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Indiana Pastor fired after appearing on HBO Drag Show "We're Here"

NEW YORK (AP) — The Rev. Craig Duke has been a Methodist minister for three decades, building a reputation 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 after he sought to demonstrate solidarity by appearing in drag alongside prominent drag queens in the HBO reality series “We’re Here.”

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

“You have thrown NUMC under the bus to elevate a minority of individuals,” said one of the emails. Another, according to Duke, said Satan must be pleased with the discord over LGBTQ rights.

Duke, who declined to identify his chief critics, told The Associated Press that the attacks “felt very personal,” causing him to worry about his mental health.

“It was a matter of sadness and disappointment and heartbreak on my part ... realizing I was losing the ability to lead,” he said.

Under United Methodist Church protocol, a pastor does not have the option of resigning, but Duke said he made clear to his immediate superior, regional superintendent Mitch Gieselman, that he needed to step away.

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

Through the next three months, Duke said he and his wife will be allowed to continue living in the NUMC parsonage, while he incurs a 40% pay cut. They must relocate no later than Feb. 28, when his pay will be halted, Gieselman said.

While Gieselman noted in his letter than Duke’s actions had “polarized” the congregation, he said none of those actions constituted formal violations of UMC’s Book of Discipline, which functions as a legal code for Methodist clergy.

“I was bullied out,” Duke said.

The episode of “We’re Here” featuring Duke — at one point shown in a dress, high-heeled boots, a pink wig and heavy make-up — was taped in July but did not air until Nov. 8.

Duke was invited to participate in the show by an LGBTQ Pride group in nearby Evansville and accepted in part to show support for his 23-year-old daughter, Tiffany, who identifies as pansexual.

The premise of “We’re Here,” an Emmy-nominated series now in its second season, is that three renowned drag performers travel to towns and small cities across the U.S., recruiting a few locals to join them as drag queens.

Even before the episode was broadcast, some congregation members complained that Duke hadn’t given them advance notice of his decision to be in the show, which included scenes filmed at the church. In response, Duke wrote to the congregation in August, saying he was sorry that trust in his leadership had been damaged.

But he defended his motives, saying, “I was willing and excited to share God’s love with the LGBTQ community on a national level.”

Any hope that conflict would subside vanished in mid-November when the emails attacking him began to circulate.

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

Conservative leaders in the UMC have unveiled plans to form a new denomination, the Global Methodist Church, with a doctrine that does not recognize same-sex marriage. The move could hasten the long-expected breakup of the UMC over differing approaches to LGBTQ inclusion, including whether LGBTQ people should be ordained as clergy.

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

According to Duke, one of the reasons he was invited to appear on “We’re Here” was because of the divisions in both his own church and the UMC.

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by Anonymousreply 65January 20, 2022 8:35 PM

“My only hope and goal was and is to bring the message of God’s unconditional love to a community that has been greatly marginalized,” Duke wrote to his congregation.

The decision to terminate Duke’s duties already has had ripple effects. His wife, Linda, who was pastor of youth ministry, resigned. So did church administrative assistant Erin Sexton, who along with her husband, Chris, organized a GoFundMe campaign to help the Dukes.

As of Wednesday morning, more than $52,000 had been pledged by more than 900 people, scores of whom added comments thanking Duke for his LGBTQ advocacy.

Chris Sexton said he had been a member of Newburgh United Methodist since childhood and described Duke as “one of the most captivating and genuine” of the many pastors who served over the years. But the Sextons said many congregants shied away from the conflict over “We’re Here,” allowing Duke’s critics to dominate the debate.

Duke is unsure what his next step will be, though he doesn’t plan to return to pastoring. One possibility, he said, would be for him and his wife to establish “an inclusive camp” for youths and young adults.

“My heart is moving in a new direction,” he said. “There are so many people who have been hurt by religion, felt rejection, who are reaching out, who are hopeful this will spark me to do something different on their behalf.”

by Anonymousreply 1January 18, 2022 8:31 PM

He's the slightly les enormous one on right. Who is his zaftig friend, in many photos.

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by Anonymousreply 2January 18, 2022 8:36 PM

The UBER GAYness of this mis en scene.

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by Anonymousreply 3January 18, 2022 8:37 PM

Do the drag queens on the show ever go to mosques and try this?

by Anonymousreply 4January 18, 2022 8:37 PM

You're right, R4, total hypocrites.

by Anonymousreply 5January 18, 2022 8:42 PM

[quote]Duke was invited to participate in the show by an LGBTQ Pride group in nearby Evansville and accepted in part to show support for his 23-year-old daughter, Tiffany, who identifies as pansexual.

WTF is pansexual again?

by Anonymousreply 6January 18, 2022 8:42 PM

She fucks Calphalon, R6

by Anonymousreply 7January 18, 2022 8:44 PM

Obese.

Cinically and MORBIDLY obese.

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by Anonymousreply 8January 18, 2022 8:45 PM

That's hilarious, R8.

I love it.

Fuck the haters.

by Anonymousreply 9January 18, 2022 8:48 PM

R4, he has always preached inclusion so why are people suddenly offended?

