An Indiana church will close at the end of this year, which saw a large number of congregants walk out in January after forcing its gay choir director to resign.
David Mantor, pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Alexandria, said attendance and donations had been spiraling downward for 30 years.
“This is a problem that’s going on everywhere, and that’s why we’re closing,” Mantor said.
He insisted the Dec. 31 closure had nothing to do with Adam Fraley, who had attended the church for six years with his partner and was hired by the congregation to lead the choir.
Congregants said Mantor was hired at the same time with the stipulation that he accept Fraley as a colleague, but they said he reneged after he took over as minister.
David Steele, a former lay leader for the church, said Mantor asked him to resign, as well, after he asked the minister to reconsider his position on Fraley.
Steele, who has not been back to the church he attended for 60 years since stepping down in January, said about 80 percent of the congregation had left the church following the ousters.
Steele’s daughter, Danielle, said donations had plummeted because congregants left the church over Mantor’s anti-LGBT stance.
“This church is closing precisely because of David Mantor, precisely because of the issues surrounding gay rights in the church,” Danielle Steele told The Raw Story.
United Methodist Church law allows LGBT people to attend church services but says “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve.”
A spokesperson for the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church said LGBT people were prohibited from being ordained as ministers, but church leadership was authorized to make decisions on other roles.
Steele said the church’s congregation included up to 700 people when his father, Clayton Steele, was minister.
The church was founded in the late 1800s, and its current location was built in 1901 and renovated in 2002.
Updated Dec. 18 at 9:16 a.m.: Clarified details about Fraley’s removal as choir director and added comments from Danielle Steele.