Pastor Leaves His Church After Appearing on HBO Drag Show

A United Methodist Church pastor in Indiana stepped down after performing in drag and speaking about inclusion on the show “We’re Here.”

Pastor Craig Duke at the start of his drag performance in an episode of the unscripted HBO show “We’re Here.” The show’s second season premiered in October.

By Amanda Holpuch

When Pastor Craig Duke stepped onstage in a small town in southern Indiana, wearing a cotton-candy-pink wig and a sparkly dress under his white robe, he knew his performance would rile some members of his congregation.

He did not, however, expect his drag debut to bring an end to his role leading Newburgh United Methodist Church in a suburb of Evansville.

Mr. Duke’s performance was part of the unscripted HBO show “We’re Here,” which documents L.G.B.T.Q. people and their allies in small towns who put together a drag show, led by three drag all-stars.

The episode that featured the pastor premiered in early November and in it, he explained that he appeared on the show so he could be “empathetic, not just sympathetic” to the community’s gay members. Three weeks later, the church announced that he had been “relieved from pastoral duties.”

In an interview this week, Mr. Duke said he had received enough critical feedback since the show aired to convince him he could not continue leading the church, which he said had about 400 congregants. He said that he was hurt by the negative responses but that he had also received hundreds of messages of support.

“I experienced as much love and acceptance, and dare I say more, within the drag culture and the L.G.B.T.Q. community than most people would experience within the settings of the church,” Mr. Duke said. “Not one person questioned what I was doing there; it was complete acceptance.”

Mr. Duke last preached on Nov. 14, a week after his episode aired. A local church leader said in a letter to the congregation dated Nov. 26 that Mr. Duke would be relieved from his duties on Dec. 1.

The superintendent of the south and southwest district of the Indiana United Methodist Church, the Rev. Mitch Gieselman, wrote in the letter that he had received numerous messages both supporting and criticizing Mr. Duke’s actions.

Mr. Gieselman said that the pastor had not resigned or been fired, but that his salary had been significantly reduced and he and his family would have to move out of the parsonage by Feb. 28.

“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,” Mr. Gieselman wrote.

The pastor’s supporters created an online fund-raiser, which had raised more than $56,000 as of Wednesday morning. He said any money raised over the $30,000 goal set to help his family would go toward creating a new faith community in town that he hopes is more inclusive.

Pastor Craig Duke, middle left, and the drag queen Eureka O’Hara, middle right, performed at an event after Mr. Duke’s drag transformation on the HBO series.
Pastor Craig Duke, middle left, and the drag queen Eureka O’Hara, middle right, performed at an event after Mr. Duke’s drag transformation on the HBO series.Credit…

The public split in this congregation came during a stalemate about rights for L.G.B.T.Q. members of the United Methodist Church, which has nearly 13 million members worldwide. Roughly half of them are in the United States.

Ahead of a 2020 meeting of global delegates, a group of church leaders introduced a proposal to split the church, citing “fundamental differences” over same-sex marriage. The traditionalists signed a letter declaring that “the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.” But the debate on the proposal has been delayed for nearly two years because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposal, which would create a denomination that continues to ban same-sex marriage and the ordination of gay and lesbian clergy, is scheduled to be debated at the church’s general conference in August 2022.

The interim pastor at Newburgh United Methodist Church, the Rev. Mark Dicken, said the Methodist church had “regrettably” been fighting over this issue for more than 40 years.

“Very regrettably, the extremely conservative wing of the United Methodist Church has crammed through rather draconian provisions in their attempt to control clergy and their ministry to L.G.B.T.Q. people,” Mr. Dicken said.

Mr. Dicken worked at the church in Newburgh from 2004 to 2011 and came out of retirement to lead the congregation again.

“The tribalism and polarization that’s going on in our culture, particularly in our political culture, has filtered down into the church,” he said.

In the HBO show, which was nominated for an Emmy in 2020, three drag stars, Shangela, Bob the Drag Queen and Eureka O’Hara, confront these divisions while mentoring people for the show-ending drag performance. All three posted messages of support for Mr. Duke after the news about him leaving his position became public.

O’Hara, who was the pastor’s drag mother or mentor, said on Twitter: “Craig is an amazing person and deserves the same love that he shares with everyone around him.”

The pastor, who is straight and described himself as “heteronormative,” was nominated to be featured in the show by the Evansville Pride group. He said he had never heard of the show but decided to participate to share a message of God’s unconditional love and to support his daughter, who identifies as pansexual. He used Joan of Arc O’Hara as his drag name.

He said the negative response from some members of the congregation was especially painful because of the way it hurt his daughter. But his wife and the rest of his family are “sticking together,” he said, and they have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support.

He said he was grateful for his experience in drag.

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

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic order says it will open up residential school records in Rome — but survivor remains skeptical

Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate operated 48 residential schools in Canada

Evelyn Korkmaz, a survivor of abuse at St. Anne’s Indian Residential School, has long been calling on the Oblates to release records in Canada and Rome.

A Catholic order that ran residential schools across Canada now says it will open up its archives in Rome to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR).

