Methodist Pastor Let Go After Appearing on HBO in Drag

The United Methodist Church has relieved an Indiana pastor of his duties after the pastor appeared in drag on an HBO reality series.

Rev. Craig Duke was pastor of Newburgh United Methodist Church when he appeared on the HBO series We’re Here, about a group of drag queens who travel the country teaching people how to perform in drag. In his episode, Duke preached to his congregation before changing into his drag persona and singing Ke$ha’s song “We Are Who We Are” with his “drag mother” Eureka O’Hara.

Duke said he appeared on the show to support his daughter, who has declared herself pansexual. The pastor has spoken out in favor of the LGBT community on other occasions as well.

Mitch Gieselman, superintendent of the South and Southwest Districts of the Indiana UMC Conference, sent a letter to the congregation, in which he stated that Duke and his wife Linda, who served as the church’s youth pastor, would continue to live in the church’s parsonage until the end of February. He also urged the congregation to pray for the Dukes and stated that:

Craig has not “resigned,” nor has he been “fired,” as these are not actions that are consistent with our appointment system. While there is a diversity of opinion regarding the moral implications of Rev. Duke’s actions, he has not been found to have committed any chargeable offense or other violation of the United Methodist Book of Discipline.

In short, Craig 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. 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.

Rev. Mark Dicken, the interim pastor also wrote to the congregation in the church’s weekly newsletter, in which he urged them to stay faithful to their home church:

I am committed to helping NUMC through this challenging time. But I will need your help.
Come home.
Come home to Newburgh United Methodist Church.
Come home for worship.
Come home for the holidays – and beyond.
Healing takes time. Reconciliation and rebuilding trust is not easy and can be frustrating and sometimes painful.
Most of all, come home to Christ.

When HBO filmed the episode at the church in July, congregants reacted with shock and surprise. Shortly after that, Duke apologized.

Duke wrote an apology to the congregation in August, saying he was sorry his leadership’s trust was damaged, but defended himself by saying, “I was willing and excited to share God’s love with the LGBTQ community on a national level.”

The incident reveals the strong division in the United Methodist Church, which has fractured in recent years between liberal and conservative factions.

Recommended: New Study Finds that Christianity Is the #1 Religion Targeted in Hate Crimes

Newsweek reports:

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.

Back in April, the UMC presented its first drag queen as a candidate for ministry when it named Isaac Simmons, a 23-year-old gay man who performs (and preaches) in drag as Ms. Penny Cost. (Penny Cost…Pentecost…get it?) Simmons delivered a sermon as Penny Cost at the virtual service of Hope Church in Bloomington, Illinois on April 11, which was dubbed — you can’t make this up — Drag Sunday.

“It is our way of celebrating and uplifting the voices of drag artistry within the church,” Ms. Penny Cost said during the service.

Shortly after the Drag Sunday spectacle, the always perceptive Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, reminded his podcast listeners that the UMC is flying in the face of thousands of years of scriptural orthodoxy:

The Christian church would have to see this very development and this very carnivalesque drag identity as an intentional refutation and revolt against the very order of creation that God has given us, and a direct violation of the clear teachings of Scripture concerning the fact that those whom God has made as men should identify as men. Those whom God has made as women should identify as women. That is found in paralleled scriptural teachings, by the way, in both the Old and New Testaments.

Another very interesting part of this man’s statement is the fact that he can hardly believe this has only happened in 2021.

He went on to note that a genuine divide is solidifying between those who side with God and those who side with the world:

This is open revolt, and of course, you’re going to see a division between those who are appalled by it, deeply troubled by it, deeply concerned by it and opposed to it on the one hand, and those who celebrate it and say that it’s arrived far too late on the other hand.

Just to state the obvious, you’re looking not only at two different positions, as we will understand, you’re looking at two different religions and those two different religions cannot possibly continue to exist in one church or in one denomination.

Everyday citizens — including Christians — are increasingly finding themselves having to choose between the truth and wokeness. Our society is heading down diverging paths, and everyone must choose one or the other. Duke chose the woke world, and he lost his pastorate as a result. And it’s terribly sad that a church body is suffering for it, too.

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