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STATEMENT ON JIMMY CREECH TRIAL AND VERDICT

Bishop Cornelius L. Henderson and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference

March 31, 1998


Bishop Cornelius L. Henderson and the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church express their dismay over the decision of a church jury resulting in the acquittal of the Reverend Jimmy Creech on the charge of disobedience to the order and discipline of The United Methodist Church.

The jury in the trial of Reverend Creech voted 11 to 2 in affirming that a same-sex union was performed in the First United Methodist Church by Reverend Creech in Omaha, Nebraska on September 14, 1997. It then voted 8 to 5, that Reverend Creech was guilty of violation of the order and discipline of our Church. However, since a vote of at least "9 guilty" is required by Church law for conviction, the legal result was acquittal.

This is one decision rendered by one jury on charges brought against one clergy person. The verdict of this trial changes nothing in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church which calls for compassion for homosexual persons while clearly stating that the homosexual lifestyle is not condoned by The United Methodist Church. Further, it states that the practice of homosexuality is "incompatible with Christian teaching...." (The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 1996, page 89.)

The presiding officer at the trial, Bishop Leroy C. Hodapp, stated, 'This decision carries no weight of church law or precedence beyond the immediate effect on Jimmy Creech. Other such trials could occur in other conferences with different results."

We, as the Bishop and Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference, affirm our support of and adherence to The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church. We expect our pastors and churches to do the same. It is a part of being United Methodist,

Further, we stand by the Disciplinary statement as contained in the Social Principles that "Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches." (The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 1996, page 87.)

On Biblical and theological grounds we are in opposition to same-sex unions. This is true even if the Social Principles in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 1996 are determined not binding as church law. [emphasis added]

One of the admired heritages of our denomination is the democratic process of debate and dissent. Every General Conference of The United Methodist Church since 1972 has made clear the mind of United Methodist Christians on the issue of homosexuality. However, in the process of debate and dissent, it is not appropriate to act against the clear statements of The Book of Discipline by which all United Methodists are covenanted together.

The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church is placed in a great position of opportunity to share the Gospel that God so loves the world that Jesus comes to redeem all persons. In this time of frustration concerning this one decision in one church trial let us not lose sight of our vision and mission which is to "Make Disciples for Jesus Christ."

We call all Florida United Methodists to a season of prayer for the Church, for our Pastors and for our laity. May God bless all of us as we continue to serve. May God provide for us the strength and wisdom to move forward in the midst of this challenging time. May God give us vision not to be sidetracked by this one incident. Let us, in the words of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, "strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness..." in the full faith that all things will be given us in due time.

(Signed by Bishop Cornelius L. Henderson, by the 14 District Superintendents of the Florida Conference, and by four other ministers serving on the Conference staff.)

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