March 11, 1998
The cabinet of the California-Nevada Conference has no official policy regarding same-sex unions, Bishop Melvin G. Talbert said in a brief statement issued by his office March 9.
Talbert was responding to a March 3 news story about a press conference in San Francisco where Golden Gate District Superintendent Thomas Kimball said the cabinet was "unequivocal" in its support of pastors who perform ceremonies for same-sex partners. The story, issued by United Methodist News Service, was written by Charley Lerrigo, editor of the California-Nevada United Methodist Review newspaper.
Lerrigo wrote the story after attending a public meeting and press conference held in support of the Rev. Jimmy Creech, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Omaha. Creech is facing a church trial in Nebraska for performing a same-sex covenanting ceremony in his church last September.
At a packed house at Metropolitan Community Church in San Francisco, Kimball told Creech, "If Nebraska kicks you out, we'll find a place for you."
When contacted by United Methodist News Service, Talbert said he didn't want to elaborate on his printed statement because of the pending trial, which begins March 11. However he did stress, "At no point have the cabinet and I discussed operating outside the Book of Discipline."
In his printed statement, Talbert said, "We perform our ministry in compliance with the Book of Discipline and in keeping with Judicial Council Ruling No. 694. We encourage all our pastors to do their ministry in compliance with the Book of Discipline."
The 1993 Judicial Council decision was made in response to actions by the Minnesota and Troy Annual (regional) Conference calling for services of blessing and celebration for same-sex couples.
Following a hearing in Atlanta Oct. 28, 1993, the nine-member court said, "The annual conference has no authority to establish or alter the official rites and rituals of The United Methodist Church. It is the responsibility of the pastors in charge to perform their duties in compliance with the Discipline and be obedient to the Order and Discipline of the Church."
Meanwhile, Bishop Susan M. Morrison and the district superintendents of the Troy Annual Conference released a statement March 9 supporting Creech's decision "to respond to the pastoral needs of members of his congregation by performing a service of holy union."
The Troy leaders also affirmed a petition approved by the 1997 Troy Annual Conference asking the next General Conference in the year 2000 to remove from the Social Principles a sentence inserted by the 1996 General Conference. The sentence says, "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches."
The Troy Conference includes all of Vermont and portions of upper New York.
The General Conference, the top legislative body of the church, meets every four years, and it is the only group that can make official policy for the denomination.
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Produced by United Methodist News Service, official news agency of the United Methodist Church, with offices in Nashville, Tenn., New York, and Washington.