Ken “The Hutch” Hutcherson, 61, a former Seattle Seahawk and an outspoken pastor who championed racial equality but opposed gay marriage, died shortly before noon on Wednesday.
He had battled prostate cancer for more than a decade.
Pastor Hutcherson, who started the Antioch Bible Church
in Redmond, was not afraid to take on politically unpopular causes, such as his yearslong battle against same-sex marriage, or institutional inequities, such as the practice by adoption agencies of charging higher fees to adopt white babies.
During his life, the husband and father of four was described by supporters as funny, happy and jovial even in the face of cancer, while detractors called him an egotistic bully.
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But Gerald Lewis, the pastor of administration at Antioch, said Hutcherson would like to be remembered as a man for whom the word of God was paramount.
“More than anything, he would want people to know he loved Jesus and submitted his entire life to working for the Lord,” said Lewis. “He often said, ‘I have been saved by the word of God, and I believe it to be true. I have to live by that, and I have to lead by that.’ ”
Pastor Hutcherson was born in Anniston, Ala., to a poor, single mother on July 14, 1952. He grew up during a time of “aggressive segregation,” Lewis said. He spoke publicly numerous times about experiencing racial prejudice — riding in the back of the bus and drinking from separate water fountains — and also of harboring bias himself.
He was quoted as saying he had been drawn to football because he “could hurt white people legally.”
But while he was in high school he had a religious experience and “God changed his life,” said Lewis. He submitted his life to God’s will and studied the Bible. Through his studies, he came to believe that men are created equal in God’s eyes and that discrimination based on race is wrong, Lewis said.
Pastor Hutcherson attended University of West Alabama in Livingston, Ala., and went on to play pro football as a linebacker in Dallas and San Diego before he was selected by the Seahawks during the expansion draft in 1976.
A knee injury ended his football career the next year, and he eventually started Antioch, a 3,500-member multiracial congregation that grew out of a small Bible study group.
The church’s motto is “Black and White in a Gray World,” a saying that aptly captured Pastor Hutcherson’s belief that God’s word provides clear truths in a murky world. It also speaks to his personal life, according to his friend and colleague Pastor Joe Fuiten, of Cedar Park Assembly of God, in Bothell.
Pastor Hutcherson married a white woman of German descent and jokingly referred to their four children as “German chocolate kids.”
Although he was best known in recent years for his opposition to gay marriage, he also tackled a number of other social and moral issues over the years.
When he learned that adoption agencies charged prospective parents more for the adoption of white children than for children of other races, he took out huge billboards calling for a ban on the practice. His church also began a ministry of providing free adoption services.
When it appeared that Overlake Christian Church in Redmond was dismissing allegations that former leader Bob Moorehead was having inappropriate sexual relationships with male congregants, Pastor Hutcherson called upon the leaders of other churches to take action, Fuiten said.
“He said, ‘We have to do something, we cannot let this ride,’ ” said Fuiten.
Pastor Hutcherson helped organize a committee of ministers to investigate and publish their findings, and Moorehead was forced to resign in 1998.
Fuiten said that while Pastor Hutcherson was “hard-hitting, straightforward and fearless,” he was not so rigid that he could not admit he was wrong or change his stance.
He abandoned an effort to organize a national boycott of Microsoft for supporting a gay-rights bill in the state Legislature, and in another instance, he wrote a letter of apology to another minister he’d wronged, said Fuiten.
“He was a formidable opponent and we send our respects to his family,” said Doug Hamilton, a director at Equal Rights Washington. “We had a difference of opinion on many issues, but that led to advancing the conversation that ultimately led to marriage equality.”
While Fuiten said he disagreed with Pastor Hutcherson at times, he had come to have a deep and abiding respect for the man.
One pivotal moment came after the two men’s congregations decided not to pursue a real-estate proposal that would have had Antioch renting a building for church services from Cedar Park.
Although Antioch had no legal obligation to cover the expenses incurred researching the idea, Pastor Hutcherson’s church wrote Cedar Park a check for $30,000.
“Some people lose their ethical values when money is involved,” said Fuiten, “but he was a man of great character and integrity. If he said something, you could count on it.”
In addition to his wife, Pat, and four children. Pastor Hutcherson is survived by his mother.
Services have not yet been arranged.
Information from The Seattle Times archives was included in this report.
Christine Clarridge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-464-8983.