A Marietta church choir director says he was forced to resign from his job because he is gay.

Ira Pittman, who worked at Mt. Bethel United Methodist Church for more than 20 years, filed a federal complaint against the church with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as a result, according to a WABE report. Pittman reportedly kept his sexuality (and his partner of 16 years) hidden other than telling a few trusted co-workers. Then he threw a Christmas party last December.


“This whole thing evidently revolved around the fact that I had a gathering of my music staff, 10 people and their spouses, at my home with my partner, just to have an enjoyable meal and fellowship together,” Pittman said.

A day later, Pittman said the church’s senior minister invited Pittman and his partner to his dinner party. “I just felt like the heavens had opened up, and he’d had a new realization,” Pittman said. “We had a great time, and nothing but positive was said until he called me up and said, ‘We have a problem.’”

Pittman says that after the parties, someone complained that he had purposely thrown a “coming out party” and that by doing so he was in defiance of Methodist doctrine. He says that during the meeting where he got fired, the senior minister told Pittman he knew he was gay when he hired him. More from WABE:

“If it were up to [him],” it wouldn’t be an issue, Pittman said the senior minister told him. Pittman said the minister even said congregation members were “circling as wolves” that “could no longer tolerate this.”

One church that didn’t have a problem with Pittman’s sexuality was East Cobb United Methodist Church in Marietta, who snapped him up almost immediately after he left Mt. Bethel. East Cobb UMC’s senior pastor Nanci Hicks told WABE that Pittman being gay is not an issue.

“I consider a huge part of my life’s work to remove barriers for people from God and from love,” said Hicks. “And anytime there is a barrier, it kind of breaks my heart.”

And she doesn’t buy the claims of many anti-LGBT people of faith across the country who say they are victims of “religious persecution.”

“I have to wonder, when people say we’re under attack because of cultural things that make them uncomfortable,” Hicks said. “Just look at history to see what real persecution is about, look across the ocean to see what real persecution of Christians is about. In our nation, Christians are not persecuted.”

Meanwhile, the United Methodist Church is meeting now in Portland for their quadrennial conference, where they are expected to make a decision on LGBT exclusions by the end of next week.

Mt. Bethel has so far remained silent on Pittman’s claims.

3 Responses

  1. Lizzie

    This does not surprise me at all. I left Mt. Bethel a long time ago after almost 15 years of membership. The politics of that church in particular are incredibly shady. It’s not run like a house of worship; it is run with hate. I’ve never felt so distant from God or my faith as when I listen to Dr. Mickler. I also find it hard to believe that the congregation is so ignorant that they would pressure Dr. Mickler to fire Ira. But if it is true, shame on them as well. God Bless Ira Pittman, a wonderful, faithful, God-loving man. May his new journey, away from that terrible place, be beautiful and filled with love.

    • John

      Lizzie, If you felt distant from God it is not the fault of anyone other than yourself. God doesn’t change and men or women shouldn’t affect your relationship with God. The Bible clearly states what God believes is a sin and that we are all sinners. It also states we are to love one another. Unfortunately, what you or I believe is a sin does not matter. Salvation is available and offered to everyone.

      • Paul

        Wow, that’s a bit curt. It’s wonderful that you are so confident in your relationship with our Lord John.

        I’m not sure I would be so harsh though. I don’t know Lizzie, she’s an adult I guess but I don’t know how strong she is, mentally speaking.

        I do know some amazing people who care for strangers who struggle with life. Especially for young people who contemplate (or worse, eventually carry out) actions to end their lives through suicide.

        It’s not a sin to be gay. It cannot be. I was gay for as long as I can remember. I’ve never found my anatomy to do what it should with a female. Not once. I can remember being “interested” in my friends when I was 11 though… It has never been a decision. Never a choice. God made me who I am. Celibate until my mid twenties. Relations with 3 other guys before I met my 12-year partner. Married for 2 years.

        We can interpret scripture more than one way. It cannot be a sin or that would mean God made a mistake creating me. God doesn’t make mistakes.

        Love and peace.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.