Gay pastor named at Stark church

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CANTON -- An Ohio church marking its 100th anniversary this year on Sunday installed its first openly gay pastor. The Rev. Dennis Coy was made pastor of The Congregational United Church of Christ in Plain Township, north of Canton.

The formal ceremony was held two months after he was unanimously elected.

Coy said that part of the ceremony included the congregation forming a circle around him and singing as a demonstration of love and support.

"It was a very touching and unexpected moment," he said shortly after the ceremony. "The forward thinking and progressive nature of this congregation that's been around 100 years, to then say, 'We want to call as our new pastor an openly gay man,' really speaks to them extending that welcome into the community."

Coy, 35, is a former police officer and drug-enforcement agent. He undertook seminary studies at the University of London and the United Church of Christ lay ministry program.

Coy now works full-time investigating money laundering for a regional bank.

Coy said that coming out publicly in 2012 was a difficult decision for him that included ending his 10-year marriage to his wife.

He said he was inspired to come out after attending a church event led by an openly gay United Church of Christ pastor.

"I thought, if this man can lead in a mainline Protestant denomination, why can't I?" he told The Repository. "My theology as a pastor is, above all else, we love everyone. We want to be a place where people can feel it. ... It's about showing others that it's OK to be who you are."

Coy said he believes scriptures used to condemn homosexuality have been "grossly misinterpreted."

"As Christians, we follow Christ," he said. "Nowhere does Christ say anything about the subject. But he does tell us to love everyone."

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