According to the United Methodist Church, gay people are welcome to attend services but are not entitled to positions of leadership.
The rule states that “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”
But what is the church to do when its choral director of six years, who happens to be gay, gets ousted because of his sexuality, taking 80 percent of the congregation with him when he goes?
That’s exactly what happened in Alexandria, Indiana, when Adam Fraley was driven from his post as choral director by a new minister who was uncomfortable with a gay man leading the church’s music. Fraley eventually quit over increased demands and because of the minister’s scrutiny.
Six months later, the church got a new interim minister, David Mantor. When David Steele, who works for the church (and whose wife, Nancy Steele, got Fraley the job heading the choir), advocated that Mantor reinstate Fraley, the minister initially agreed. A few weeks later he changed his mind and Fraley was fired.
Steele, who had been acting as an intermediary between Mantor and Fraley, was also fired. When he was told to hand in his keys to the church he initially refused, but he was then told by the district superintendent that he was no longer supporting the position of the minister and was therefore neglecting his duty.
"It’s almost like he’s hijacked the church,” David Steele says of Mantor. “He is completely going against what the church body wants."
The congregation is so opposed to the removal of Fraley and Steele that a reported 80 percent of churchgoers have stopped attending service to show their solidarity.
"They all embraced [Fraley],” Nancy Steele says. “They’re upset about the way he was treated."
"I think they got to know me first before they knew I was gay,” Fraley says of the support.
Both Fraley and Steele insist they’d come back to the church if it were more accepting.
"I don’t like how people pick and choose which verses they want to apply,” Fraley says. “The Bible also says gluttony and divorce are bad, but people seem to ignore those."