For the last two years, Jason Butler has spread a message of inclusion and compassion as pastor of Open Table United Methodist Church in Raleigh, recently pushing back against the global UMC’s ban on gay marriage. 

That fight is far from over, but he’s decided to take on another battle: running for North Carolina’s Second Congressional District, currently held by Republican George Holding.

“As I look at the world, I see so much suffering and I get this deep sense that our society is losing its moral compass—kids are in cages, Latinx families are being torn apart, multitudes are living without access to health care, the LGBTQ community is under constant threat, income inequality is out of control, and our environment is dying,” Butler wrote in an email to Open Table’s constituents. “These are not just political issues—they are issues of morality and justice—of life and death.”

Holding has held the seat since 2012. Butler, forty, plans to run as a Democrat and will vie for the party nomination against Scott Cooper, a retired marine, in the March primary. 

Butler previously served as a pastor in Milwaukee before moving to Raleigh in 2016. He founded Open Table in 2018, and the church has since grown to about two hundred members, many of them queer-identifying. In February, the global UMC voted to uphold a ban on gay marriage and forbid LGBTQ people from serving as clergy. 

“Although this may seem unconventional for a pastor, it is exactly the unconventional that is needed right now,” Butler told the INDY in a statement. “I believe the world is hungry for progressive faith leaders to speak up in this moment of chaos and give voice to the values of our faith that lead to the common good and the flourishing of all people.”

Butler says he won’t be talking about his campaign at church and plans to stay on as the church’s senior pastor. 

Contact staff writer Leigh Tauss at 

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