ALEXANDRIA, Ind. — A small Methodist church in northern Indiana is divided and as much as eighty percent of the congregants have left the church after a popular gay choir director was forced to resign, and a respected church lay leader was fired for his support of the choir director.
Former choir director Adam Fraley (pictured) said he worked for the United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Ind., for six years and attended with his partner, but when a new minister took over the church last year, he said that he resigned because of pressure about his sexual orientation.
The disagreement over whether Fraley should have been allowed to keep his job has caused a divide between the church and members like Dr. David Steele, a member of the church for nearly 60 years who was fired from his leadership position after advocating that Fraley be re-hired.
According to Fraley, the controversy began last year when the church’s former pastor left to take a leadership position with the Methodist church’s governing council, and the interim minster made it clear he was very uncomfortable with Fraley’s sexual orientation.
Fraley, who was previously married and has one daughter, told LGBTQ Nation the interim minister repeatedly questioned him about reconciling with his former wife, and made pointed observations about biblical values.
He said he eventually resigned after the interim minister kept adding to his workload above and beyond his responsibilities and duties as choir director, and because the added workload was interfering with his full-time job as a public school teacher.
Steele, who served as the chief lay leader and member of the committee that selects church workers ranging from choir director to janitor, said that he later pushed the church’s new pastor, David Mantor, to re-hire Fraley, but that Mantor eventually refused, citing Fraley’s sexual orientation.
He said he was subsequently asked to resign his position in church leadership, and when he refused, he was relieved him of his duties.
Steele said he was informed by Michelle Cobb, District Superintendent for the United Methodist Conference, that his services would not be needed because he neglected his duties as a lay leader by not supporting the pastor’s decision regarding Fraley.
According to Steele, as much as 80 percent of the church’s congregation have stopped attending because of the way he and Fraley have been treated.
He said the congregants who have left — who are mostly seniors — feel they should decide who should fill those lay positions.
According to United Methodist Church doctrine and practices, LGBT people may attend services but “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve.”
Dan Gangler, director of communications for the United Methodist Conference confirmed that the church only prohibits practicing gays being ordained.
“Any other leadership positions should be filled at the discretion of the congregation and the minister,” said Gangler.
Fraley told LGBTQ Nation he would return to the church if offered his job back, as would Steele, but said there has been no effort by church officials to negotiate a resolution.
Manto and Cobb did not return calls by LGBTQ Nation seeking comment.