A Methodist congregation in Indiana rallied behind a local choir director who left his position and was not allowed to return, presumably because he is gay.
Adam Fraley took a job as the choir director for the United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Ind., six years ago, area news outlet The Herald Bulletin reported. He was not openly gay while working at the church, but his partner attended services. Earlier this year, a new minister was hired and said he was "uncomfortable" with Fraley in the position. Fraley eventually resigned because of a heavy workload and his own personal discomfort with the new leadership, per the Bulletin. Six months later, the church got yet another new minister, and the congregants hoped Fraley would be allowed back, but he was not.
“The pastor that’s currently at the church, doesn’t want to work, or doesn’t feel like he can work with somebody, that is like me,” Fraley told local news station WISH. “I do wonder, if the fact that I am gay, had something to do with the amount of workload I was given, because I did resign from the position."
A central point in the issue is apparently a United Methodist Church law stating gay people are allowed to attend services, but are not allowed to serve in positions of leadership. The official guidelines on the topic state: "The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church."
But there is debate over whether a choir director position should fall under this.
The church's former lay leader and Fraley's friend, David Steele, spoke with the new minister about reinstating Fraley, but to no avail.
“He likewise said he wasn't comfortable with having somebody in a leadership position as a choir director, and that he would not support that move," Steele told WISH. "I said, 'Well before you came we'd already raised the money to fund him privately, if that was an issue with money.' He said, 'The issue, no, is a moral issue for me."
The Herald Bulletin reports that 80 percent of the Alexandria church's congregants quit because of the controversy with Fraley.
"They all embraced him," Nancy Steele, David's wife, told the Bulletin. "They're upset about the way he was treated."
Fraley said he is encouraged by the support, adding, "I think they got to know me first before they knew I was gay."
Rev. Dan Gangler, director of communication for the Indiana Conference of The United Methodist Church, wrote in an email to The Huffington Post that "[t]here is nothing in the discipline of The United Methodist Church that would prevent a gay or lesbian person from being hired to a position in one of its congregations. The United Methodist Church does not permit the ordination of gay and lesbian persons. That is the only ban by the general church."
Gangler went on to dispute the claim that the majority of the local church's congregants had left:
The Rev. Michelle Cobb, superintendent of the North Central District and supervisor of the pastors of the church in this area including the Alexandria church, reports that the church continues to move forward with about the same average worship attendance and with the support for their current pastor. Both she and her associate district superintendent are working with the congregation to bring reconciliation.