drag queen applying makeup in mirror
Is dressing in drag grounds for workplace dismissal?

A United Methodist pastor from Indiana was fired by his church after he dressed up in drag for a television show. 

Pastor Craig Duke, head pastor at Newburgh United Methodist Church, says he simply wanted to show support for his pansexual daughter Tiffany with his appearance on the HBO series "We’re Here." The show follows a team of drag superstars as they makeover America one small town at a time. 

Pastor Duke agreed to take part and get a drag makeover to show his allyship to the LGBTQ community and to share his belief that God unconditionally loves us all.

Now he’s out of a job. 

An Indiana pastor is out of a job. His downfall? Makeup, a pink wig, and a sparkly dress. Pastor Craig Duke was pushed...

Posted by Universal Life Church Ministries on Friday, December 10, 2021

What a Drag

On the show, viewers saw the pastor receiving a drag makeover, practicing his dance routine, and ultimately putting on a drag show.

Following the airing of the episode on November 8th, Pastor Duke was “relieved of his pastoral duties” by Newburgh United Methodist Church.

A letter sent out to church congregants by the administration states that “there is a diversity of opinion regarding the moral implications of Rev. Duke’s actions,” and as such, “he will not... be returning to the NUMC pulpit.”

Showing Support

Despite the outcome, Duke says he wouldn't change a thing.

"It was an incredibly wonderful, refreshing, deepening, powerful spiritual experience,” the former pastor says of his makeover and time on the show.

In fact, Duke revealed that it challenged his conceptions about the church's teachings about acceptance:

“I experienced as much love and acceptance, and dare I say more, within the drag culture and the LGBTQ community than most people would experience within the settings of the church. Not one person questioned what I was doing there; it was complete acceptance.”

As Duke said on the show, “I’m hoping it’s a bridge – for my daughter, for the church I serve, for the denomination I love and for me – and I’m hoping my voice will become stronger.”

Conflict Brewing

The United Methodist Church is in a major, yearslong debate over whether LGBTQ individuals can become clergy, and whether United Methodist ministers can officiate over same-sex marriages. Some in church leadership feel the issue is irreconcilable, and predict that a denominational split is potentially on the horizon.

To date, conservative factions of the church have successfully maintained its official stance that homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching."

As this latest saga with Pastor Duke illustrates, LGBTQ issues remain a clear problem for church unity moving forward. 

What is your reaction?

37 comments

  1. Wendy T Christy's Avatar Wendy T Christy

    I am a minister with UL C. To fire someone who is trying to build bridges with understanding and love is just wrong. This world is ever changing and so should our ideas and laws. We should be fluent and growing in our tolerance and acceptance. Please be more open minded and love unconditionally.

    1. Gregory Joseph Behl's Avatar Gregory Joseph Behl

      I can't be open minded to sin and I don't think God is either.

  1. Jean's Avatar Jean

    I am not surprised by their reaction, but I am saddened by it. To Rev. Duke I say "You looked marvelous!!" and I applaud his support of his daughter & his ally-ship with the LGBTQ community. His former congregation will realize eventually what they have lost. His sacrifice & his love will be rewarded! We are all moving slowly but surely in the right direction; the opposition will get worse before it gets better, but it will get better. There are communities out there that will welcome a pastor who demonstrates his love & has the courage of his convictions! Blessed be!!

  1. Richard Eldon Kirk's Avatar Richard Eldon Kirk

    So many “Christians” in the US seem to believe that they, personally, will be the ones that ultimately sit in judgement of all people. They believe that they will be the ones sitting as guardians at the gates of heaven and must now purge anyone that they (their church) believes are not worthy of God’s love. They should fear that it may not be the gates of heaven at which they find themselves sitting. My son came out as gay about a year ago. Miraculously, the next day, he was exactly the same son that we loved deeply the day before he revealed he was gay. God is love, unconditional love. I believe that heaven and hell are the same place. The difference will be determined by how an individual lived their life in relation to all things around them that God has created. Hate is hell.

  1. Douglas Robert Spindler's Avatar Douglas Robert Spindler

    This is why young people today do not want to have anything to do with religion.

    1. SueW's Avatar SueW

      Not just young people. When I was growing up in the 50s, it was so hush hush that I didn’t know the people or issues existed. I believe a lot of people would like to go back to that. I’ve never understood the hostility. We have many different cultures. We don’t concern ourselves with who our neighbors of other ethnicities sleep with. Why this? Sexuality is but one part of being human. That part is wired individually for each of us but we don’t feel compelled to delve into the details of what our neighbors do in their bedroom. Why this? I support the pastor, I’m very happy his daughter has family support. It’s no one else’s business.

