The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Faith

February 23, 2014

Singing in protest

Former church members plan demonstration in Alexandria

ALEXANDRIA — A group ostracized from the Alexandria United Methodist Church will be back in service today, letting the rest of the remaining congregation know they are still fighting to get their church back.

A large group of members left the church in January in protest over Adam Fraley, a former choir director, not being hired because of his sexual orientation.

David Steele, who formerly held a leadership position in the church, is spearheading the charge along with his family. They and about 80 percent of the congregation left after minister David Mantor declined to hire Fraley because he said he was uncomfortable with Fraley being gay.

This Sunday, to provide a reminder to Mantor and the remaining congregation they are still in support of Fraley, the former congregation plans to hold a protest outside the church.

Nancy Steele, David Steele's wife, is the one who originally encouraged Fraley to become the choir director. She said the group will be singing outside the church from 10:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. before sitting in on the service.

"We want to let the pastor and the hierarchy know that we are still here and we are not going away," Nancy Steele said. "We will keep the issue before the public eye. It is still our church and we still want it back."

The Steele family said back in January they felt like their church had been stolen from them. They claimed Mantor was the only one who didn't want Fraley back and he got his way instead of listening to the voice of the congregation. And United Methodist law states the congregation gets final say on which leaders should be hired.

Nancy Steele said she hasn't heard anything from the District Superintendent Michelle Cobb or Mantor since the split. She said the protest is a way to remind them the group is not going away and is still upset about how things have been handled.

The group plans on wearing shirts at the protest with the United Methodist Church's motto on them "Open hearts, open minds, open doors."

The Steeles said back in January they thought it was odd a church with that motto would shut its doors on a gay man.

The protesters plan to meet in Cox's store parking lot near the church.

Follow Zach Osowski on Twitter @Osowski_THB, or call 640-4847.

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