I wonder why conservabots have to drag Muslims into everything?

by Anonymousreply 10January 18, 2022 8:48 PM

An alternative opinion—

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by Anonymousreply 11January 18, 2022 8:48 PM

Too bad he had to head a church full of bigots.

But his mayonnaise is the best!

by Anonymousreply 12January 18, 2022 8:49 PM

R4, he wasn't doing drag IN CHURCH...dumb comparison

by Anonymousreply 13January 18, 2022 8:49 PM

I don't think he is the HUGE one. Please look at photo at R2. I don't know who the HUGE one is. There seems to be some confusion.

by Anonymousreply 14January 18, 2022 8:50 PM

In the WaPO photo I believe he is 2nd from LEFT.

by Anonymousreply 15January 18, 2022 8:51 PM

You're right, R15.

It actually says that directly beneath the photo. The pastor is SECOND FROM LEFT.

by Anonymousreply 16January 18, 2022 8:52 PM

A pastor is 'a shepherd' to his flock'.

They're paid to dispense wisdom to his followers.

This fat man displayed a very BIG error of judgement.

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by Anonymousreply 17January 18, 2022 8:57 PM

That fat, foolish man was pastor in Evansville, Indiana which is that town where DL fave TayTay had his broken home upbringing.

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by Anonymousreply 18January 18, 2022 9:04 PM

r13, people like R4 are just obsessed with their bigotry. I'm sure it's like Tourettes for them. Just blurt it out no matter the topic.

by Anonymousreply 19January 18, 2022 9:04 PM

What's the bigotry exactly R19? Get an imam to do drag on the show.

by Anonymousreply 20January 18, 2022 9:08 PM

Yes, R19, get a troupe of Burka-wearers and Niqab-wearers to appear on that show.

I want to them lip-sync behind their veils.

by Anonymousreply 21January 18, 2022 9:12 PM

No, R20. The fact that you couldn't help yourself and just decided to pull a "look over there" as if to absolve the Christians who fired this guy. What exactly was your point in making this about Muslims?

I don't doubt you've also ignored that even the hostages themselves in TX said that guy was mentally ill and decided that it's the fault of every Muslim, too. '

by Anonymousreply 22January 18, 2022 9:26 PM

R18, of course Tay Tay loves drag too.....perhaps he learnt it from this Pastor?

by Anonymousreply 23January 18, 2022 9:29 PM

[quote] What exactly was your point in making this about Muslims?

What exactly was your point in making this about an incident in Texas?

by Anonymousreply 24January 18, 2022 9:30 PM

[quote] Tay Tay loves drag

Tay Tay looks so pathetic in drag. It really turned me off him.

by Anonymousreply 25January 18, 2022 9:31 PM

Who is TayTay?

by Anonymousreply 26January 18, 2022 9:32 PM

Pansexual doesn't exist. It's a made up term from Torchwood. There is no such thing as pansexual studies. Why are idiots using this bullshit as a form of sexual orientation!

by Anonymousreply 27January 18, 2022 9:32 PM

R21, no one is forced to be on this show. You're acting like they're forcing pastors to do drag. Um, no. This guy volunteered.

by Anonymousreply 28January 18, 2022 9:33 PM

R27, "gay" is a made-up term. So is "straight"

by Anonymousreply 29January 18, 2022 9:33 PM

R22 when do I refer to anything about absolving Christians or what happened in TX? Quote exactly where I said anything about that.

by Anonymousreply 30January 18, 2022 9:33 PM

R26 Pay attention to R18 where TayTay is first mentioned!

by Anonymousreply 31January 18, 2022 9:34 PM

R17, what is a homophobic fundie like you doing on this forum?

This guy has been supportive of LGBT rights before and they didn't complain before

by Anonymousreply 32January 18, 2022 9:35 PM

[quote] Tay Tay looks so pathetic in drag. It really turned me off him.

Our pastor looks so pathetic in drag. It really turned me off him.

by Anonymousreply 33January 18, 2022 9:38 PM

R29 pansexual has no basis in reality, studies, or science is what I meant.

by Anonymousreply 34January 18, 2022 9:48 PM

It's incredible that some eye-shadow, lipstick and a wig is capable of making these christians lose their shits.

They are certainly living in the 18th century, but according to the right-wingers on DL they are on OUR side.

by Anonymousreply 35January 18, 2022 9:50 PM

[quote] They are certainly living in the 18th century

Why do you care?

That fat man chose to be a pastor in an18th century institution and he has to abide by the rules.

You don't.

by Anonymousreply 36January 18, 2022 9:53 PM

I care about homophobes using their fucking POWER to impose more homophobia, I'm an atheist, but some 80% of the population out there id made of christians, christians who will go to these churches,absorb their bullshit and then lash out at OTHERS who do drag or do not go to their churchs, including their own LGBTTQ kids.

by Anonymousreply 37January 18, 2022 9:59 PM

[quote] It's incredible that some eye-shadow, lipstick and a wig ……

You need to get out of your bubble and realise that there are other human beings in the world who don't think like you.

by Anonymousreply 38January 18, 2022 10:00 PM

R37 if you object to Christianity or denounce Jesus on here, you get slammed and FF'ed into oblivion.

by Anonymousreply 39January 18, 2022 10:01 PM

R37 Your sentence marks you as a definitive, stereotypical Social Justice Warrior.

