UMC Pastor Relieved of Duties After Appearance As Drag Queen on HBO Series Causes Uproar

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A pastor in the United Methodist Church has been relieved of his duties and given a reduction in pay after performing in drag for the HBO series “We’re Here.”

Effective December 1, Rev. Craig Duke was replaced as lead pastor for Newburgh United Methodist Church in Newburgh, Indiana after his appearance on the program in early November sparked a slew of critical and supportive feedback, The Christian Post reports.

The series centers around experienced drag artists who travel to small towns across the country to teach local residents how to perform in drag themselves.

Duke was inspired to take part in the program in support of his daughter, who identifies as pansexual, and had been nominated to do so by the River City Pride organization. He is an open LGBT advocate.

Superintendent of the South and Southwest Districts of the Indiana UMC Conference, Mitch Gieselman, emphasized that Duke is neither being fired or stepping down, but simply “has reached a place where he feels unable to continue to serve in parish ministry at present.”

“During his time of being relieved from pastoral duties, he will be engaging in a process of renewal, reflection, and recovery that will be monitored by our conference Director of Leadership Development, Bishop Trimble, and myself,” he wrote in a letter.

“Our desire is to provide an opportunity for Craig to again be able to utilize his numerous gifts as a pastor in a local congregation. He will not, however, be returning to the NUMC pulpit.”

Over the last several years, UMC has experienced a growing divide over attitudes towards the LGBT lifestyle in church leadership.

A pastoral candidate in Illinois recently became the denomination’s first officially certified candidate who also has a drag alter ego, Ms. Penny Cost, in whose appearance he has given sermons to his congregation.

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