  1. Minister Ivette 's Avatar Minister Ivette

    We are all God's children and should be accepted as such. I applaud Pastor Duke for his support of those that have God in their lives no matter how they look and identify.

    1. flugo's Avatar flugo

      'eve':
      I thought 'ministers' were purveyors of the truth. According to the Bible we are NOT 'all God's children'! in John 8:44, Jesus described some Jews as children of the devil.
      To avoid further embarrassment, you'd do well to do your homework before displaying your shoddy scholarship.

      1. Linda L Capps's Avatar Linda L Capps

        I suggest you read back a little further, John 8:30-44, just as the pharisees and Sadducees were denouncing and plotting on killing Jesus (through "technically" legal/biblical means) Jesus was saying that if you did not see the truth that he was providing them, then they are no better then the "scholars" who felt threatened by Jesus because he called out their "piousness" for what it was, a way to lord power and control over others (sound familiar GOP?). They used their knowledge of scripture to control and shame those who they felt were below them and did not use LOVE which was what Jesus was attempting to teach.

        Satan also used the letter of the word and law to shame, trick, and kill Jesus followers.

        When we use scripture to justify our hatred, our bigotry, our jealousy, our exclusion, then Jesus is correct in that we are sons/daughters of Satan.

        1. flugo's Avatar flugo

          'lapse': You epitomize those desperate posters clawing for some 'wiggle room', instead of outright answering directly.
          According to the Bible, are we 'all God's children' as Ivette asserted? Yes? or No?

        2. Gregory Joseph Behl's Avatar Gregory Joseph Behl

          It is not hatred, we are called to love the sinner but hate the sin. Flugo is "spot on" but there are those who choose to live in denial.

      2. Gregory Joseph Behl's Avatar Gregory Joseph Behl

        Thank you for sharing Biblical truth

    2. SueW's Avatar SueW

      Inclusion is supporting people whether they believe as you do or not. It sounds like you’re simply judging by different criteria. Apologies if I’m mistaken.

  1. David M., Knight's Avatar David M., Knight

    I commend Pastor Duke's efforts to bring people together. Sadly, the dominant clique in his congregation seems to be too judgmental to see that ... a direct violation of John 13:34, BTW.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    Craig Duke sounds like he'd make an excellent ULC minister. I hope someone mentions it to him.

  1. Sheryl L Tiseth's Avatar Sheryl L Tiseth

    I left mainline Christian churches decades ago. I got ordained to marry folks who couldn’t marry within the church walks they grew up in. The only church who has accepted me as a lesbian is Unity Church. Fully accepting of others in every way. But mainline Christians think it’s a cult. Whatever. It’s about power over others. Get a life people. Love as Jesus did.

  1. Awwen Sean Tyrsson's Avatar Awwen Sean Tyrsson

    Pastor Duke sounds more spiritually enlightened then his church administration. I hope he lands in a more enlightened church going forward. I respect his actions and unconditional outreach.

  1. Alicia Szot's Avatar Alicia Szot

    Should he have been fired? No. Could he have found another, not so in-your-face (like going on TV) way to support his daughter? Absolutely.

  1. Robert N Clarkson's Avatar Robert N Clarkson

    If churches actually read the testaments, instead of cherry-picking only the passages they like, they might discover that as Christians we are 1. To worship the one Supreme God of Abraham 2. Love all others 3. unconditionally forgive, not judge, but leave judgment to God, and 4. Pray, then accept God's plan and will. This isn’t to say society should not ignore it when others deliberately harm and victimize innocents, rather punish the wicked actions but do not hold grudges, use restraint and exhibit love and forgiveness toward the perpetrator in the future much like a loving parent disciplines a child's bad behavior. This pastor demonstrated true Christian principles in socializing with traditional outcasts and reaching out in respect and love. It is the hypocrisy and placing church tradition and edicts above basic scriptural teachings that is actually alienating spiritual persons from the mainstream and radical fundamental churches. These groups have no knowledge of church belief and the historical circumstances of the time of the events recorded in scriptures. Without that background they become divisive and exclusive political and social clubs, and are not spiritual religions. That pastor is enlightened and certainly God will watch over him in the future.