You would have more credibility if you did it on person rather than anonymously online.

by Anonymousreply 40January 18, 2022 10:02 PM

[quote] some eye-shadow, lipstick and a wig is capable of making these christians lose their shits.

These Christians have their own toilets.

Don't you worry about it.

by Anonymousreply 41January 18, 2022 10:06 PM

And they certainly don't belong on a GAY MESSAGE BOARD R38. 🌈

PLUS, that priest/pastor/whatever is a HUMAN BEING and just like ANY other Human Being he should be ENTITLED to doll himself up with some lipstick, it's not a swastika and it's NOT A CRIME either. BUT I AM SURE some of those.... "Christians" feel less offended by a swatika than a man wearing a purple wig.

by Anonymousreply 42January 18, 2022 10:15 PM

And how exactly do you know what I do when I'm NOT online R40?

Do you think online activism is the only form of activism out there?

by Anonymousreply 43January 18, 2022 10:16 PM

Dear R43 I'd be glad to watch and admire your skill in all that various Social Justice Warrior activities you perform while not online.

by Anonymousreply 44January 18, 2022 10:25 PM

"Pansexual doesn't exist. It's a made up term from Torchwood. "

No, I remember the term being used when I was young, in the seventies or eighties. "Pan" means "all", and back then it meant a person who is attracted to anything - humans of any sex and possibly age, toys, soft fruit, animals...

Now it just means "Humans of either sex and whatever it is you identify as". Words change meaning over time, this is sudden as complete changes in popular definitions go.

by Anonymousreply 45January 18, 2022 10:29 PM

R44, I'd be glad to watch you masturbating to pictures of your idol, Donald Trump

by Anonymousreply 46January 18, 2022 10:31 PM

R38, Christian homophobes are the ones living in a bubble. 70% of people support gay marriage and the number of people who go to church keeps decreasing

by Anonymousreply 47January 18, 2022 10:33 PM

R36, where does it say in the Bible that doing drag is a sin?

by Anonymousreply 48January 18, 2022 10:33 PM

R34, yes, it does. You realize a lot of people are not attracted to just one sex, right?

by Anonymousreply 49January 18, 2022 10:34 PM

Methodists always have been small-brained things.

(Spits.)

by Anonymousreply 50January 18, 2022 10:35 PM

R40, using terms like "Social Justice Warrior" just exposes you as a racist and homophobic Trumpster with a low IQ.

by Anonymousreply 51January 18, 2022 10:35 PM

He wouldn't have had this problem as a Catholic priest. They are in drag every day.

by Anonymousreply 52January 18, 2022 10:36 PM

If he had gone to a barbecue hosted by ethnic poors in the slums on Newburgh (and that town is GRIM) and yucked it up ethnic style (hispanic, black, Zoroastrian - whatever flavor is present) as OUTREACH to the flock, would they have fired him?

by Anonymousreply 53January 18, 2022 10:37 PM

r51 I know, right? I'm not sure how I should feel about this. Did it involve a cruise ship?

by Anonymousreply 54January 18, 2022 10:37 PM

Where is the video clip of the show?

by Anonymousreply 55January 18, 2022 10:48 PM

Well, some of you will be pleased to hear there are only about 20 Christians in the congegation at 5.00.

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by Anonymousreply 56January 18, 2022 11:04 PM

R18: did someone call?

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by Anonymousreply 57January 18, 2022 11:31 PM

^ Ex-Evansville, Indiana.

Father left the family, mother very cagey about being seen on camera.

by Anonymousreply 58January 18, 2022 11:32 PM

[quote]Do the drag queens on the show ever go to mosques and try this?

Of course not because they’re a bunch of cowardly assholes.

by Anonymousreply 59January 18, 2022 11:36 PM

A church pastor is there to help lead a congregation to understand and communicate with their Christian god. He may wear special clothes and perform arcane rituals but he isn't the star of their religious service.

He should have a pious humility and NOT be the star of 'a show'.

by Anonymousreply 60January 19, 2022 1:41 AM

I wonder how the termination of this Methodist minister's contract compares to the University President's here—

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by Anonymousreply 61January 20, 2022 12:02 AM

Are you also going to suggest that to people like Victoria Osteen and her family R60?

Or is it only a problem when a pastor tries to help the LGBTTQ youth and people?

by Anonymousreply 62January 20, 2022 8:15 PM

[quote]LGBTTQ

What’s the other T? There are two Ts now?

by Anonymousreply 63January 20, 2022 8:31 PM

Lesbians Gays Bisexual Transexuals and other Transgenders Queer

people.

I also left out the Intersexuals and Asexuals

out of laziness, but now you know the acronym.

by Anonymousreply 64January 20, 2022 8:34 PM

Gays did that^. I blame gays for this. ^

by Anonymousreply 65January 20, 2022 8:35 PM
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