September 12, 1998
(Philadelphia) - Rev. Jimmy Creech, the controversial United Methodist minister acquitted of violating church law by performing a same sex union ceremony, will be making a one time public appearance to the Philadelphia area. Creech has become a folk hero in gay affirming faith-based communities and organizations all across the United States since performing the ceremony last September as then pastor of First United Methodist Church of Omaha, Neb.
His address to the public takes place on October 3, 1998 at First United Methodist Church of Germantown at 7:30 pm. This event is free and open people of all faiths.
"By bringing Jimmy to Philadelphia, we hope to promote solidarity and increase the visibility of those who support and agree with him. Gays and lesbians should be afforded the same rights as everyone else, in the United Methodist church as well as society," said Bunnie Bryant, Co-President of Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) Eastern Pennsylvania Conference, the group sponsoring Creech's visit.
"Rev. Creech's courage and commitment to the principles of social justice, upon which John Wesley founded this church, is encouraging. We need to honor this commitment, and use it as a beacon of light to gays and lesbians everywhere", commented Rev. Art Brandenburg, former UM District Supervisor.
Since the time this controversy began, about 350 clergy have signed a "Statement of Commitment", stating, "We publicly state that we will celebrate rites of union with all couples, regardless of gender, as part of the pastoral responsibilities consistent with the gospel and spirit of Jesus Christ, entrusted to us by The United Methodist Church." Ten United Methodist ministers in the Philadelphia area have signed the pledge. The denomination had added a clause to the Social Principles a year earlier stating that clergy "shall not" perform such ceremonies.
In March of 1998, three members of MFSA Eastern PA Conference attended the Creech trial in Nebraska to give support to Creech. He was acquitted at this church trial by a jury of his peers who concurred that the Social Principles were advisory rather than binding, which sparked heated controversy in the denomination. Despite the acquittal, the bishop refused to reappointment Creech to First Church, ending his appointment there at the end of June 1998. Creech returned to his native state of North Carolina and has been earning money cleaning tourist cottages for the summer, taking time off to speak to groups throughout the country.
In August 1998, the Judicial Council, the highest court of the denomination, ruled that the prohibition was binding, and that pastors who performed such ceremonies would be charged with violating church law. It is "an act of institutional violence", said Creech of the Judicial Council Decision. Creech can not be tried again for the September 1997 ceremony, because the decision is not retroactive.
Donations are encouraged to help Rev. Creech continue his public ministry of speaking out for equality for gays and lesbians everywhere.
MFSA Eastern PA Conference is a supporting organization of the Interfaith Working Group of Philadelphia.
Contact: Laura Montgomery Rutt