Queer pastor on trial for being ‘practicing homosexual’ takes leave of absence

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The Rev. Anna Blaedel (second from left), an openly queer pastor in Iowa City, said they expect to lose their job following the United Methodist Church's vote last week to keep bans on LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriages.
The Rev. Anna Blaedel (second from left), an openly queer pastor in Iowa City, said they expect to lose their job following the United Methodist Church’s vote last week to keep bans on LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriages.

DES MOINES – An openly queer Iowa City pastor charged with “being a self-avowed practicing homosexual” in violation of United Methodist Church law will take an indefinite leave of absence, according to an agreement announced Wednesday.

A trial date had already been set when the Rev. Anna Blaedel requested a “just resolution,” which focuses on “repairing any harm to people and communities,” according to the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church. 

Blaedel, who identifies as queer and uses the pronouns they and them, expressed frustration and disappointment in a letter published in full by the Gazette on Wednesday.

“Today we are naming together the truth that it is not currently possible for me to continue my ministry in the context of the Iowa Annual Conference, nor the UMC,” wrote Blaedel, the former director of the Wesley Center at the University of Iowa. 

“That is not the truth I want to come to, but it has been, is being, revealed as true. … I am no longer willing to subject my body and soul and life to this particular violence.”

Blaedel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Blaedel was the subject of three separate complaints in three years, starting when the minister publicly came out as queer at the 2016 Iowa Annual Conference.

The first complaint against Blaedel, in 2016, was dismissed by Iowa’s former resident bishop. A second complaint was filed after Blaedel officiated a close friend’s same-sex wedding. A third complaint again charged Blaedel with “being a self-avowed practicing homosexual,” in violation of the denomination’s rule book, called the Book of Discipline.

Bishop Laurie Haller, the resident bishop of Iowa, oversaw the second and current complaints. In a statement written Tuesday, Haller apologized to Blaedel “for the harm that you have experienced, not only because of this complaint, but because of previous complaints as well.”

Haller said the church is “broken.”

“When the entire denomination votes at General Conference on issues that are only related to the United States, it sets the stage for further dysfunction,” she wrote, referencing a February vote in which a majority of delegates supported the “traditional plan” to continue and strengthen enforcement of the church’s ban on LGBTQ clergy and same-sex marriages. 

The church’s top court upheld much of that plan in a ruling this year, but several regional bodies have since passed resolutions denouncing it. 

Haller has said she believes that LGBTQ people should have the option to become pastors and that Methodist clergy should have the option to officiate at same-sex weddings if they choose. 

After the February vote, Blaedel told the Des Moines Register that Haller declined to dismiss the later complaints, despite her ability to do so.

“There is this whole generation that is seeking deeper belonging, community, ritual and spiritual practices to sustain social justice work,” Blaedel told the Register in March. “It makes me so sad to see this church that I have loved kind of killing itself by its refusal to focus on what really matters.”

The “just resolution” reached this week will remain in effect until Blaedel requests a formal end to their leave, according to the Iowa Conference. Blaedel will continue to head the Wesley Center’s Table Tuesday program, but otherwise will not be compensated during the leave, the Gazette reported.

Follow Shelby Fleig on Twitter: @shelbyfleig 

This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Queer Iowa pastor takes leave after charged with being ‘homosexual’

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Queer pastor on trial for being ‘practicing homosexual’ takes leave of absence