Pastor of 'Too Gay' Church Evicted 2 Years After Official Closure
Police arrived today to evict the former pastor of Crescent Heights United Methodist Church in West Hollywood; the mostly LGBT congregation was officially dissolved in 2011 but has continued to meet in dwindling numbers, according to City News Service.
The official United Methodist church leadership, which "discontinued" the Crescent Heights congregation in 2011, has been trying to remove former Pastor Scott Imler from the building; he defied an eviction notice that expired in September of 2012.
"I'm a gay, pro-medical marijuana pastor," Imler told Patch in 2011. "The United Methodist Church is becoming increasingly conservative and our church is too gay for them." (Imler, once dubbed the "Minister of Marijuana" by the LA Weekly, co-authored 1996's medical marijuana bill.)
The Crescent Heights church had only 39 members at the time, according to West Hollywood Patch, although former pastor Scott Imler admitted then to Patch," There were days when I worried whether we were going to have two [people]."
Imler and the church leadership clashed after he pushed Methodist church officials to oppose Prop. 8 in 2008.
In an email to reporter Karen Ocamb after the 2011 shutdown, he explained his plans and that the church had asked him to "stay on to caretake the property."
The Hollywood UMC / P.A.T.H. proposal for a homeless facility is still on the table. I was told that if redevelopment gets too difficult for the LA District (who now gain title), they will sell the property. My hope is to cobble together an investment /endowment group to buy it and perhaps move forward with our redevelopment plan. for an LGBT Cultural Heritage Campus and Memorial Park It can't be demolished as it is a "Historic Resource."
Last year, the church attempted what Imler's lawyers called "an illegal lock-out," according to WehoNews.com. Imler told WehoNews that the church's move was nothing but a "land grab."
In a 2012 Wehoville article titled "The Church vs. The Pothead Pastor," Imler is quoted as saying the church's motive in kicking him out is all about money and that they're in "deep financial trouble."
Cedrick Bridgeforth, a district superintendent for the Church, told Wehoville, "The Church has been painted as this evil beast, lording over the weak and the few. That is not the case." He said that Imler never signed the caretaker agreement (Imler claimed that the Church failed to sign it) and that "responsibilities that were expected of him were not carried out."
In July 2012, they issued an eviction notice: Imler said he would comply as soon as he was paid $9,000 in back salary, $23,000 for money his husband George paid to cover utilities and repairs, and $80,000 in unpaid medical bills for injuries Imler sustained while putting out a fire he says was started by a homeless person.
According to Wehoville, Imler was considering a lawsuit to stop the Church's redevelopment plans for the property, which entails tearing down much of the current building and replacing it with a 30-unit low-income apartment complex.
John Duran, then-mayor of West Hollywood, told the Weekly in 2002, "We had our doubts about Scott. People thought he was this fringe character. But through his perseverance, intellect and compassion, he moved the debate from the margins. He became a leader, respected by the highest law enforcers in the state."
Imler did not comment to CNS today about the eviction, but he wrote a "fabulous farewell" letter back in 2011 to his followers in which he said, "Saying goodbye is never easy, particularly to a 97 year-old hometown institution like Crescent Heights Church."