In Minnesota, Grace Community United Church of Christ faces closure due the its members fleeing the flock. They left because Rev. Oliver White openly supported gay marriage and they couldn't handle it.
Now, he's moving on to a new church.
White's story has attracted national media attention, and he's made several television and radio appearances in recent weeks. He saw an uptick in giving to his campaign to save the church as a result, though it's since tapered off. About half the money has come from donors in Minnesota, while the rest came from people across the United States and even in other countries, he said.This is so sad. These folks are so confused by faith that they are blind and bigoted.
All the attention is unexpected, and White never thought he'd be in such a spot-light after leading the congregation for 22 years: "I never dreamed it'd go as far as it did, but it did."
The small congregation has struggled financially and saw its situation worsen in 2005, when White attended a national UCC assembly in Atlanta and voted with a majority of delegates in favor of a resolution supporting gay marriage. His vote didn't go over well with most of the 320 or so Grace Community members, White said. Now Grace membership is close to 110, he says.
"It was a drastic change," said Frances Goodlow, church council president. "We lost quite a few. They felt it was a religious thing, it was not right. And we felt it's also a religious thing, and it is right. We feel Jesus taught us, instructed us as people ... to love one another as we love ourselves. That's how we felt and that's how we still feel."