On December 5, 1997, The Gateway a campus newspaper published by the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) Student Publications Committee published an inaccurate article about a talk that the Reverend Jimmy Creech gave at UNO's Gay and Lesbian Organization (GALO).
The Reverend Jimmy Creech
In the past, a problematic article might have caused a tempest on campus but seldom would have affected a wider community. Today's world, however, includes the World Wide Web. Many student newspapers, including The Gateway are on the web and therefore reach people beyond their campus. For example, an article "Controversial Minister Digs Lesbian Marriage ," written by Wendy Townley, is available for the global community to read. Unfortunately, it has several errors. We are posting Jimmy's letter to The Gateway below. A copy of Jimmy's rebuttal is also on the newspaper's own site at: http://www.gateway.unomaha.edu/creech.html. The editor has posted a response from Wendy Townley. We expect more action after classes are in session again.
We believe that The Gateway will do what is right. As of today (12/17/97), they have corrected some of the errors in the Internet version which were not in the newspaper version of the article. In the meantime, however, the inaccurate news report has been circulating on the Internet and beyond. We ask your support in stopping the inaccuracies in conversation, e-mail, and other communications. Letters of concern can also be communicated to the newspaper:
Gateway/ University of Nebraska at Omaha
Omaha, NE 68182
Phone: (402) 554-2470
Many news reports and editorials about Jimmy Creech are on the World Wide Web. We invite you to peruse them, particularly those from United Methodist sources, which understand our denominational polity.
December 17, 1997
December 17, 1997
Dear Mr. Fogarty:
I am writing to request a full clarification of the article, "Controversial Minister Digs Lesbian Marriage," written by Wendy Townley which appeared in the December 5, 1997, issue of The Gateway. The article has many inaccuracies and misrepresentations which have caused harm to Bishop Joel Martinez and to me. The direct quotes attributed to me are at best poor paraphrases in most cases and untrue in others. I did not know a reporter was present for the GALO meeting. I would have been very willing for Ms. Townley to interview me and ask questions about any of my comments that she was not clear about. It is unfortunate that she did not take the opportunity to do so.
As you are know, there are two versions of this article: one published on newsprint and one published on the internet. [CORNET NOTE: The Internet version was changed on 12/17/97 to be the same as the newsprint version]
The article correctly reported the following:
1. I spoke to the GALO on December 3, 1997;
2. I have been a United Methodist minister for twenty-seven years;
3. I celebrated a covenant ceremony for two women in September;
4. I am on a sixty-day suspension;
5. I believe The United Methodist Church is "infected with a cultural bias" against persons who are lesbian and gay;
6. God's grace cannot be withheld from persons who commit themselves to one another; and,
7. "I feel honored that this couple came to me and allowed me to do this ceremony."
The following are the major errors in the article:
1. I did not say, "Consequently, I am not a Christian," as is reported on the internet version. In fact, my statement to the group was: "I am a Christian, and consequently what I have to say will reflect my religious commitment. I do not presume that everyone in this room is Christian. Please understand that, while speaking out of my perspective, I am not implying that you should hold the same beliefs." This is a standard statement I make when speaking to a non-church group in a public setting. [CORNET NOTE: Gateway has corrected this statement on the Internet version]
2. The article states: "The Bishop informed me that he was aware that I would be performing this ceremony." What I said to the group was that I informed the bishop that I would be celebrating the covenant ceremony. Consequently, he knew about it before it happened. I also explained to the group that the bishop responded by instructing me not to do the ceremony. I acknowledged the bishop's instruction, but told him that I was convinced that celebrating the covenant was the right thing to do and would do it in spite of his instructions.
3. The article states, "He also asked me to reschedule the ceremony when he would be out of town." On the contrary, the bishop was very uncomfortable that the ceremony was scheduled to happen during a time when he was out of the country. Since it was clear that I was determined to celebrate the ceremony, he asked me to try to reschedule it after his return so that he would be available to respond to people's concerns about the ceremony, anticipating that there would be some. I was not able to reschedule the ceremony.
4. There is an implied coziness between the bishop and me in the article. What I said to the group was that we are not adversaries and that we respect one another. However, we disagree on the interpretation of The Book of Discipline and on the appropriateness of celebrating covenant ceremonies. The bishop has been very clear about his position.
5. The article states that The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church "contains social and solid principles." This is confusing. The Book of Discipline contains a section entitled, Social Principles, which addresses important social issues and offers advice as to how to act in regard to them. The Social Principles traditionally have not been treated as church law, but as guidance. The prohibition of covenant ceremonies is within the Social Principles, hence there is ambiguity regarding its coercive status. In addition, The Book of Discipline includes laws which govern the administration of the United Methodist Church. These laws are binding.
6. The article states: "In Nebraska, same-sex marriages are against the law due to the Protection of Marriage Act." This is inaccurate. First of all, the Protection of Marriage Act has not been adopted by the Nebraska legislature. Secondly, the covenant ceremony was not a "marriage." Finally, the covenant ceremony is not "against the law"; it simply does not have the legal sanction that a heterosexual marriage has. It is a celebration of a spiritual commitment of two persons to one another, not a legal contract.
7. The article states that I am on suspension and "unable to participate in any Church ceremonies, organizations, or be allowed ties of any kind." Again, this is vague and inaccurate. I am suspended from "clergy responsibilities." This means, that I am suspended from performing normal pastoral and administrative responsibilities at First United Methodist Church, Omaha.
This article was poorly written and has caused much confusion and distress within The United Methodist Church. As you can appreciate, there is much controversy surrounding the covenant ceremony. Persons who are angry that it happened are using the article to implicate Bishop Martinez with me. This has done great harm to him. I therefore ask for a full clarification of both versions of the article. The confusion caused by this article is so great, I believe a full retraction of the article is justified.
Thank you for your attention to this matter. Please respond to let me know what action you will take.
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