Following conversation with the senior pastor that included discussion of his sexual orientation, Ryan Mould was fired on Oct 5, 2017, after serving for more than three years as Children’s Choir Director at Trinity UMC in Jacksonville, NC. Mould was dismissed after Rev. Steve Smith met with other church leaders to inform them that it’s against denominational policy to keep Mould in a leadership position.
However, no such policies exist.
The Book of Discipline, which holds governing policies for The United Methodist Church (The UMC), maintains that clergy cannot be “self-avowed, practicing homosexuals.” This rule, however, is not applicable to members in leadership positions in The UMC who are not clergy. Leaders at Trinity UMC were falsely led to believe they had no other option but to dismiss Mould.
As a member baptized at Trinity UMC, Mould shared, “This experience has left me feeling disgraced, confused, and mislead by church leaders. The UMC has been my home since birth, a place where my values and morals were shaped and crafted. I now struggle with how to serve my church and ‘…do all in your power to strengthen its ministries…'”
Though painful, Mould’s story is not unique. For over 45 years, The United Methodist Church has been actively discriminating against LGBTQ persons, often by way of workplace discrimination.
In response to his dismissal, Jan Lawrence, the Executive Director of Reconciling Ministries Network, says,
“We are deeply troubled by the actions taken against Ryan. 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.”
Though the Book of Discipline does not in any way prohibit LGBTQ persons who are not clergy from serving as staff or in leadership, ironically, it does speak directly to the importance of protecting the civil rights of all, saying “All persons, regardless of age, gender, marital status, or sexual orientation, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured and to be protected against violence.”