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Rebel Pastor Becomes Layman - Court Removes Ministerial Orders

A court of Nebraska United Methodist pastors has removed the Rev. Jimmy Creech's ministerial orders.

The jury of 13 pastors delivered the sentence after two hours of deliberation.

At 1:35 p.m., the jurors had announced that they found Creech guilty of violating the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church for his role in performing a same-sex ceremony last spring. Creech united two men in a service in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The verdict brought a speedy end to the trial, which began at mid-morning today at Trinity United Methodist Church in Grand Island, Neb. Bishop William Boyd Grove, of Charleston, W.Va., presided over the court.

When the jurors entered the courtroom to announce the penalty, Grove invited Creech to stand, along with anyone else who wanted to stand with him. A number of Creech's supporters and others stood.

The jury foreman announced the penalty: Withdrawal of deacon's and elder's orders.

Grove was visibly moved.

"This is a sad day for all of us and for our church," he said.

He thanked the jurors for their work, then led the courtroom into a moment of prayer. He began by noting that God is present in every circumstance. He prayed for Creech and his family, and he thanked God for the jury pool and its hard work. The bishop prayed for all who are affected by the verdict, and he asked God for healing, peace and unity in the church.

Then Grove prayed for all gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people who are wounded by the court's decision. "We know they abide in your care," he said.

Then he offered to God this day's work. "We did not choose to do it, we were called to do it," he said.

Grove ended by giving a benediction.

Creech and his wife, Chris Weedy, rose from their table in front of the sanctuary and quietly walked out of the room. Outside, Creech was surrounded by supporters and news reporters.

The jury, consisting of 11 men and two women, remained in place, waiting for transportation to arrive.

Creech's loss of credentials is immediate, Grove said after the sentencing. Creech must submit his credentials to Bishop Joel Martinez, head of the Nebraska Annual Conference.

Removal of ministerial credentials was one of a number of options that the jury had in fixing the sentence. The Book of Discipline provides for expulsion of the respondent, or defendant, from the church, suspension from pastoral ministry, or the assessment of some lesser penalty.

A coalition of five United Methodist caucuses supporting Creech quickly issued a statement after the trial.

"We grieve for the church we love," the coalition stated. "The action of removing the ministerial orders of the Rev. Jimmy Creech is a travesty of justice and a violation of the integrity of the ministry of the church." The coalition consists of Affirmation: United Methodists for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Concerns, CORNET (Covenant Relationship Network), In All Things Charity, the Methodist Federation for Social Action and the Reconciling Congregations Program.

John Greenfell, a board member of the Good News evangelical organization, expressed support for the verdict.

"I am grateful that the jury has given status to the authority of the church and was not intimidated by Jimmy's accusations of bigotry, spiritual violence and hatred if they stood with the law of the Discipline," he said. "I admire Jimmy's courage of conviction, but I am distressed by his lack of respect for the authority of the church and the covenant relationship of his ordination vows."

–provided by United Methodist News Service

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