Former Wesley Center director taking ‘indefinite’ leave of absence from United Methodist Church

After almost going to trial for being a “self-avowed practicing homosexual,” Rev. Anna Blaedel is taking an indefinite leave of absence from the United Methodist Church.

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Alyson Kuennen

Rev. Anna Blaedel listens during a Bible study at the Wesley Center on Wednesday, May 1, 2019. Openly queer, Rev. Blaedel faced formal complaints by the United Methodist Church.

Brooklyn Draisey , Managing Editor

Rev. Anna Blaedel is taking an indefinite voluntary leave of absence from the United Methodist Church, per the requirements of a “just resolution” released by the United Methodist Church’s Iowa Conference Wednesday.

Former director of the University of Iowa Wesley Center, Blaedel held the position for five years before resigning in May. They are still in charge of Table Tuesday, one of the center’s programs.

Blaedel will be able to submit a request to come off leave and will, along with Rev. Tyler Schwaller and their lawyer, be invited to a meeting with Iowa Area Resident Bishop Laurie Haller and Iowa Conference leaders in 2020 to “envision a conference-wide plan for redressing harm and injustice and, in turn, seeking reconciliation and liberation for and with LGBTQIA+ persons, including a plan to offer guidance, repentance, and healing for churches in the Iowa Conference,” according to the release.

Blaedel is to use their leave for healing and thinking about a life without the United Methodist Church, and the conference is going to support them, according to the release. Haller is required through the resolution to handle future complaints like the ones brought up against Blaedel in a way that will “stop the harm being done.”

“The United Methodist Church is broken because we are still not able to honor our differences around human sexuality.” Haller said in the Iowa Conference release. “Where did Jesus say it’s okay to hate and exclude? How can we justify this? And how do we explain it to our children and grandchildren? … What has become of our heart?”

Three different complaints have been brought against Blaedel in three years, the third being the catalyst of the resolution.

The resolution comes in place of a sexual-orientation church trial Blaedel was set to face. As The Daily Iowan previously reported, Blaedel was charged under the Methodist Book of Discipline, which states it is against the United Methodist Church’s teachings to be a clergyperson who is “a self-avowed practicing homosexual.”

Blaedel requested the resolution before a trial date was announced, according to a release from the Iowa Conference, and was made Nov. 12. They said in a statement that they didn’t want to be forced to leave the church or lose their clergy credentials.

“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,” Blaedel said in their statement. “That is not the truth I want to come to, but it has been, is being, revealed as true. I have hoped for a different conclusion to this story, and resolution to this series of complaints … I am no longer willing to subject my body and soul and life to this particular violence.”

In February, the United Methodist Church voted to reinforce its stance against homosexuality, threatening the Wesley Center’s funding.

“I know I need to extricate myself from a denomination and conference that are increasingly toxic, traumatic, and abusive,” they said. “I do not have what I need to faithfully and healthily continue my participation in it. So, I am taking time, and claiming space, for healing, for discernment, for listening into the unknown future.”

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