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Creech to stand trial again

By United Methodist News Service Sept. 24, 1999

The Rev. Jimmy Creech, a United Methodist clergy member of the Nebraska Conference who has been residing in North Carolina, is facing a second church trial for conducting a same-sex union ceremony.

The Committee on Investigation of the Nebraska United Methodist Annual (regional) Conference made that decision during a Sept. 16 meeting in Lincoln. The committee found that "there are reasonable grounds for the charge and specifications against Jimmy Creech" and referred its recommendation for a trial to Bishop Joel Martinez.

The Rev. Mel Leutchens, assistant to Martinez, said "Creech was found to be in violation of the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church." Nebraska officials have not announced a date or location for the trial or who will be the presiding officer at the event.

Creech performed a service of holy union for two men, Larry Ellis and Jim Raymer, in Chapel Hill, N.C., April 24, 1999.

Paragraph 65C of the United Methodist Book of Discipline states that "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches." In August 1998, the denomination's Judicial Council ruled that the paragraph has the effect of church law and "governs the conduct of the ministerial office." Violation of the prohibition, the council said, "renders a pastor liable to a charge of disobedience to the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church under Paragraph 2624 of the Discipline."

In a statement to the media, Creech said the investigative committee's recommendation for a trail is unfortunate. "It is not in the best interest of the United Methodist Church for this trial to take place," he said. The trial, he added, will be "an act of violence against lesbians, bisexual and gay persons and a betrayal of the gospel of Jesus Christ and all who participate in it will be complicit."

In March 1998, a Nebraska church jury narrowly acquitted Creech of charges that he broke church rules when he performed a ceremony for two women while pastor at First United Methodist Church in Omaha. Subsequently he was not reappointed to First Church and has since been on leave of absence in North Carolina.

"We are not necessarily glad we have to go through another trial," Leutchens said, "but having a trial emphasizes the fact that we have in the United Methodist system a good process, a clear process, an open process for dealing with controversial issues."

Leutchens said although he does not know how long the preparation for this trial will take, he said that previous trial occurred seven to eight weeks after the investigative committee made its recommendation.

"I regret the Nebraska Annual Conference has chosen to take this action against me," Creech said. "The trial will more deeply mire the United Methodist Church into the sludge of bigotry and legalism. How can such an encumbered church witness to the grace of God."

Creech said the impending trial "will be a waste of resources--money, time energy and personnel--that should be used otherwise in positive, helpful ministries to people in need in the world."

He said that the celebration of love and commitment between two people is an embodiment of the gospel of Jesus Christ. "If I am found guilty by a trial court, then the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church is in conflict with this gospel. It is arrogance on the part of the church to elevate some people's relationships with God, while denigrating that of others, on the basis of innate sexuality," Creech said. "This arrogance is evil, comparable to racism."

"We will continue to be in prayer and hold all people in our church and conference in our prayers," Leutchens said "As a part of the connectional system, we hope people around the church will hold us in their thoughts and prayers as well."

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