After disturbing phone call, pride flag vandalized outside East Greenwich Church

A symbol of pride quickly turned into a symbol of hate at a church in East Greenwich last week after the pride flag hanging outside United Methodist Church was destroyed in an apparent hate-filled case of vandalism following a troubling phone call to a pastor.

A couple of weeks back the church put out the pride flag as a clear sign that all are welcome, but within days it was cut to shreds.

This begins back in February on the national level, where the Methodist Church decided by a close margin not to host gay weddings or have members of the gay community be ordained. That created a split in the church, with clergy facing potential penalties if they did not comply.

That’s why Rev. William Trench with United Methodist Church started hanging the Technicolor Dreamcoat from the biblical story outside the church as a way to welcome members of the LGBTQ community. The congregation eventually provided a real flag to be put up.

“We had hoped that the church would become more inclusive,” Trench said.

But last Monday when Trench went to the church, he found the flag tattered. It lasted just five days outside along Route 2.

“It wasn’t a rip that could’ve been caused by the wind. I mean, it was cut. It was severed. It was cut with scissors or a knife.” he said. “The damage is symbolic but yes clearly it’s a hate crime. Clearly, somebody hates gay people enough to do that.” 

The Friday before the vandal made their mark, Trench said his assistant pastor received a hateful phone call.

“Well, he said ‘doesn’t anybody read the bible?’ You should know that you shouldn’t have that gay flag,” Trench said of the anonymous phone call.

After speaking with other clergies in his area, a conversation came up about possibly locking doors during services. Trench deciding against it, saying all are welcome.

“This has put us in a position where it’s not unreasonable to ask if we should take that step,” he said.

Amid the bigotry, the Reverend said there’s an important lesson to be learned from this. 

“It gave us a sense of what LGBTQ people go through all the time,” he said. “It made it clear why we needed the flag.”

The church contacted East Greenwich Police but they did not fill out a police report.

Police told Trench they will add extra patrols to the area.