The Iowa Conference Committee on Investigation has decided that United Methodist Church (UMC) clergy member, Rev. Anna Blaedel, will face a trial. Blaedel has made no secret that she is an “out, queer, partnered clergy,” and is consequently facing discipline for violating the UMC’s rules which stipulate a clergy member cannot be “a self-avowed practicing homosexual.”
“I receive this news with deep sadness and grief,” Blaedel wrote in a Facebook post reacting to the committee’s decision. “I grieve what and who the Iowa Annual Conference and UMC is becoming. Is this the church you want to be?”
According to United Methodist News (UMN), Blaedel has been charged under Paragraph 2702.1 in The United Methodist Book of Discipline. There, the Book of Discipline states that a clergy member may be tried for a variety of offenses, one of which is “practices declared by The United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings, including but not limited to: being a self-avowed practicing homosexual; or conducting ceremonies which celebrate homosexual unions; or performing same-sex wedding ceremonies.”
Anna Blaedel’s Announcement
The public controversy surrounding Blaedel seems to have begun in 2016, when she read a statement at the Iowa Annual Conference announcing her queer identity. Blaedel said she has been in the Methodist church for most of her life and that it “has been my place of spiritual belonging, of vocational calling, my faith community, my faith home.” She went on to express how painful it is to be in a denomination that calls LGBTQ “living and loving” a sin, a view she believes is incompatible with Christian teaching.
UMN reports that soon after Blaedel made this announcement, three Iowa clergy members did in fact file a complaint against her, which was later dismissed by Bishop Julius C. Trimble. Trimble himself ended up facing a formal complaint because of that decision. In the time since, Blaedel has received other formal complaints, including one for officiating a same-gender wedding, but this is the first that has resulted in her going to trial.
A House Divided
Earlier this year, the United Methodist One Church Plan was voted down in favor of the Traditional Plan for marriage. Whether or not they agreed with the outcome of that decision, UMC members have had various responses to it. While certain churches have decided to leave the UMC, some members have decided to stay and, like Blaedel, violate the UMC Book of Discipline. After the vote, Blaedel told the Des Moines Register, “I expect I will lose my clergy credentials, as well as my job, my health insurance and my place of spiritual belonging.”
The Committee on Investigation received the most recent complaint against Blaedel, filed by Indiana lay member John Lomperis, on May 20th. Blaedel and her representative, Rev. Tyler Schwaller, met with the committee on August 8th. Blaedel and Schwaller have each put posts on Facebook with the statements they read to the committee and their reactions to the situation.
For his part, in an article he wrote in 2017, Lomperis stated, “We must never forget or underestimate the dire spiritual harm inflicted on students who should be receiving compassionate Christian ministry when undisciplined false teachers are placed in such positions of teaching and power.” He also pointed out that Blaedel willingly chose to be ordained within a denomination “whose very non-secret historic doctrines and longstanding moral standards she rejects.”
The time and date of Blaedel’s trial have yet to be determined, and the 13-member jury has not yet been selected. Nine votes are necessary for a conviction.