Nebraska UM Bishop Puts Seal Of Approval On Same-sex Marriage Celebrations In UM Churches
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Omaha church adopts pro-gay policy
By BOB REEVES / Lincoln Journal Star Saturday, May 27, 2006 - 12:09:54 am CDT http://www.journalstar.com/articles/2006/05/27/local/doc447783f60e212306408197.txt
First United Methodist Church of Omaha has adopted a policy offering the church's help to same-gender couples seeking religious commitment ceremonies resembling marriage.
Without violating the denomination's rules, the policy will allow the church to "help same-gender persons who desire to commit their lives to each other," said the Rev. Chad Anglemyer, senior minister.
"It is pretty clear to me that the most important thing for us to say as a church is that we desire to allow all gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons to have as full access to our church as possible while staying within the bounds of our Book of Discipline," he said.
The church's rules say that services uniting same-gender couples "shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.
The policy allows the church to offer pastoral counseling to gay or lesbian couples and help them plan a union service. Lay members of the church may conduct the service away from the church, followed by a religious service at First United Methodist.
Couples also may be referred to other denominations that allow their clergy to perform same-sex unions, Anglemyer said.
Nebraska Bishop Ann Sherer said in a telephone interview she had reviewed the Omaha church's policy and found it in full compliance with the Book of Discipline.
"They have done a good job of maintaining a good balance there, and I respect them and their work," she said.
Many United Methodist churches around the country have adopted similar policies, she said.
"It's an effort to stay consistent with the discipline and at the same time reach out to people with same-gender preferences, whom they are seeking to serve."
For the past decade the Omaha church has had a policy of welcoming, accepting and including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons, Anglemyer said.
In 1997 Jimmy Creech, then senior minister, conducted a Holy Union ceremony at First United Methodist uniting two lesbians. He was acquitted at a church trial of violating the church's rules, but then-Bishop Joel Martinez declined to reappoint Creech to the Omaha church.
Creech moved to North Carolina, where he conducted a Holy Union service for two gay men. At a second church trial, he was convicted and was stripped of his ministerial credentials.
First United Methodist is the only Nebraska church belonging to the Reconciling Ministries Network, a national organization of United Methodist churches and members who favor full equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons in the church.
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