Pastor Who Appeared in Drag On HBO’s 'We’re Here' Has Been Fired

·3 min read
Pastor Craig Duke in We're Here
Pastor Craig Duke in We're Here

Pastor Craig Duke of Newburgh United Methodist Church in Evansville, Ind. was recently “relieved of pastoral duties” following his appearance in drag on a recent episode of the HBO series We’re Here.

The LGBTQ+ ally was recommended to appear on the series by his local Evansville Pride organization. We’re Here features drag stars Eureka O’Hara, Shangela, and Bob the Drag Queen traveling to small-town America and giving locals the drag makeover of a lifetime while highlighting their personal stories. For Duke, that story was one of support and empathy for his daughter who came out as pansexual two years prior.

In an interview with Religion News Service at the time, Duke described being on the show as “an incredibly wonderful, refreshing, deepening, powerful spiritual experience.” In addition to being literally transformative, it was eye-opening for the pastor. “I was surrounded and immersed in a culture that I’ve never been immersed in, and one of the things in ministry, if you want to involve people different than yourself in your ministry, you have to go to where people are different than you are. The invitation to be part of the show allowed me that,” he said.

Eureka O'Hara and Pastor Craig Duke
Eureka O'Hara and Pastor Craig Duke

While Duke might have had a heart-opening revelation, some at Newburgh United Methodist Church seem to have disagreed with his appearance on the series. Following tumult, Duke was removed from his role as lead pastor, and a GoFundMe has been set up to help raise money for Duke and his wife.

“Pastor Craig considers himself to be a man of faith, a father, a husband, a social justice advocate, and ally for the LGBTQIA+ community,” says the fundraiser. “Craig has a hope and has fought for a fully inclusive church that is welcoming to people of all races, all genders, and all sexual orientations. He longs for a day that all people are able to marry and serve as ordained clergy in the United Methodist Church.”

Eureka O'Hara and Pastor Craig Duke
Eureka O'Hara and Pastor Craig Duke

The GoFundMe also specifically references “turmoil” caused by Duke’s participation in We’re Here as the reason for his dismissal. “Craig will continue with a significantly reduced salary until no later than February 28. Obviously, this poses a major challenge to Craig and his family as they determine their next steps.”

Duke’s We’re Here mentor Eureka O’Hara has signal boosted the GoFundMe page. “If you can donate, great! If you can’t, please share!” they wrote.

UPDATE: We're Here costar Shangela has joined Eureka in calling out the cruel behavior of the church, pointing out how not only was he employed by Newburgh United Methodist Church, but his housing was provided by them, which means he is being forced to relocate as well as look for work elsewhere. Shangela closes her impassioned message by asking for her followers to show thier solidarity for Duke, an LGBTQ+ ally, by donating the GoFundMe.

As of this writing, Newburgh United Methodist Church has yet to release a statement regarding Duke’s removal from duties.