PRESS RELEASE: November 8, 1999
For more information, contact representatives noted at the end of this release.
Chicago, Ill. (November 6) A coalition of United Methodist groups has announced its response to a planned demonstration at the church trial of the Rev. Jimmy Creech, to be held in Grand Island, Nebraska, on November 17. The coalition, consisting of United Methodist groups historically committed to challenging and changing the denomination's negative positions on sexual orientation, is working to change the church's discriminatory laws. The Rev. Creech is charged with “disobedience to the Order and Discipline of the United Methodist Church” for conducting a service of Holy Union for two men in North Carolina earlier this year.
The Rev. Mel White of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches has said he will lead his group Soulforce, which is working independently from the coalition, in non-violent actions. His intent is to challenge trial participants to examine their faith and conscience before participating in an event that he says does "spiritual violence" to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons and their families, friends and communities.
The coalition issues the following statement:
The trial of the Rev. Jimmy Creech raises awareness again of the injustice and injury being done to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons and their supporters in church and society. Although many United Methodists might consider this trial to be an internal matter, it is not. The reason for the trial—an unjust United Methodist law forbidding "homosexual unions"-- makes clear our denomination's current willingness to support bigotry and exclusion based on sexual orientation.
The trial’s protest by the Rev. Mel White and Soulforce is an understandable act of resistance and call to awareness. Soulforce’s witness expresses the understanding that bringing charges against pastors who offer pastoral services to lesbians and gay men is an act of spiritual violence. For many United Methodists and others, the protest will faithfully express their pain and outrage at the injustice the trial represents. For others, it will not.
Our coalition plans a presence at the trial of the Rev. Creech, whose witness for justice we applaud. We will be in the trial room and other arenas to offer support to Rev. Creech and others who have come to support him. Our presence is to stand together for the full inclusion of all members of The United Methodist Church. We witness against divisive laws that actively harm a group of people whom our denomination has declared to be of sacred worth.
Our presence at the trial and other gatherings expresses our resistance to the statement in the Social Principles about "homosexual unions" that has provoked church trials. This sentence, added by the 1996 General Conference, has fanned further discrimination and separation within our denomination. We invite others to join our witness, which will not involve civil disobedience or direct confrontations of trial court participants.
Our coalition’s commitment is to work to correct the laws at the church’s General Conference 2000. Our sense is that United Methodists do not want a denomination that uses differences as a way to injure or expel people from our community of faith. We are convinced that, just as the church is in process of repenting for its exclusion of women from leadership and its history of racial segregation, it will turn away from persecuting people because of their sexual orientation.
Such a transformation, however, will not occur without reclaiming our Wesleyan heritage of seeking and receiving God's grace in the midst of diversity, of being of one heart although our opinions differ. As we await that great awakening which will enable United Methodists to truly see each other as equals in Jesus Christ, our coalition comes to the Rev. Creech's trial to witness to the very real pain and injury that we, as a church, have inflicted on one class of our sister and brother Christians.
Official procedures and policies of church legislation—however framed by standards of propriety—provide a foundation for continued acts of violence and injury against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons. Every month brings news of more murders of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people, and of young people committing suicide because they are convinced God hates them. It is time to stop the injustice. It is time to end spiritual abuse.
The coalition consists of the following groups and contacts:
Conducting holy union services for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons is a violation of current United Methodist Church law. The Rev. Jimmy Creech is charged with "disobedience to the Order and Discipline of the United Methodist Church" for conducting a service of Holy Union for two men in Chapel Hill, North Carolina earlier this year. The Rev. Creech is a member of the Nebraska Annual Conference currently on Leave of Absence and living in North Carolina. He was granted leave following his acquittal in a church trial on a similar charge in March 1998. After his acquittal his
Bishop, Joel Martinez, notified Rev. Creech that he would not be reappointed as pastor to First United Methodist Church of Omaha where he had been serving. More information about Jimmy Creech, including over 50 news articles about him, is at http://www.umaffirm.org/cornet/jcomaha.html.