DES MOINES, Iowa – An Iowa City pastor accused of “being a self-avowed practicing homosexual” in violation of United Methodist Church law will take an indefinite leave of absence, according to an agreement announced Wednesday.
Pastor Anna Blaedel requested a “just resolution,” which focuses on “repairing any harm to people and communities,” according to the Iowa Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Blaedel, who identifies as queer and uses the pronouns “they” and “them,” expressed frustration and disappointment in a letter published in full by the Gazette on Wednesday.
“Today we are naming together the truth that it is not currently possible for me to continue my ministry in the context of the Iowa Annual Conference, nor the UMC,” wrote Blaedel, the former director of the Wesley Center at the University of Iowa. “That is not the truth I want to come to, but it has been, is being, revealed as true. … I am no longer willing to subject my body and soul and life to this particular violence.”
Blaedel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Blaedel was the subject of three separate complaints in three years, starting when the minister publicly came out at the 2016 Iowa Annual Conference.
The first complaint against Blaedel, in 2016, was dismissed by Iowa’s resident bishop. A second complaint was filed after Blaedel officiated at a close friend’s same-sex wedding. A third complaint charged Blaedel with “being a self-avowed practicing homosexual,” in violation of the denomination’s rule book, called the Book of Discipline.
Bishop Laurie Haller, the resident bishop of Iowa, oversaw the second and third complaints. In a statement Tuesday, Haller apologized to Blaedel “for the harm that you have experienced, not only because of this complaint, but because of previous complaints as well.”
Haller said the church is “broken.”
Haller said she believes that LGBTQ people should have the option to become pastors and that Methodist clergy should have the option to officiate at same-sex weddings.
Blaedel told The Des Moines Register that Haller declined to dismiss the later complaints, despite her ability to do so.
“There is this whole generation that is seeking deeper belonging, community, ritual and spiritual practices to sustain social justice work,” Blaedel told the Register in March. “It makes me so sad to see this church that I have loved kind of killing itself by its refusal to focus on what really matters.”
The “just resolution” reached this week will remain in effect until Blaedel requests a formal end to the leave of absence, according to the Iowa Conference. Blaedel will continue to head the Wesley Center’s Table Tuesday program but otherwise will not be compensated during the leave, the Gazette reported.
Follow Shelby Fleig on Twitter: @shelbyfleig