UMC pastor files lawsuit after being accused of ‘practicing homosexuality’

A United Methodist Church pastor is suing seven members after they accused her of practicing homosexuality. The pastor says the accusations interfered with her pastoral duties and she may be unemployed.

An attorney for Reverend Bodhi Der Parunakian said a lawsuit was filed in Grainger County Circuit Court in Tennessee last week.  

According to court documents obtained by FOX Television Stations, Der Parunakian is the pastor at Shiloh, Joppa and Cedar Grove United Methodist Churches.

The pastor said she identified her homosexuality when she was hired by the United Methodist Church but chose the life of celibacy according to the church's "Book of Discipline" which states "the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with the Christian teaching." It also states that those who practice homosexuality cannot be ordained as ministers within the church.

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Der Parunakian contended in court documents that she does not practice homosexuality and is single.

The lawsuit stated the non-profit AppalachianOUTreach published an online article featuring Der Parunakian and her work with the LGBTQ+ community on helping members "gain more acceptance in the broader community."

Some church members found the article and shared it with others. Der Parunakian’s attorney, Margaret Held, claimed one member even threatened to report the pastor.

Court documents stated that the church’s bishop stood behind Parunakian, but members who opposed Der Parunakian interrupted one of her services. One member even went to the front of the church and said "he was in charge" as other members alluded to the article. Some members even accused Parunakian of lying about her celibacy.  Der Parunakian said she could not continue with the service.

"Pastor Der Parunakian attributes the parishioners’ unusual interest in her celibacy to her work with people in the LBGTQ community," attorney Held said in a statement.

"I was born into Methodism, and I love its commitment to inclusion and social justice. The Methodists who I know love peace and are committed to service,"  Der Parunakian said in a news release. "These individual parishioners apparently have nothing better to do than to stir up unnecessary drama. I will remain loyal to United Methodism."

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Der Parunakian’s attorney said amid the backlash, the bishop then offered her client to pastor another church. However, when that church also found out about the article and some members pushed back, the bishop then rescinded the job offer.

Der Parunakian is seeking unspecified monetary damages.

FOX Television Stations reached out to the United Methodist Church for comment.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.