By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com January 15 2014 5:26 PM ET
A United Methodist Church in Indiana has seen nearly 80 percent of its members leave after its choir director was let go for being gay.
Adam Fraley, who has been choir director at the First United Methodist Church in Alexandria, in the central part of the state, for six years, quit his job last year because of discomfort with the church’s new minister and an increased workload, reports The Herald Bulletin of Anderson, Ind. Then, when another minister, David Mantor, came to the church on an interim basis in September, Fraley sought reinstatement. Mantor initially rehired him, then changed his mind. He asked Fraley to quit; Fraley refused, and then was fired after meeting with a district superintendent for the denomination and other church leaders.
Mantor “doesn’t know me at all,” Fraley told Indianapolis TV station WRTV. “To think that he decided that I was incapable of being in this position because of my sexuality really was hurtful.”
Church leaders apparently justified Fraley’s dismissal with United Methodist doctrine stating that “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals” cannot “serve” the church, but a spokesman for the denomination said this applied only to ministers. “Any other leadership positions should be filled at the discretion of the congregation and the minister,” Dan Gangler, director of communications for the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church, told The Herald-Bulletin. To WRTV, he added, “Gays and lesbians are welcomed at United Methodist Church and to be a member of United Methodist Church or even serve as leaders in the church. There’s nothing to prevent them from any type of role in United Methodist Church except one — that’s ordination.”
Fraley said that while working at the church, he did not talk about being gay, but his partner attended services with him, and most congregants knew of their relationship.
The situation has caused about 80 percent of the congregation to leave, said David and Nancy Steele, who brought Fraley into the church and have continued to be supportive of him. The members “all embraced him,” Nancy Steele told The Herald-Bulletin. “They’re upset about the way he was treated.”
Fraley told WRTV he hopes to be reinstated, as he seeks to be an example to anyone “who is struggling with their faith, who’s thinking I’m gay but I’m a Christian and I’m not supposed to be, because that’s what I’ve always been told. I hope that people realize that you can be both.”
Gangler said church leaders are seeking to resolve the situation. Watch the WRTV report below.