After four years working as the full-time director of music liturgy at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Verona, Wisconsin, Charles Philyaw was fired for participating in the gay relationship he openly disclosed to parish priests when he was hired, reports the Wisconsin State Journal.

Philyaw and his partner participated fully in the religious community. And as their faith grew deeper, so did their commitment to the church. But trouble began earlier this year when Philyaw's partner, James Mulder-Philyaw, who came to the faith as an adult, expressed his devotion to the church by receiving training so that he could serve the Eucharist – the body and blood of Jesus Christ – as a layperson.

Some parishioners became alarmed at the couple's elevated leadership in the church. Five members contacted the diocese, some said they felt “uncomfortable” after receiving Communion from Mulder-Philyaw, while others called the couple's presence “hypocritical.”

After the dismissal, 116 church members signed a petition delivered to their bishop praising their musical director and lamenting the loss.

“I consider myself to have been a good Catholic for over 70 years and find it morally unacceptable for a person's job to be in jeopardy because of his or her sexual preference,” said Nancy Oswald, a St. Andrew member for 40 years, and signer to the petition to retain Philyaw.

Other members expressed concern over the firing, saying it had caused them to curtail church involvement.

The loss of the job has left the couple financially vulnerable – foreclosure of their home is likely.

“It's been devastating,” said Philyaw. “These five people didn't think through how they were going to be impacting our lives.”