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Michigan Church Fires Homosexual Minister, Cites AIDS As A Factor

November 4, 1987

MATTAWAN, Mich. (AP) _ A homosexual minister says ″hysterical″ fear of AIDS and his sexual preference led to his firing by a church.

Members of the First Congregational Church of Mattawan voted 62-61 last month to let the Rev. Cyril Colonius’ contract lapse after 90 days. He had been pastor of the church since 1982.

Colonius told the Kalamazoo Gazette in a story published Monday that he was dismissed for two reasons. ″One was my homosexuality,″ he said. ″The second was a fear of AIDS. It was very clear to me that those were the factors.

″I think what motivated people was fear. ‘Homophobia’ is the word I use. The meeting where the vote was taken was an example of fear. It was hysterical. Unkind things were spoken that were not true.″

The parent body of the church, the Michigan Conference of the United Church of Christ, has no official stand on homosexual pastors, said Don Yungclas, the interim conference minister.

″A person’s sexual preference is not considered relevant to a person’s ability to be in the ordained ministry. Officially, that’s not an issue,″ Yungclas said Tuesday.

He said the UCC has about 200 churches in the state and about 65,000 members.

Several church members told the Gazette that uneasiness about the pastor existed long before the vote, but that tensions erupted soon after Colonius was featured Sept. 13 in a Gazette article about AIDS.

Colonius, who had been working with Kalamazoo AIDS Resource and Education Services since its formation, was quoted in the article as calling for openness and education about acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

The story didn’t identify Colonius as homosexual.

Churchmember Russell Boyle acknowledged that Colonius’ homosexuality was ″one of the main reasons″ for the dismissal. Homosexuality is ″one of the sins in the Bible, then there is this AIDS thing. It’s of epidemic proportions,″ Boyle said.

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