May 6, 1998
by CORNET, the United Methodist Covenant Relationships Network
Today Morris Floyd, a spokesperson for Affirmation and CORNET, commented about the decision by Nebraska Bishop Joel Martinez that the Reverend Jimmy Creech would not be reappointed to his position as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Omaha.
"Though a significant number of persons chose to separate from FUMC Omaha, hundreds of other members supported and encouraged Jimmy in his Christ-like ministry. Last March, hundreds welcomed him back from his forced suspension with standing ovations at the Sunday morning services. When the bishop suspended Jimmy Creech in November, 1997, CORNET warned: 'We fear this action will create further division rather than dialogue.' The bishop's most recent decision compounds the tragedy of a divided congregation rather than foster the restoration that the bishop presumably seeks."
Worse yet, Floyd said, the decision "rewards those from outside the FUMC and the Nebraska Annual Conference whose efforts not only violated the Book of Discipline but also undermined reconciliation among Creech, his supporters, and his critics within the congregation. Floyd has known Bishop Martinez for nearly twenty years. "He has been an important leader, a fearless advocate for justice. I am surprised and disappointed by his handling of this situation. Clearly he could have taken no action that would satisfy everyone; all the more reason he should have stood for justice and love." Floyd added that he is confident that Martinez will uphold the Discipline's requirement that "Every effective elder in full connection who is in good standing shall be continued under appointment by the bishop" (Para. 325).
"While, of course, I do not know the bishop's thinking," Floyd continued, "I fear many denominational leaders are trying to pacify an increasingly virulent faction that is undercutting our church with political tactics such as formal church charges against clergy (including bishops) with whom they disagree theologically; withdrawal of funds or partial withholding of apportionments, and threats of schism. On one hand, leaders may fear that they cannot afford to lose the money and power represented by some of these opponents to full inclusion for all people. On the other hand, they know that most of us who believe in an inclusive church will continue to pay our apportionments and to be members of The United Methodist Church. In addition, I want to make it clear that I'm not lumping all with whom we disagree into one group. Many who disagree with us and believe that homosexuality is a sin will also stay in the church no matter what and continue to pay their apportionments also; for they understand John Wesley's vision that Methodists are theologically diverse, that we are to love each other in the midst of our conflicts as we all seek to do God's will. "
"Likewise," he said, "I believe most of Jimmy's supporters at First Church will stay, even after he leaves. They will be willing to have their Christian understandings tested and challenged, but they will not surrender their vision or give up on their church. Nevertheless, these will be difficult days for them." Floyd said, "We hope that all groups in FUMC, Jimmy's supporters and opponents and those who feel caught in the middle, will be able to sit down in honesty, humility, and the spirit of Christian love to talk and listen to each other and work out ways to be in God's ministry to all people."
Floyd said the recent statement on same-gender covenant services by the Council of Bishops is another illustration of the problem of losing sight of Biblical commandments for justice and love. "Despite its appropriate pastoral tone, that statement satisfied very few; it simply reiterated the administrative status quo. Homosexuality has become the pivot in a struggle that is really about the theological underpinnings of the denomination. For example, the justice-seeking required to reduce suffering among the world's children is not different from that required to insist that the church, like Jesus Christ, be in full ministry with all persons. Both concerns require the willingness to confront 'principalities and powers' that threaten an institution trying to do God's will; both require a fundamental allegiance to the justice-love that is at the heart of the Christian Gospel."
Floyd said that he believes that "Even though all United Methodists are not comfortable or in agreement with the notion of same-gender covenant services, they know the unambiguous call of Jesus to 'Love one another as I have loved you.' Deep down, most United Methodist know this call to love is neither fulfilled in a church that misinterprets Scripture to rationalize exclusion or oppression of some of its members nor in a church that fails to serve the poor or care for the world's children."
As for Jimmy Creech, Floyd said, "His ministry of justice and love will continue. He will not
stop following Jesus Christ, even when faithful discipleship is costly."