of this offense to be worthy of the extreme penalty of the loss of ministerial credentials.” I also said, “A trial can be a time when we intensify our prayerful discernment on the unjust parts of our Discipline. A trial can shine a light on the harm done to LGBTQ people by our church’s position.”

UMR: How do you think the church’s teaching hurts LGBTQ persons? Are those who interpret the scriptures in a way to justify the church’s existing teaching outside of God’s will, and how do we bridge the gap between two equally justified theological opinions?

Tupper: Our church’s teaching hurts LGBTQ people. For example I know a young man who has clearly sensed God’s call on his life to go into full-time ministry in the United Methodist Church. He is a gay man. Our church is harming him by preventing him from following God’s call on his life.

I know there are many who interpret the Scriptures differently. I appreciate the ‘big tent’ of United Methodism where we can agree to disagree about many things. But I want to be in a church that is not harming gay people. I hope we can end this war so that we all can get on with “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”

UMR: What would you say to the United Methodist General Conference if you were given the opportunity?

Tupper: It’s time for us to stop the harm against our LGBTQ brothers and sisters by removing all the anti-gay language from our Book of Discipline. It’s time to end the war for the sake of our United Methodist Church and for God’s kingdom of love and justice for all.

UMR: If you are removed from active ministry as the result of a trial, what next?

Tupper: I am hopeful that I can continue to serve the United Methodist Church as a pastor for many years to come.

For more information on this story, please visit the following:


Jay Voorhees, Former Executive Editor

The Rev. Jay Voorhees is the Executive Editor of The United Methodist Reporter and the Chief Creative Officer for CircuitWriter Media LLC which operates this site and Jay is an ordained elder in the Tennessee Annual Conference. Jay has written on life and the practice of faith in The United Methodist Church at Only Wonder Understands since 2003.

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26 Comments on "An interview with Mike Tupper"

The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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Hayne Hamilton
Why do we need an interview with Rev Tupper ? This issue has been debated for 40 years. The people of the UMC by substatial majorities for these 40 years have declined to change the biblically consistent language in the Discipline of the UMC. It has been rejected not because it is some human rule book. 5000 years of confirmation of the biblical truth and its constant reaffirmation trumps the culture of the 1960’s. If Rev. Tupper believes that God has called him to a new revelation, ask him why he does not turn in his lifetime job security and… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler

I’m not quite getting this use of “radical”. For some six million years humans did not fly and disseminated cautionary tales like the myth of Icarus until in 1903, Orville Wright did. It seems to me the “radicals” are those demanding the present day equivalent of “man is not meant to fly.”


It is ridiculous that there even needs to be a trial. He has admitted full guilt. The Discipline he violated is clear. Defrock him. This is what is wrong with the UMC. It’s so wishy washy and dithering. I do know one thing: if the 2016 General Conference permits gay marriage in UM churches and/or ordination of practicing homosexuals, the UMC will split. I for one will not remain in such a church and will gladly tender my membership in search of a church that actually upholds Christian orthodoxy.

George Nixon Shuler

Thank you for that post. I’ve found few such perfect examples of how the term “orthodoxy” is exactly equivalent to “political correctness.”

Kathy Strickland
I’ve said it before and it bears repeating – according to the Holy Bible, homosexuality is an “abomination to the Lord”. Either you believe and accept this or you don’t. Rev. Tupper obviously does not. He did accept his obligation to follow the Book of Discipline when he became a Methodist pastor, and since he refuses to abide by it, he should go to another denomination or just get a job. “Gay” people can join our churches and be active members, but like the rest of us sinners, they MUST admit their sin, ask God to forgive them, do a… Read more »
George Nixon Shuler

I do not believe the right-wing caucus within the UMC can justifiably say our LGBT brothers and sisters “must” do anything in particular. When they do, that makes the disclaimer “all judgment is up to God” meaningless. It does not follow that a refusal to believe in far right ideology constitutes a violation of the Book of Discipline.

Richard F Hicks

He admitted is guilt and refuses a plea bargain ignoring the words of Jesus to cut a deal before you get to court. A panel of judges with guts won’t let him bore them with speeches. Present the evidence and then bring back a guilt verdict with the appropriate punishment. Cowardice on the part of UM leadership in trying to be “pastoral” means unending wishy-washy time wasting. This guy can always get a job. He’s not going to stave. Everyone – please grow up! Thank you, Richard F Hicks, OKC

Morris Taber

I accept the validity of beliefs conscientiously arrived at, even when the duffer radically from my own. I wish ALL United Methodists would also. I pray that we adopt Disciplinary language that will allow all of us to live out our faith.


Rev. Tupper has an agenda that has nothing to do with prayerful discernment over the issue he claims to be standing up for. Rev. Tupper is disingenuous on so many levels. This is all about his ’15 minutes of fame”. I think it is interesting that it is the “Church” that is at fault, no mention of any scriptures being at fault only “different” interpretations of scripture.


Another sad day for the UMC. Millions of people don’t know Christ and all we and the UMR can do is talk about sexual orientation as our church dies.


Pretty much, James!!!!!

George Nixon Shuler

That’s very easily solved. Simply dismiss all proceedings regarding this issue.


I maintain that the bishops in the umc worship at the altar of political correctness and radical feminism. Any decision that the council makes will be made in view of this fact. The only future for the umc–as it is now–is to split so that each side of this issue can continue on in the manner in which they choose. Keep looking up–signs and wonders are happening every day…………

George Nixon Shuler

This post consists wholly of name calling without evidence, concluded with a non sequitur assertion.


He wants to throw himself in front of the bus. Will the bishop run him over or slam on the brakes?

Jack Harnish

Rev. Tupper is certainly free to follow his conscience and make himself a voluntary martyr for the cause, but this will cost the conference a considerable amount of time and resources and will not change anything. Only General Conference can change our current stance, and my guess is most delegates already know how they will vote on these issues, so his action will have little or no effect.

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