A Michigan pastor resigned this week after the gay news site Queerty posted images of his profile from the gay hookup app Grindr.
From the looks of it, Rev. Matthew Makela of St. John’s Lutheran Church in Midland moved swiftly to try to limit the damage from the disclosure.
According to Queerty’s Dan Tracer, Makela confirmed the authenticity of the Grindr screengrab in an e-mail exchange before the story was published. Makela declined to comment for the story but told Tracer that he had already resigned, according to Queerty.
But Queerty, which bills itself as being free of agendas “except that gay one,” didn’t back down, publishing the story with images of sexually suggestive messages between Makela and other Grindr users.
“His community also deserves to know,” Tracer wrote. “If Makela made even one LGBT kid at St. John’s ‘Christ-based’ elementary school, their parents, friends, family or anyone who ever stepped foot in the church feel like being true to yourself is shameful (and it seems all too likely that he did), then we’re glad to share his hypocrisy with the world.”
The story also drew out what Tracer called Makela’s “hypocrisy” based on several messages Queerty claims the pastor posted on social media. The Washington Post could not independently verify that Makela wrote the messages.
In one case, according to Queerty, Makela compared homosexuality to alcoholism. In another post, according to a screengrab of what Queerty says was Makela’s Facebook page, he wrote that the transgender community is enabling “opportunistic sickos” who want to “prey upon girls and women in their restroom or locker room.”
The incident appears to have shaken the Midland congregation, which is part of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS).
A documentary called “The Overnighters” was released last year featuring an LCMS pastor who resigned from his church in North Dakota after admitting he had same-sex attractions.
In a letter to congregants posted on the Midland church’s Web site, St. John’s Senior Pastor Daniel Kempin announced Makela’s resignation and noted that “the details of sin that have been kept confidential are being posted online by those who seek to do harm to the Makela family and to St. John’s. This is taking an already difficult situation and making it even more painful.”
Queerty’s story was posted the following day.
The Detroit Free Press noted that Makela — a married father of five — deactivated his Facebook page. “A number listed for Makela is now disconnected,” the newspaper added.
The church took down its Facebook page, too, “in an attempt to remove the opportunity for malicious posters to have access to St. John’s members,” Kempin wrote. And the St. John’s Web site now shows nothing but the text of the senior pastor’s latest letter to the congregation — an update sent Wednesday in which he notes that after news of Makela’s “sin” broke, the pastor was “savaged.”
“Everyone faces different temptation, but we all face temptation,” Kempin wrote. “And we know what to do with sin. We take it to the Lord Jesus, who has covered our shame with His precious blood.
“We have been wounded by the public scrutiny that this has drawn, but in the end it reminds me of what we well and truly are: We are a church for sinners.”
Kempin also wrote that “there have been many gestures of support from the community and promises to pray. I appreciate and respect those taking the time to understand what we are going through. There have also been communications that are just mean and for no other purpose than to hurt. Apparently this has touched a larger and deeper issue for some, and I pray that they will find peace.”