On Tuesday, August 13, 2019, Rev. Anna Blaedel received news that the Iowa Conference Committee on Investigation voted to refer the bill of charges against them to trial. They are “charged with the offense of practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings, specifically being a self-avowed and practicing homosexual, pursuant to Paragraph 2702.1(b) of the Book of Discipline.”
Rev. Blaedel is the respondent to a formal complaint filed by John Lomperis, a lay member in the Indiana Conference and an employee of the Institute on Religion and Democracy — an organization dedicated to combating movements for social justice in mainline Christian denominations.
This is the third charge brought against Rev. Blaedel in three years. During this time, they have persisted in Christian witness and holy ministry as the Theologian in Residence at enfleshed and previously as the Director of the Wesley Center at the University of Iowa. Rev. Blaedel is a PhD student in theology and philosophy at Drew University.
In response to the Committee’s decision to refer the bill of charges to trial, Rev. Blaedel said: “I receive this news with deep sadness and grief. We offered and invited ways to do this differently, and had hoped against hope that this might be an opportunity to create something more just, holy, and loving, together. Investing and wasting precious resources on a trial is cause for lament. So too, the relationships broken through this avoidable and preventable harm. We will only become a more just and loving church and world when we confess our complicity in evil, resist and divest from participation in it, and commit to doing it differently. I do not know what the vote was, or if anyone on the Committee tried to resist. Counsel for the Church, Rev. Bob Ward, had the chance to recommend dismissing the charge; instead he certified it and recommended a trial. The Committee on Investigation had the chance to dismiss the charge; instead they certified it and are initiating a trial.”
In its decision to refer the bill of charges against Rev. Blaedel to trial, the Committee on Investigation missed its opportunity to be a needed prophetic voice for The United Methodist Church and interrupt processes of the church that systematically condemn LGBTQ people. The actions of the Committee cause direct harm to Rev. Blaedel compounded by obsessive harassment from their ecclesial colleagues. The actions of the Committee furthermore resulted in harm to LGBTQ persons in The United Methodist Church, as the Committee failed to set a precedent for a life-giving response, and they also damaged the witness of The United Methodist Church at large.
At Reconciling Ministries Network, we denounce the decision of the Committee on Investigation, and we call upon Bishop Laurie Haller to dismiss the charges against Rev. Anna Blaedel. Now, Bishop Haller once again has the unique opportunity to decry the harm through this complaint and prevent further harm from occurring to Rev. Anna Blaedel as a result of these charges.