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Indiana Church Forces Gay Choir Director Out; 80 Percent Leave Church

After a pastor forced out a choir director because of his sexual orientation, 80 percent of the church has stopped attending the church.  Congregational leader David Steele said many in the Alexandria First United Methodist Church in Indiana are unhappy with interim pastor David Mantor’s decision to disallow the long-term choir master from returning to his post, simply because he is gay.

“It’s almost like he’s hijacked the church,” David Steele said of Mantor, who refused to reinstate Adam Fraley to lead the music. “He is completely going against what the church body wants.”

According to UMC Book of Discipline “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve.”

However, the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church Communication Director explained that the conference interpreted this to apply only to those seeking ordination and “any other leadership positions should be filled at the discretion of the congregation and the minister.”

Yet when Steele spoke to Mantor about having Fraley returned to his post, Steele was likewise removed from his leadership position as pastor-parish relations head first by Mantor and later the district superintendent.

For his part, Fraley said that his dispute with the pastor and the church is ultimately a civil rights issue because he was removed from his employment solely due to his sexual orientation.

He also stressed that being gay “has no bearing on how he conducts the worship or how people hear the worship,” and that he served without complaint or obtrusion into the worship experience for six years.

The feud over Fraley’s reinstatement will no doubt further incite the contentious debate that has been dividing the United Methodist church over those that feel the church should embrace all persons, including those who identify as gay, and those who feel being gay means they are unfit to serve in leadership roles.

An editorial for the United Methodist Reporter, however, claims that the discussion of this  particular case should be less centered on the sexual orientation of the choir director and his firing and more about how the church needs to follow proper procedures when removing someone, like Steele, from office.

“The secular press is focusing primarily on the sexual orientation of the choir director in the decision about hiring and firing,” the UM Reporter editor wrote, “but this situation also raises the question of how congregations deal with conflict, and the propriety and process of removing a duly elected church leader without some form of due process.”

Photo Credit: Drama Queen via Creative Commons

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Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.

  • Cindy Kaes Neal

    Sorry, I can’t remember Jesus promoting hateful behavior. Perhaps the Methodist Bible is different than the one my Episcopal church uses.

  • Wallace Sterling

    I do not believe that our Savior would have taken this action; so, brickbats to this interim Pastor and bravo to those who left this homophobic atmosphere.

  • RobertM. from Carlin

    This is something the United Methodist church is going to have to deal with sooner or later. As a Methodist I would hate to see a schism in our church over this one issue-but it appears to be inevitable.

  • LJ Roberts

    I hope they all went to the Episcopal Church instead. Shame on the United Methodist Church, which was the church in which I was raised but no longer attend.

  • Daniel

    Dud link in the first line. First United Methodist’s (Alexandria, IN) website can be found at http://alexfirstumc.org/,

  • Danny Davis

    The pastor in a UM church does not have the authority to fire staff, that belongs to staff-parish relations. The pastor cannot remove an elected officer of the church, only the charge conference can do that.