The Methodist Church’s First Drag Queen Pastor Says ‘God Is Nothing’

Last year, the United Methodist Church officially accepted Isaac Simmons, who regularly preaches dressed as a drag queen under the name Ms. Penny Cost, as a candidate for ordination. Since then, Simmons, who serves as an associate pastor at Hope United Methodist Church in Bloomington, Illinois, has openly challenged basic theological concepts, projecting a worldview where divinity rests not in God but in queerness…

In a church denomination preparing to fracture over controversial LGBTQ issues, a drag queen pastor, who embraces queer theology while barely attempting to adhere to the basic tenets of Christian theology, has become a lightning rod of extreme controversy within the Methodist Church. Traditional, conservative Methodists argue Simmons’ role as a celebrated figure among progressive Methodists proves the church has become so radically liberal as to forswear the Gospel of Christ itself. Progressive Methodists promote Simmons and invite him to preach in drag as a way to challenge the traditional Methodist mindset on sexuality as still officially held by the denomination.

In 2020, the United Methodist Church almost split, but was postponed until 2024 because its quadrennial general conference was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After the split, the progressive liberal faction of the church will retain the denomination’s original name and permit same-sex marriage; while the traditional conservative faction will create a new denomination where same-sex marriage is forbidden.

Simmons has published a new video of himself performing slam poetry in what may be his most provocative & blasphemous repudiation ever of traditional Christian values in what many consider a blasphemous advocation of queer spirituality.

“God is nothing,” the self-described “dragavangelist” repeats throughout his poem, adding, “the Bible is nothing” and “religion is nothing.” In the end, he concludes God and the Bible are nothing “unless we wield them into something.”

“God must be nothing,” he says, “if her boundary-less, transubstantiated bodies of color are run down, beaten, and strewn in the streets of America instead of ruling the runways of life.”

He speaks of God not as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but instead as the source of universal queerness, describing him as “nothing but a drag queen with a microphone of biblical proportions; nothing, but if she were, she would be ‘yes, queen’-ing her way down the runways of Paris and Montreal,” and “nothing, but if she were, she would be a seamstress of divide couture, weaving together string theory and self portraits to form the fiercest gowns of queer existence.”

He believes Humanity to be an emanation of that divine queerness: “From under a shroud of secrecy came the beauty of Humanity, Humanity made in the gender-bending, identity-breaking, system-shaking image of God, the imago Dei.” He refers to Humanity as “God’s queerly anointed creation.” 

Simmons claims the poem is “directed to those who would actively and passively cause harm against the LGBTQIA2S+ community due to their misunderstandings of scripture.”

The formation of the new Methodist denomination for fleeing traditionalists called the Global Methodist Church was announced on May 1st. Traditional Methodists highlight Simmons as the reason to encourage individual churches to join their new traditionalist Methodist denomination. A Methodist church court ruled that only individual churches & not conferences can decide to leave the United Methodist Church, even though entire conferences in Georgia and Florida have already expressed their desire to join the Global Methodist Church. One hundred & seven churches in Florida have already left even though the denominational split is not yet officially formalized.

Simmons claims he has received hateful comments & backlash from traditional Methodists. On Monday, he said a group is trying to have his name removed from a list of candidates certified for ordination in the Methodist Church. The Institute on Religion and Democracy, an organization which advocates for conservative theology in mainline Protestant churches reported on his approval for ordination, generating even wider controversy. Simmons has recently accused The Institute on Religion and Democracy of defamation.

At the same time, Simmons also says he has received copious support from many official bodies within the church who are promoting him and inviting him to speak. Recently, he was featured in glowing terms in a video produced by the United Methodist News Service. In that video, the gender-bending minister for the nation’s third-largest denomination says queerness is divine.

In the video, Simmons also clearly declares his disbelief in the God of traditional Christianity. Simmons has repeatedly delivered sermons in which he upholds queerness & LGBTQ identity as being divine. 

He describes drag as a spiritual experience which connects him to God. He claims, “Drag allows me to process the mystery of myself, the mystery of God, the mystery of love, and the mystery of pain. When I walk the streets in six-inch heels and wear four pounds of hair, double-stacked wigs, the power which lies within my mystery is released into the world. When I paint my face and meditate upon my spiritual ancestors who came before me, I am able reach into a deeper part of my soul.”

Simmons says, “Drag allows me not only to celebrate the divine surety that dwells within me, but it also allows me to show others how to celebrate it in themselves.”

In Simmons’ queer theology, baptism and repentance have been replaced by coming out: “Holy liberation occurs when folks feel they can release the mysterious secret shrouded by society.” He preaches, “There is holiness in queerness.” 

In April, a Southern Baptist pastor, Al Mohler, said the United Methodist Church’s decision to certify Simmons as a candidate for ordination was “an intentional refutation and revolt against the very order of creation that God has given us; and, a direct violation of the clear teachings of Scripture concerning the fact that those whom God has made as men are men who should identify as men.”

“This is open revolt,” said Mohler; “and of course, you’re going to see a division between those who are appalled by it, deeply troubled by it, deeply concerned by it and deeply opposed to it; and, those who celebrate it and say it’s already arrived far too late.”✪

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