Joining drag queens on TV show costs Indiana pastor his job

NEW YORK – The Rev. Craig Duke has been a Methodist minister for a few decades, setting up a name as a staunch advocate of LGBTQ inclusion. His pastoral duties have now been terminated — the result of a bitter rift surfacing in his Indiana church following he sought to show solidarity by appearing in drag alongside outstanding drag queens in the HBO fact collection “We’re Here.”

Duke, 62, said he considered most of his 400-member congregation at Newburgh United Methodist Church shared his inclusive views, and he was taken aback when a notable congregation member, shortly backed by other churchgoers, circulated emails attacking him.

“You have thrown NUMC beneath the bus to elevate a minority of men and women,” said a person of the e-mail. Yet another, according to Duke, claimed Satan must be happy with the discord more than LGBTQ rights.

Duke, who declined to establish his chief critics, told The Affiliated Press that the assaults “felt quite private,” resulting in him to get worried about his mental health.


“It was a matter of disappointment and disappointment and heartbreak on my element … knowing I was dropping the capacity to direct,” he stated.

Beneath United Methodist Church protocol, a pastor does not have the possibility of resigning, but Duke mentioned he created obvious to his rapid exceptional, regional superintendent Mitch Gieselman, that he necessary to stage away.

On Nov. 26, Gieselman — who experienced been listening to from the pastor’s critics and supporters — despatched a letter to the NUMC congregation announcing that Duke “is currently being relieved of his pastoral duties.”

By way of the future 3 months, Duke said he and his wife will be authorized to go on living in the NUMC parsonage, whilst he incurs a 40% pay back cut. They should relocate no later than Feb. 28, when his pay will be halted, Gieselman reported.

Whilst Gieselman mentioned in his letter than Duke’s steps had “polarized” the congregation, he said none of these actions constituted official violations of UMC’s Book of Self-control, which capabilities as a legal code for Methodist clergy.


“I was bullied out,” Duke explained.

The episode of “We’re Here” showcasing Duke — at a single position proven in a dress, large-heeled boots, a pink wig and weighty make-up — was taped in July but did not air until eventually Nov. 8.

Duke was invited to participate in the demonstrate by an LGBTQ Pride team in nearby Evansville and acknowledged in aspect to exhibit assistance for his 23-yr-old daughter, Tiffany, who identifies as pansexual.

The premise of “We’re Here,” an Emmy-nominated collection now in its second time, is that three renowned drag performers journey to cities and compact cities across the U.S., recruiting a couple locals to be part of them as drag queens.

Even before the episode was broadcast, some congregation users complained that Duke hadn’t presented them progress observe of his selection to be in the demonstrate, which bundled scenes filmed at the church. In response, Duke wrote to the congregation in August, indicating he was sorry that have confidence in in his management experienced been ruined.


But he defended his motives, indicating, “I was prepared and fired up to share God’s enjoy with the LGBTQ local community on a national degree.”

Any hope that conflict would subside vanished in mid-November when the email messages attacking him commenced to flow into.

The rift in just Duke’s congregation reflects broader divisions in just the United Methodist Church, the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the United States.

Conservative leaders in the UMC have unveiled programs to form a new denomination, the World wide Methodist Church, with a doctrine that does not understand very same-sexual intercourse marriage. The transfer could hasten the very long-predicted break up of the UMC around differing methods to LGBTQ inclusion, like regardless of whether LGBTQ persons really should be ordained as clergy

Because of to the coronavirus pandemic, the UMC’s General Meeting — at which the schism would be debated — has been postponed for two consecutive decades and is now scheduled for August 2022 in Minneapolis.


In accordance to Duke, one particular of the good reasons he was invited to look on “We’re Here” was mainly because of the divisions in the two his personal church and the UMC.

“My only hope and target was and is to bring the information of God’s unconditional love to a neighborhood that has been drastically marginalized,” Duke wrote to his congregation.

The selection to terminate Duke’s duties by now has had ripple effects. His spouse, Linda, who was pastor of youth ministry, resigned. So did church administrative assistant Erin Sexton, who together with her husband, Chris, structured a GoFundMe marketing campaign to enable the Dukes.

As of Wednesday night, far more than $58,000 experienced been pledged by about 1,400 donors, scores of whom included comments thanking Duke for his LGBTQ advocacy.

Chris Sexton said he experienced been a member of Newburgh United Methodist given that childhood and described Duke as “one of the most captivating and genuine” of the quite a few pastors who served in excess of the many years. But the Sextons claimed lots of congregants shied absent from the conflict around “We’re Below,” making it possible for Duke’s critics to dominate the debate.


Duke is not sure what his future move will be, while he will not plan to return to pastoring. One risk, he mentioned, would be for him and his spouse to establish “an inclusive camp” for youths and younger grown ups.

“My coronary heart is moving in a new route,” he mentioned. “There are so lots of men and women who have been damage by religion, felt rejection, who are achieving out, who are hopeful this will spark me to do something various on their behalf.”


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