Sunday, March 15, 1998
Omaha Nebraska
First United Methodist Church


Sign of the Rainbow: Sunday at FUMC

by Laura Montgomery Rutt

As I prepared for my 8:10 am flight out of Omaha, Sunday, March 15, I thought about to events of the past week in Kearney, Nebraska. Snow scene and UM church

The trial of the Rev. Jimmy Creech had been a phenomenal experience. It had been an opportunity for me, as the national organizer for the Methodist Federation of Social Action, to see a church trial and to have the thrill of being involved first hand in organizing people to come to the trial to create a continuous and sustained show of support for Jimmy.

Snowy church trial day in Kearny, NE.
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

These things, however, were only a fraction of the excitement of the moment, the split second, the flash of realization-- when we all understood that the 8-5 verdict meant Jimmy was acquitted. His charges for disobeying the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church for performing a covenanting ceremony were gone. It that instant, all was right with the world.

Standing in line at the ticket counter at the airport, the joy of the decision was still strong in my mind and my soul. The elation of what this means for The United Methodist Church and the gays and lesbians that have felt marginalized was still echoing in my heart.

Suddenly, a strange sadness settled over me when I realized that after sitting through days of testimony and prayers, tears and joy, I was not going to be part of the celebration at First Church that morning. After weeks of preparation and organizing, the final chapter -- Jimmy back in the pulpit -- would be taking place as I was on the plane heading home. It felt like unfinished business.

God stepped in at that instant, I would like to think. As I handed my ticket to the clerk at the airport counter, I was told that my flight was overbooked. If I could take a later flight, I would be flown first class and receive a free voucher to fly round-trip anywhere in the United States. In that second, I heard my inner voice say, now you can go to the service.

My host in Omaha was still in the airport as I expressed my joy. We headed to First United Methodist Church together to see Jimmy step into the pulpit for the first time in over four months.

Jimmy Creech talks to his wife Chris Weedy in FUMC sanctuary The service was great. Jimmy received a standing ovation.

The Reverend Jimmy Creech talks with his wife, Chris Weedy, before the worship services Sunday, March 15, at First United Methodist Church in Omaha, NE. UMNS photo by Jeff Beiermann.

He spoke of God's covenant with all people, and the covenant with Noah, the sign of the Rainbow that God would take care of His people and never destroy the earth by flood again. As Jimmy talked of the beauty of the covenant we all have with God, the covenant that a minister has with his congregation, and the rainbow, and the beauty of the colors, it dawned on me that the sign on of God's covenant, the rainbow, is also the symbol of the gay rights movement, the symbol for diversity and inclusion. Diversity, beauty, God's covenant. What a fitting service for his return to the place where God called him to serve as the voice of inclusion in The United Methodist Chruch.

However, as we left the church, I was reminded that all is not right in the world. Outside of First United Methodist Church, protesters gathered from the Westboro Baptist Church, the home of Fred Phelps, notorious anti-gay activist from Topeka, Kansas. The dozen signs and protesters jumped out in stark contrast to the inclusive love I experienced all week long. The signs carried words such as "God still hates fags" and "Dead fag, laughing God."

There is still a lot of work that needs done in society and The United Methodist Church. Thank God for people like Rev. Jimmy Creech that are willing to take a stand for the inclusive love exhibited by Jesus Christ for all of God's children. This is just the beginning.