Gay Music Minister Forced to Resign Over “Questionable” Relationship

John Thomas McCecil and his husband, Jesse McDowell

News has broken of another LGBTQ-related employment dispute, this time involving a gay music minister in Georgia.

John Thomas McCecil served Our Lady of the Mount Church as its music minister for more than a decade until church officials pushed him out because he is gay. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported about McCecil’s resignation from the Lookout Mountain, Georgia church:

“[I]n a sad turn of events a few months ago, John Thomas says he was forced to resign because, in church parlance, he was in a ‘questionable’ relationship [a phrase in his contract]. . .

“If you’re still wondering what that means exactly, here it is in more simple terms: John Thomas is happily married to a man. He’s gay.

“That fact was known by church administrators at Our Lady, and as far as he could discern, no one really cared.

“Then John Thomas Cecil had the audacity to fall in love, marry Jesse McDowell and post his nuptials on his Facebook page.”

A month after McCecil posted on Facebook, Father Tom Shuler, pastor, asked to meet with him. Shuler told McCecil the music minister would have to resign over the same-gender relationship. The priest and the Archdiocese of Atlanta are not commenting on the employment dispute, but Shuler told the Courant that he was aware McCecil was gay for several years and had no problems with that. The priest paid McCecil no severance, but did give him a crystal cross upon departure.

Vikki Mills, a parishioner with a gay son, expressed shock at the forced resignation, which caused her and her husband to leave the parish:

” ‘We’ve really been struggling with it . . . He took away the most beautiful singer that brought us to tears, over and over. For years, he completed the Mass with his beautiful songs. The rest of us are suffering because of this awful decision.’ “

McCecil is one of dozens of church employees who have lost their jobs in LGBTQ-related employment disputes, many of which were over same-gender marriages. But there is nothing “questionable” about such relationships, and church employees should not be discriminated against for being in them. As Vikki Mills pointed out, it is not only the church employee and their loved ones who suffer, it is the whole community, too.

For Bondings 2.0’s full coverage of church employment issues, click here or click the “Employment Issues” category on the right-hand side of this page. For New Ways Ministry’s resources on church employment and LGBTQ issues here.

Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 16, 2019

7 replies
  1. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    Yesterday we read here about the amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court by some U.S. bishops. Let’s remember something. Marriage Equality is legal. It is a civil contract. Why is the (especially USCCB) Church making itself an antagonist ? What happened to the helpful , supportive Church ? Not only does it punish and demean , it is causing collateral damage. I know more people who identify as former Catholics than I know practicing Catholics. The Church says it stands for truth. Shouldn’t it stand for mercy and justice and tolerance,too?

    • Annette Magjuka
      Annette Magjuka says:

      The church must stop firing people in legal relationships, or Catholics of conscience must leave. This is unjust discrimination!

  2. R. Grono
    R. Grono says:

    I’m happy that a few of the parishioners expressed their sadness, but where were the majority? Why didn’t the congregation come together as one and renounce what the parish/diocese did? If and it’s a big IF the people in the pew made it known that they were not concerned about the “sins” of their Organist since they have more than enough to take care of themselves. Sadly, and no one wants to see this happen, but the only way the people can vote in the Catholic Church is by their pocket book. In retrospect it would have been better for this couple not to have gone public with their relationship, but they apparently were following their conscience and believed they were not doing anything wrong, immoral or illegal and wanted others to celebrate their joy. Once again, we don’t have to agree with the lifestyle of any employee. What sort of litmus test is given to the other employees? Are we to believe they are living virginal lives? They are living without sin? They are not in illicit relationships albeit, hidden? They are not following all the laws of the church? I wish the Pastor would not have made this a priority, but he did (perhaps at the bidding of “some” parishioners? In the end, it is a sad situation: The church lost an excellent vocalist and organist. It’s possible that he and his “husband” may leave the Catholic Church and join the Episcopal Church, the parish is left divided at best and for most of those reading this article, it was not handled well. I watch as Nanci Pelosi walks up to receive Holy Communion at Mass week after week and I also see her accepting awards from the largest abortion clinic in the world, I hear he advocating for abortion until birth, I see her violate church law after church law and yet the bishops do not lay a hand on her, they do not publicly excommunicate her and give the impression that what she is doing is just fine. She and how many other politicians? I’m disappointed in this stance of the public Catholic Church as well as in the stance of this particular parish and their liturgist/organist.

  3. John Montague
    John Montague says:

    See the movie that came out about five years ago starring John Lithgro called “Love is Strange” which is about exactly the same story.

  4. James Sheya
    James Sheya says:

    This is the sad truth that keeps happening over and over again to gay catholic employees. My question is, knowing the Catholic Church’s stance on gay marriage, why would anyone want to even accept employment with them and have to work in a closet?

    • Hoster Smith
      Hoster Smith says:

      Yes that is my question exactly. Another thing, and I know this is going to upset some people, but I am a gay man and Catholic and struggle with my faith and continue to receive the Sacraments, etc. So here goes, no one is firing them for being gay, it is firing them for doing something against what the Church that they want to take a pay check from is against. So I would never work for the Church in that capacity and be married because it is clear from the beginning. Am I the only man out there that sees this? You can do something publicly against what the Church teaches and work for the Church and then scream persecution for being gay.


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