August 11, 1998 (Revised, 8pm)
RESPONSE TO THE JUDICIAL DECISION RE. PARAGRAPH 65C OF THE SOCIAL PRINCIPLES
The Reverend Jimmy Creech
Today, I am grieving for the United Methodist Church. The declaratory ruling of the Judicial Council gives legal, coercive force to the Social Principle prohibiting "homosexual unions," requiring pastors to discriminate against and contribute to the persecution of gay men and lesbians. The Church of John Wesley, founded upon principles of social justice and piety, will now be prosecuting pastors for praying God's blessings upon same-sex couples who make covenants of love and fidelity.
It is a sad day for the United Methodist Church. Our witness to the grace of God has been compromised by bigotry and fear. The Church has circumscribed itself into a closed, exclusive community that is in conflict with Jesus' vision of the realm of God where all are welcome, included and accepted. The Church is relying upon prejudice, ignorance, and fear, instead of allowing grace and the Holy Spirit to lead us into this vision. The true nature of the Church has been denied.
This decision contributes to the Church's long-standing assault upon lesbians and gay men, as well as upon their families and friends and the churches that seek to be welcoming, inclusive, and supportive. It is an act of institutional violence and cannot be tolerated.
I appeal to United Methodist pastors to protest this decision through ecclesial disobedience by defying the prohibition and publicly celebrating same-sex covenants. The leadership of The United Methodist Church must then decide whether or not it will devote its energy and resources to prosecuting pastors who seek to be faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ by providing pastoral and liturgical support to gay and lesbian persons. It will have to decide whether the enforcement of prejudice is of more importance than witnessing to the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
I also appeal to laity and clergy of The United Methodist Church who disagree with the anti-gay language in The Book of Discipline to begin organizing to change it at the 2000 General Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. We can no longer allow fear and prejudice to define who we are and how we behave as United Methodists. We can wait no longer. It is time to end the bigotry and stop the persecution.
See Also: Prohibition against performing homosexual unions ruled enforceable, UMNS, August 11, 1998
The photograph of Jimmy Creech is courtesy of Jimmy Creech.