September 20, 1998


Creech Preached, Spirits of 'Saints Alive' Filled MCC/SF

UM Clergy Say Following Jesus Is 'Risky Business'

by Wayne Marshall Jones

SAN FRANCISCO: Rev. Jimmy Creech, who was punished despite his narrow acquittal in a church trial for blessing the holy union of two women in Omaha's First United Methodist Church, was warmly welcomed this weekend as one of Metropolitan Community Church/SF's 'Saints Alive!' Creech preached Sunday night in an overflowing sanctuary, where a predominantly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender congregation embracing youth, age, and San Francisco's cultural diversity joyfully received his message of a loving God and an inclusive church. The service was marked by spirited gospel singing, prayer, and MCC/SF pastor Rev. Jim Mitulski's invitation for dozens of same-gender couples who "are in a relationship as you define it" to stand before the congregation in witness of the power of their love for each other.

Introducing these couples as "very dangerous people," Mitulski expressed his condolences to State Sen. Pete Knight, who had just announced that a 'Defense of Marriage' proposition will appear on the California ballot in the year 2000. Mitulski said, "This is not about an issue, it's about people!" and predicted that the proposition will fail. "It's going to take a lot of money and a lot of energy to challenge this ballot, but I believe we can measure the success of our movement by the desperateness of the opposiiton."

Two local United Methodist clergy spoke movingly of their determination to continue offering the church's blessing to same gender couples despite the denomination's recent judicial ruling that UM clergy are prohibited from doing so. Rev. Paul D. Sweet, pastor of Temple UMC, said that as far as he's concerned, "It's a non-issue." Rev. Karen Oliveto, pastor of Bethany United Methodist Church, referring to her congregation's decision not to back down despite the risk of punitive action, said "It's a risky business to follow Jesus." Oliveto unrolled a very long scroll listing the hundreds of names of UM clergy who have likewise committed themselves to defy the church's law.

Creech said, "If the church takes the path of fear, it will not be the Church of Jesus Christ." He told the story of the two women who, after raising children with their husbands, had finally found a deeper relationship with each other. He spoke of their experience of God's grace in discovering that they are loved for who they are, rather than believing some churches' teaching that God condemns their love for each other.

His wife Chris told her own personal story of first being welcomed to the Nebraska UM annual conference by its bishop, in full knowledge of her husband's ministry embracing all people who are marginalized in our society, and then "betrayed" by the bishop's punitive action. She said, "The church does not have a hold on morality" while demonstrating immoralacts denying the full humanness of gay and lesbian people. "Don't let them try to define what is moral," she warned the congregation.