Minn. Congregation Abandons Pro-Gay Marriage Pastor; Church Forced to Shut Down

A Minnesota pastor who declared his support for same sex marriage, causing a divide in his congregation, has lost his church after being unable to gather enough funds to pay off its loans.

The Rev. Oliver White was ultimately unable to save Grace United Community Church of Christ in Saint Paul, Minn., KMSP-TV reported, as the $170,000 that the church still owed proved too much for his dwindling congregation to gather.

White had been the pastor of Grace Church for 22 years, but lost more than half his congregation – from 300 down to around 125 people – after he cast a vote in support of gay marriage at a UCC conference in Atlanta a few years ago.

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Pastor White is a member of the African-American community, which most of his former congregants belonged to as well, and his support of same-sex marriage was not received positively by the congregants who believe in the traditional definition of marriage.

"A lot of sermons were preached here. A lot of laughter, hugs, joy, sorrows. I've seen it all, but it's time to move on. It's no longer my home," White commented when the church closed its doors.

"I knew so many gay and lesbian people as people and I couldn't for 1,000 years imagine why they shouldn't have the same privileges that heterosexuals have," he added, clarifying that he stands behind his position no matter what.

In May, an online campaign was started to try and get the pastor the $200,000 he needed to save the church, and although by the end of the month he had gathered $20,000, the donations did not pick up significantly and the amount needed was too great in the end.

"That's what I'm asking for. I'm on my aching knees, with my hands stretched out. ... This would be my last hurrah. I feel like David going up against Goliath, but I don't even have a slingshot. All I can do is go back to the people who care," Pastor White had previously said of the monumental task before him.

Of the 125 supposed church members that were left, only about 18-50 people had reportedly been attending White's sermons in the weeks leading up to Grace Church's closing.

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