ALEXANDRIA — The Steele family in Alexandria has one request. They want their church back.
David Steele and his family, who attend the United Methodist Church in Alexandria, feel their church has been stolen from them. The issue of contention is one that has split churches before: whether a gay man can serve in a leadership position.
Adam Fraley, the man at the center of the controversy, said this is a civil rights issue. He was not re-hired as the church’s choral director because of his sexual orientation.
According to United Methodist Church law, gay people are welcome to attend services but the line is drawn at positions of leadership.
The law states, “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”
The question of what "serve" means is a little ambiguous. Dan Gangler, director of communications for the Indiana Conference of the UMC, said the church only prohibits practicing gays being ordained.
"Any other leadership positions should be filled at the discretion of the congregation and the minister," Gangler said.
Fraley, who took the job at the behest of David’s wife, Nancy Steele, six years ago, said he was not openly gay while working at the church. But his partner attended services with him and the Steele family said it was “obvious” Fraley was gay.
Regardless of his orientation, Fraley was the choral director for the church and everyone enjoyed his work. Then, earlier this year, a new minister came in who said he was uncomfortable with Fraley leading the music. Although the minister didn’t fire him, Fraley eventually resigned because of an added work load. He said he felt uncomfortable with the ways things had gone after the new minister came in.