This is welcome news for survivors, many of whom have long called for the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and other Catholic entities to make their records available.

Survivor Evelyn Korkmaz says she remains skeptical, though.

“The devil is in the details. We have to know the details before anybody agrees to releasing these documents,” said Korkmaz, a survivor of abuse at St. Anne’s Indian Residential School in Fort Albany, Ont.

She wants access to her own student records, as well as journals and other archives, so she can trace her experience at the school.

“We’ve been disappointed in the past. So I don’t want to get my hopes up and get these documents and find out that they were redacted,” said Korkmaz.

A joint statement between the NCTR and the Oblates, released on Tuesday, said the religious order will grant “full access to critical residential school records.”

The Oblates operated 48 residential schools in Canada, including the Marieval Indian Residential School in Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan and the Kamloops Indian Residential School in Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in B.C., where unmarked graves have recently been identified.

Stephanie Scott is the executive director of the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

The centre’s executive director, Stephanie Scott, said she’s had recent discussions with Oblate Father Ken Thorson about access to the records and he offered an opportunity to “investigate their archives, find some research, see what’s available.”

“There could have been letters written that ended up in Rome that are there, so we’re going to find out what truly exists,” said Scott.

Those records belong to Canada. They belong to the people first and foremost.
– Brenda Macdougall, University of Ottawa

The Oblate leadership is now seeking the most appropriate way to figure out what documents may exist, and to ensure documents related to Oblate involvement in residential schools might be made available, Thorson told CBC in an email.

He said documents will not be redacted and “any records from residential schools found in this process would be returned to Canada.”

“We are looking to the [centre] for guidance in the development of an appropriate third-party process to facilitate this preliminary work. We anticipate being able to share more about this in the near future,” said Thorson.

No longer in this country

In November, CBC reported that researchers in Ottawa had uncovered new evidence to suggest some archival records relating to residential schools in Canada are now only available in Rome.

“The records that we had looked at here are no longer in this country,” said Brenda Macdougall, a professor and research chair in Métis family and community traditions at the University of Ottawa.

She and a research colleague made the discovery when updating an academic article.

“Those records belong to Canada. They belong to the people first and foremost. … They have to come back through subpoena or the Church. The Pope himself can suspend canonical law and return them,” Macdougall told CBC in November.

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation already holds close to 7,000 survivor statements and more than five million records, said Scott.

She said there’s a commitment to finding all residential school records “no matter where they are located or how long it takes.”

Complete Article HERE!

Predictably, SF’s Infuriating Catholic Archbishop Is Not Vaccinated

By Jay Barmann

Color me unsurprised. San Francisco’s homophobic gem of a Catholic Archbishop, who’s more concerned with making abortion and gay marriage illegal again than with a silly pandemic, claims that his personal physician has told him he doesn’t need a COVID vaccine.

Maybe the Catholic Church in San Francisco employs physicians who practice Christian Science-style faith healing, but Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone says that his doctor has, bizarrely, advised against him getting vaccinated because, and we quote, “my immune system is strong” and it’s “probably not necessary” for him to get vaccinated. This is odd but hardly surprising given what we know about the man — and all this came out during an interview this week with the Chronicle’s “It’s All Political” podcast in which Cordileone was glad to discuss the conservative-leaning Supreme Court’s likely upcoming overturning of Roe v. Wade.

“The problem is… that too many women have no choice,” Cordileone says, making a circular argument about why women get abortions instead of being pro-life. He argues that many women are lied to in abortion clinics and when they change their minds at the last minute, they’re pushed by clinicians to go ahead and abort their pregnancies.

As for why he’s not vaccinated, Cordileone says, “There are a number of reasons, and from what I’ve been able to learn about the vaccines, and about the dangers of COVID, and talking with my own primary health care physician, I do have a good immune system, and he told me that it’s probably not necessary for me to be vaccinated. He didn’t dissuade me from being vaccinated, but he said it was fine if I didn’t get vaccinated.”

He then goes on to parrot various conservative-pundit talking points, spouting some pseudo-science about how these “aren’t really vaccines in the traditional sense” because they don’t offer long-term immunity from the virus, only temporary protection. And he says something that no scientist has asserted, which is that booster shots will likely be needed “every six months” going forward.

And then he blathers on about how he’s been in multiple situations in which he probably would have been infected if he didn’t have this blessed-by-God immune system, including being in an enclosed space with someone who later turned out to be COVID-positive.

He’s also not concerned about spreading the virus to others unknowingly, because, again, he’s a self-appointed expert and he says that asymptomatic people “very rarely” spread the virus, and he would stay home if he were feeling sick.

Anyway, he’s an asshole! We knew this already.

As ABC 7 notes, after the Pope told all Catholics that getting vaccinated was an “act of love” to our fellow humans, Cordileone issued a statement saying, “I join Pope Francis and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in advising you to get vaccinated if your doctor recommends it.”

But, he’s still a political animal who’s at odds with most of the residents in the city in which he lives. And he’d rather go with Joe Rogan and Fox News on this.

Complete Article HERE!