The United Methodist Church is denying that an Indiana church dismissed its openly gay choir director over his sexual orientation.
Dan Gangler, spokesman for the UMC Indiana Conference, told The Christian Post that First United Methodist Church of Alexandria had other reasons for not re-hiring Adam Fraley.
"The position was not open. Mr. Fraley had resigned earlier in the year and the pastor did not think it wise to re-hire him since he already have once resigned from the position," said Gangler. "This was a personnel decision. The position was the church's position in the first place. The church has the option to fill or not fill a particular position."
First UMC made national headlines when word got out that their gay choral director had not been rehired by the church's lead pastor. Fraley claimed he was let go by a recently appointed minister due to his sexual orientation, reported Teresa Mackin of WISH TV.
Fraley said he talked to one of the church's lay leaders, David Steele, about coming back to the church at his position as choir director under the new interim minister. "Steele said he then, spoke with the new minister, who at first said he would be OK with Fraley in that position. Then, Steele says, he changed his mind," according to WISH TV.
First UMC also reportedly suffered a steep decline in its worship attendance, with several online news sources claiming that as many as 80 percent of the congregation had opted to worship elsewhere.
News of the large exodus from First UMC made the rounds at various LGBT websites, including Towleroad, The Advocate, and the "Gay Voices" section of The Huffington Post.
"The laws for the United Methodist Church say that gay men and women are welcomed and are allowed to be members of the church; however, they are forbidden from having any sort of leadership position," wrote Christian Walters of Towleroad. "This was the rationale used when the United Methodist Church in Alexandria, Indiana chose to not re-hire choral director Adam Fraley, who was driven from his position by a new minister after six years of service to the church."
Gangler told CP that the 80 percent number was "not true", noting that church records indicated that the small congregation continued to have normal levels of attendance for worship.
"The Rev. Michelle Cobb, who is the North Central District Superintendent who oversees the churches in this region of Indiana, reported to me that attendance has been maintained at an average level of around 35 worshippers per Sunday," said Gangler.