Appeared on TV as a drag queen, an American priest is punished

A local official in his parish confirmed to AFP Wednesday that for his brief television appearance as a cyclist queen, wearing a huge pink wig and sequin-embroidered gown, an American Protestant pastor has been removed from his ministry.

Craig Duke, 62, made an eye-catching clip last month — at least by some of his terrified parishioners — on HBO’s We’re Here: We see him in particular wearing thigh-high heels, a cross around the neck, and red lipstick. Intense purple eye shadow.

After this media moment, which he described as a “strong spiritual moment,” in an interview with the Religion News Service, the pastor who is a member of the United Methodist Church found himself embroiled in a heated debate.

In the face of “many very critical calls and emails,” but also support, the local leader of this church decided to “relieve the Reverend Duke of his pastoral duty,” cut his salary and forbid him to perform religious services at his church near Evansville, northern Indiana.

However, Mitch Geiselman, in a letter to parishioners, mitigated that Reverend Duke “has not been found responsible for any breach of the disciplinary regulations” of the United Methodist Church.

In contact with AFP on Wednesday, Mr. Geiselman confirmed the authenticity of his November 26 letter, declining to make any further comments.

The pastor’s fate sparked an uptick in sentiment, manifested in online donations of nearly $60,000 on Wednesday.

“I hope that the bridge of understanding and acceptance of the LGBTQ community extends through our community and beyond,” the pastor and his companion said Wednesday in a statement.

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He didn’t seem to regret his brilliance: “I’ve immersed myself in a culture I’ve never immersed in before,” he congratulated himself, “and in a (religious) service, if you want to involve people who are different from you, you have to meet them. The invitation to this program allowed me to do so.”

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