    1. Gregory Joseph Behl's Avatar Gregory Joseph Behl

      This sounds naive to me

    2. Lavada Elizabeth Schultz's Avatar Lavada Elizabeth Schultz

      All for the glory of God.

  1. David Michael Bolden's Avatar David Michael Bolden

    While I empathize with the situation he is in, as ministers we do not have the privilege of establishing or altering the doctrine of the church to suit our empathy for any group. Either you accept the doctrine, or you resign your post and go somewhere else. That is not to say I personally feel that way - but he is representing a church which does not, and a congregation who is there because they agree with the doctrine. It is extremely selfish and dismissive of the rest of the church he serves to force his own opinion upon them.

    1. Lavada Elizabeth Schultz's Avatar Lavada Elizabeth Schultz

      I do think that he loves his daughter. Very much! I know there are better things for him out there that are more inclusive. Praise God he is now able to pursue them.

      All for the glory of God.🙏

  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher

    THE WHOLE G O PIG FARM DOES IT, CHECK OUT NOSFERATU GIULIANI !

    1. SueW's Avatar SueW

      As always, your screaming is incomprehensible.

  1. Rev. Dr. G. Waldron's Avatar Rev. Dr. G. Waldron

    I am glad that the Reverend supports his daughter and her community. I think he chose a way that is not really helpful. She must feel inwardly that she got him fired. He could have been much more effective in his role of pastor, i.e. leading his flock to be inclusive and understanding. UMC will likely split over the LBGT issue. I wonder now what side of the issue his former church will decide.

    1. Asa William Sprague, II's Avatar Asa William Sprague, II

      The Rev. probably didn't expect to get fired; and his daughter got to see one of the dark sides of Christianity.

      So, his daughter now knows how much her father loves her; and that the members of her church don't.

    2. SueW's Avatar SueW

      They aren’t even judging because he’s LGBTQ. They know he’s not. They fired him for playing a role. We’re all playing roles in some way. This attitude is why I left the church. One too many “they’re not like us” decisions.

      1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher

        SUE are YOU A BOY NAMED SUE ???

        1. Linda L Capps's Avatar Linda L Capps

          John P Maher:

          Was your reply absolutely necessary, was it uplifting, or was it a back handed rebuke?

  1. Shango MasterExorcist, D.D.'s Avatar Shango MasterExorcist, D.D.

    The Pastor describes he had "an incredibly wonderful, refreshing, deepening, powerful spiritual experience." Others who did not share his experience have insufficient data to make meaningful comments.

  1. Eric Norrbom's Avatar Eric Norrbom

    In my opinion: We each live our path wherever it takes us. We are all children of the same cosmos, but insignificant in space time. The human form will not last as long as the dinosaurs did. We are but rays and particles.

  1. Lavada Elizabeth Schultz's Avatar Lavada Elizabeth Schultz

    What about James 4:11? Don’t judge or you will be judged by those standards. We are to be compassionate and inclusive. Not differentiate between social physical or mental abilities. As long as you don’t feel physically threatened. We are all sinners and learning. As we learn in Christ and become more Christ like in our actions. Opinions change when we realize how selfless he was. As we put others before ourselves treat others better than ourselves our reactions change. People still living for the world and not living for God. People want a voice. People need a voice. I think it boils down to a level of maturity.

  1. Darlene Williams's Avatar Darlene Williams

    God is love and everything we do should be permeated in love. God is the ultimate judge not man. We are commanded to love. The Bible was used to hold people of color inslaved by using the passage Ephesians 6:5 (KJV) Slaves obey your earthly masters with respect, fear and with a sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Be careful of the church that promotes a religious spirit and not the teaching of Christ. They were the ones that missed the coming of the Messish because they thought he was arriving in all of his splendor and instead was born in a manger.

  1. Gerardo Salazar's Avatar Gerardo Salazar

    Certain jobs demand discipline and impeccable behavior because normally they involve authority positions and leadership and as such you just cannot forget and do whatever you want and this can be applied to men of the cloth. This man exercised his right to dress and behave like a drag queen and his congregation exercised its right to fire him due to unbecoming conduct.

    As adults we must be responsible for our actions. You made the bed and now you have to sleep on it.

  1. Gerardo Salazar's Avatar Gerardo Salazar

    Comment removed by user.

  1. Dana Harris's Avatar Dana Harris

    I think the LGBGT+ community is underrepresented, underserved and forgotten when rights and laws are being established!

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