CONTACT: Linda Bloom (Release #555) (10-21-28-71B)367 New York (212) 870-3803 Oct. 2, 1997
by United Methodist News Service
The Sept. 14 covenanting ceremony for two lesbian members at First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Nebr., has generated continued debate, both within the congregation and in the community at large.
An Oct. 12 forum has been set by the church to allow members to discuss its future direction and whether to retain a previously-developed vision statement which stressed ministry to all persons, including gay men and lesbians.
And the United Methodist Nebraska Annual Conference has begun
its investigation of complaints filed after the Rev. Jimmy Creech
performed the ceremony.
The 1996 General Conference, the denomination's legislative body, had added a statement to the church's Social Principles, saying "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and conducted in our churches."
Since the ceremony, some of the 1,900-member congregation have circulated a letter -- originally with 129 signatures -- opposing Creech's actions.
"Those who are promoting that statement ... are well organized and they're continuing to encourage people to add their name to the list," Creech told United Methodist News Service.
While acknowledging some opposition, the pastor added that he had "significant support" from church members.
He said the district superintendent and conference staff are providing a consultant to help promote "a process of conversation" within the congregation so it can "become clearer about the ministry of the church and where we're going." The Oct. 12 forum will be a part of that process.
At the conference level, a confidential process of review has begun regarding the complaints filed against Creech, according to Barbara Nissen, conference communicator. She said the complaints came from both clergy and laity, but she did not know the number of complaints filed.
Creech said he met with Bishop Joel Martinez on Sept. 30 to discuss the process of review. He believes the bishop will be "fair" in his actions. "I think he and I share the same priority...we want it to move along, we don't want it to drag," he added.
Although Creech did not want publicity about the ceremony before it occurred -- to protect the couple's privacy -- he's pleased the event has provoked conversations regarding the acceptance of gays and lesbians. "It's been a marvelous opening up of a public discussion which I think is necessary and very helpful," he explained.
Creech thinks the Oct. 1 statement on homosexuality issued by the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops will help contribute to the discussion. While not condoning sexual activity among gays, the bishops' statement does emphasize that sexual orientation is not chosen and urges parents to accept and love their gay sons and daughters.
"I think that is a very significant message right now for us," he said.
Produced by United Methodist News Service, official news agency of the United Methodist Church, with offices in Nashville, Tenn., New York, and Washington.
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