A famous liberal Manhattan church has parted ways with its first female senior minister after complaints she took fellow ministers on a sex toy shopping spree and gifted one of them an unwanted vibrator, according to reports.
The Rev. Amy Butler, an anti-Trump rising star at Riverside Church known as “Pastor Amy,” had a formal harassment claim filed against her in May in a shocking fall from grace for a congregation known for its inter-denominational liberalism and progressive beliefs on LGBTQ, immigration, and environmental issues, according to the New York Post.
And while the charge against the high-ranking woman of the cloth alleges some raunchy, aggressive behavior, her supporters maintain she was let go because she spoke up against harassment and sexism in the church.
The 49-year-old minister, who was hired in 2014, allegedly led one member of her flock and two fellow preachers into a Minneapolis sex shop called the Smitten Kitten, while they were there for a religious conference. She reportedly quipped “Is this a church business expense?” after pulling out the church credit card, though it is unclear if she used it.
While in the raunchy store, Butler allegedly bought a $200 bunny-shaped blue vibrator for one minister — a single mom of two celebrating her 40th birthday — and offered to buy a toy for the second minister — a gay man in a committed relationship. The man declined and repeatedly told her he felt uncomfortable.
Days later, after harassment claims were filed, the church’s lawyer hired a third-party investigator who confirmed the claims, according to reports.
The sex toy incident was apparently the final straw amid mounting concerns from the Riverside Church Council about Butler’s judgment, as she was seeking a $100,000 raise. She has a $250,000 annual salary and $8,000 monthly housing allowance — on top of other cushy benefits.
Butler’s successor, interim Senior Minister Michael Livingston, broke the news of her departure during his sermon at a Sunday worship service on July 7.
“Rev. Dr. Amy Butler and the Riverside Church Council are announcing that after five years of leadership, Pastor Amy will not be renewing her contract as senior minister,” Marilyn Mitchel, chair of the Church Council, wrote in the announcement posted on Riverside’s website. “The Council thanks Pastor Amy for her leadership and asks all congregants to pray for her continued ministry as a leader in the progressive Christian world.”