Reconciling Ministries Network/Trinity Universal Methodist Church

Church That Fired Gay Choir Director Actually Has No Policy Banning LGBT Employees

"There were people who... implied I was a pedophile and I would cause the church great harm if I stayed," says Ryan Mould.

A choir master at a Methodist church in North Carolina was fired by the church’s minister, who claimed it was against Methodist doctrine to employ people who were openly gay. But in a strange twist, it turns out there’s no such policy.

Ryan Mould was fired in October as children’s choir director at Trinity United Methodist Church in Jacksonville after he discussed his sexuality with Reverend Steve Smith.

After consulting with other church leaders, Smith told Mould it was against denominational policy to have him in a leadership position. But, as Q Notes reports, The Book of Discipline for the United Methodist denomination maintains that clergy cannot be “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals.” That rule doesn’t apply to non-clergy roles, though, according to Reconciling Ministries Network (RMC), which works to include of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the United Methodist Church.

“Leaders at Trinity UMC were falsely led to believe they had no other option but to dismiss [him],” RMC said in a statement. “This is yet another painful example of why changing out denominational policies remains an urgent issue. Until all discriminatory policies are eradicated, they run the risk of being manipulated and exaggerated, broadening their potential for harm as evidenced in this painful situation.”

Before his termination, Mould, 29, said, “I felt safe, welcome and loved at Trinity.” It was the “place where my values and morals were shaped and crafted.” But now he feels ““disgraced, confused, and misled.”

Since Mould’s terminaton, several members have resigned from committees, pulled out of Sunday school, and even left the church. At an open listening session that drew about 250 members, Mould says he was told he was “an unrepentant sinner.”

“There were people who admonished me, condemned me, who implied I was a pedophile and I would cause the church great harm if I stayed.”

Smith declined to comment on the situation, but the North Carolina Conference issued a statement maintaining that employment decisions are made by individual churches.

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.