Tuesday, March 17, 1998

Good News Responds to Creech Verdict and 92 Pastors,
Asks Bishops to Call Special Session of General Conference

Good News Official Press Release

CORNET Note: Good News differs sharply with our theological views and concept of ministry. United Methodists, by tradition since the time of John Wesley, hold a variety of viewpoints. This is their press release. We have added links and corrected some typos. CORNET recommends John Wesley's "A Catholic Spirit" for his advice on how [United] Methodists and other Christians can be in ministry in the midst of theological difference.

WILMORE, KY — The Executive Committee of Good News, an unofficial renewal movement within The United Methodist Church, took action by teleconference Monday night, March 16, calling upon The United Methodist Council of Bishops to call a special session of General Conference as soon as possible to address the present crisis in the UM Church. Good News shares the sense of outrage felt by United Methodists all across the country who have learned of the acquittal of the Rev. Jimmy Creech, the Omaha, Nebraska pastor who faced a church trial March 11-13 for performing a lesbian marriage last September.

"In failing to find Creech guilty, our system failed," said James V. Heidinger II, president and publisher of Good News. "Creech’s performing of the lesbian marriage was an act of insubordination to his bishop, as well as a violation of scripture, church policy and the expressed intent of the 1996 General Conference," Heidinger said. Delegates to the church’s quadrennial General Conference in Denver two years ago added a sentence to a statement on marriage in Par. 65C of The Book of Discipline, which said, "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches." The placement of this sentence in the Social Principles portion of the UM Book of Discipline, however, has resulted in questions for some about the binding authority of the prohibitive statement. This is one of the issues needing addressed at a special session of General Conference. At the same time, it is important for United Methodists to realize that the Creech verdict has not changed the church’s policy regarding homosexuality.

Good News believes it will take a special session of General Conference to resolve the crisis that has come as a result of the Creech verdict. If clear and convincing resolution of this matter does not come from such a special General Conference session, many United Methodists have indicated they will find ways for expressions of conscience that will be financially disruptive for church programs at every level. Several months ago the Good News board went on record affirming the right of persons and congregations to exercise conscience financially without fear of reprisal, harassment, or threat of punitive measures against them or their pastors by United Methodist leaders.

Good News also expressed shock and dismay that 92 UM clergy have declared publicly their intent "to celebrate rites of union with all couples, regardless of gender." The 92 pastors were listed along with a news release distributed the afternoon the Creech verdict was announced. The "courageous public statement," as it was described by the "Proclaim the Vision" Committee, constitutes an act of public defiance of the authority of the United Methodist Church and it’s action at the 1996 General Conference. The present crisis comes not just from the Creech verdict, but from 92 UM pastors (to date) who have declared, "We will continue to perform [same-sex] covenant services as a part of our pastoral role…" Concerning the action of the 1996 General Conference prohibiting same-sex unions, the 92 said simply, "…we will not be bound by it."

Adding to the crisis, two annual conference cabinets—California/Nevada and the Troy (NY) Conferences—recently released statements indicating their support of pastors who perform same-sex covenants.

Good News suggests that a far less divisive action would be for these 92 and others who are like-minded to seek another church fellowship whose views are compatible with their own. This would be far more loving than the continued efforts to force upon The United Methodist Church a radically revisionistic moral standard that the church’s major legislative body has rejected since 1972. A continuing campaign by these 92 clergy and others will only perpetuate the destructive impact that inevitably comes when they attempt to impose their values upon UM congregations and members who do not share their views. This crusade is doing irreparable harm to scores of UM congregations.

At the same time, we urge United Methodists to be faithful in loving, transformational ministries to all persons. We affirm that through the power of the Holy Spirit, people are finding freedom from the power of sin, including those struggling with sexual sin.

We abhor and oppose all hateful or violent anti-homosexual protests such as those displayed outside First United Methodist Church, Omaha, on Sunday, March 15. Such vulgar displays have no place in the Church of Jesus Christ.

We also stand in support of the many United Methodists in Nebraska and elsewhere who are hurting as a result of the Creech decision. In addition, we urge annual conferences this spring to go on record affirming their support of the doctrines and standards of The United Methodist Church as stated clearly in the 1996 Book of Discipline.