Pastor Who Appeared in Drag on HBO's 'We're Here' Leaves Church

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A United Methodist Church pastor successful Indiana stepped down aft performing successful resistance and speaking astir inclusion connected the amusement “We’re Here.”

Pastor Craig Duke astatine  the commencement  of his resistance  show  successful  an occurrence  of the unscripted HBO amusement   “We’re Here.” The show’s 2nd  play   premiered successful  October.
Credit...Jakes Giles Netter/ HBO

Dec. 8, 2021, 8:34 a.m. ET

When Pastor Craig Duke stepped onstage successful a tiny municipality successful confederate Indiana, wearing a cotton-candy-pink wig and a sparkly formal nether his achromatic robe, helium knew his show would rile immoderate members of his congregation.

He did not, however, expect his resistance debut to bring an extremity to his relation starring Newburgh United Methodist Church successful a suburb of Evansville.

Mr. Duke’s show was portion of the unscripted HBO amusement “We’re Here,” which documents L.G.B.T.Q. radical and their allies successful tiny towns who enactment unneurotic a resistance show, led by 3 resistance all-stars.

The occurrence that featured the pastor premiered successful aboriginal November and successful it, helium explained that helium appeared connected the amusement truthful helium could beryllium “empathetic, not conscionable sympathetic” to the community’s cheery members. Three weeks later, the religion announced that helium had been “relieved from pastoral duties.”

In an interrogation this week, Mr. Duke said helium had received capable captious feedback since the amusement aired to person him helium could not proceed starring the church, which helium said had astir 400 congregants. He said that helium was wounded by the antagonistic responses but that helium had besides received hundreds of messages of support.

“I experienced arsenic overmuch emotion and acceptance, and situation I accidental more, wrong the resistance civilization and the L.G.B.T.Q. assemblage than astir radical would acquisition wrong the settings of the church,” Mr. Duke said. “Not 1 idiosyncratic questioned what I was doing there; it was implicit acceptance.”

Mr. Duke past preached connected Nov. 14, a week aft his occurrence aired. A section religion person said in a letter to the congregation dated Nov. 26 that Mr. Duke would beryllium relieved from his duties connected Dec. 1.

The superintendent of the southbound and southwest territory of the Indiana United Methodist Church, the Rev. Mitch Gieselman, wrote successful the missive that helium had received galore messages some supporting and criticizing Mr. Duke’s actions.

Mr. Gieselman said that the pastor had not resigned oregon been fired, but that his wage had been importantly reduced and helium and his household would person to determination retired of the parsonage by Feb. 28. “While determination is simply a diverseness of sentiment regarding the motivation implications of Rev. Duke’s actions, helium has not been recovered to person committed immoderate chargeable discourtesy oregon different usurpation of the United Methodist Book of Discipline,” Mr. Gieselman wrote.

The pastor’s supporters created an online fund-raiser, which had raised much than $56,000 arsenic of Wednesday morning. He said immoderate wealth raised implicit the $30,000 extremity acceptable to assistance his household would spell toward creating a caller religion assemblage successful municipality that helium hopes is much inclusive.

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Credit...Johnnie Ingram/ HBO

The nationalist divided successful this congregation came during a stalemate astir rights for L.G.B.T.Q. members of the United Methodist Church, which has astir 13 cardinal members worldwide. Roughly fractional of them are successful the United States.

Ahead of a 2020 gathering of planetary delegates, a radical of religion leaders introduced a proposal to divided the church, citing “fundamental differences” implicit same-sex marriage. But a statement connected the contented has been delayed for astir 2 years due to the fact that of the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposal, which would make a denomination that continues to prohibition same-sex matrimony and the ordination of cheery and lesbian clergy, is scheduled to beryllium debated astatine the church’s wide league successful August 2022.

The interim pastor astatine Newburgh United Methodist Church, the Rev. Mark Dicken, said the Methodist religion had “regrettably” been warring implicit this contented for much than 40 years.

“Very regrettably, the highly blimpish helping of the United Methodist Church has crammed done alternatively draconian provisions successful their effort to power clergy and their ministry to L.G.B.T.Q. people,” Mr. Dicken said.

Mr. Dicken worked astatine the religion successful Newburgh from 2004 to 2011 and came retired of status to pb the congregation again.

“The tribalism and polarization that’s going connected successful our culture, peculiarly successful our governmental culture, has filtered down into the church,” helium said.

In the HBO show, which was nominated for an Emmy successful 2020, 3 resistance stars, Shangela, Bob the Drag Queen and Eureka O’Hara, face these divisions portion mentoring radical for the show-ending resistance performance. All 3 posted messages of enactment for Mr. Duke aft the quality astir him leaving his presumption became public.

O’Hara, who was the pastor’s resistance parent oregon mentor, said on Twitter: “Craig is an astonishing idiosyncratic and deserves the aforesaid emotion that helium shares with everyone astir him.”

The pastor, who utilized Joan of Arc O’Hara arsenic his resistance name, was nominated to beryllium featured successful the amusement by the Evansville Pride group. He said helium had ne'er heard of the amusement but decided to enactment to stock a connection of God’s unconditional emotion and to enactment his daughter, who identifies arsenic pansexual.

He said the antagonistic effect from immoderate members of the congregation was particularly achy due to the fact that of the mode it wounded his daughter. But the household is “sticking together,” helium said, and has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.

He said helium was grateful for his acquisition successful drag.

“It was real, it wasn’t vaudeville, it was powerful, arsenic the words they taught me, it was fierce, it was authentic,” Mr. Duke said.

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