June 29, 1998

Creech calls women he blessed 'truly courageous'

By United Methodist News Service

See also: A Message from Jimmy Creech

NEW YORK (UMNS) – The United Methodist pastor who was subjected to a church trial after performing a same-sex covenant service said it was the two women he blessed "who were truly courageous."

As preacher at the June 28 Gay Pride Sunday service at Riverside Church in New York, the Rev. Jimmy Creech spoke both about the women themselves and his belief that "the church needs to be with every couple who chose to make such a commitment."

Creech was narrowly acquitted of charges that he violated church law by performing the same-sex ceremony and was reinstated at First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Neb., after the March trial. However, he was not re-appointed to that church or appointed to any other church and currently is on leave of absence.

He received a warm welcome at Riverside, an interdenominational, multiethnic congregation with 2,400 members and affiliates. The Riverside Church Council endorsed same-sex civil marriage in April 1997.

Creech described the ceremony he conducted last September for the two women he calls Mary and Martha and the journey that brought them to that point.

Mary grew up in a Mormon family, married and had a daughter, and stayed in that unhappy marriage until "she could no longer love and be true to herself," he said.

Martha, raised a Roman Catholic, had three children with a husband she considered her best friend but finally could no longer live with the internal conflicts she felt about her sexuality. After she left the marriage, she joined a support group and found friendship with a gay man who also agonized over leaving his wife. They introduced their spouses to each other and the spouses later married.

"The former husband has remained very supportive and very affirming," said Creech about Martha's spouse.

Previously, "God had been to them an enemy, an opposing force in their lives," he added. But after accepting their sexual orientation, they learned that God had not rejected them. Mary and Martha were able to cast off their self-hatred "and embrace the gifts that God had given them," he said.

The covenant ceremony occurred after Mary and Martha had been together for several years, once they had accepted God's love for them, love for themselves and their love for each other.

"It was a triumph of love over fear," Creech explained.

For Sunday's service, Riverside displayed a small portion of the Shower of Stoles, a collection of more than 400 liturgical stoles from persons who have been barred from the ministry because of their sexual orientation. A stole being donated by Riverside was worn during the service by one of its pastors, the Rev. Elizabeth Alexander, who said she is leaving the Presbyterian Church because it prohibits her from living in a covenanted same-sex relationship.

On Sunday evening, CNN aired a news segment about Creech and the turmoil within the United Methodist Church over same-sex ceremonies.