Grand Island Independent Article: "Minister Stripped of Ordination for Gay Marriage Rite, Methodist Church Jury Finds Creech Guilty"

By Tracy Overstreet
The Independent (Grand Island, Nebraska)
November 17, 1999

A Methodist church jury stripped Jimmy Creech of his credentials as a minister Wednesday for breaking church rules by conducting a commitment ceremony for two gay men.

A 13-member jury delivered a unanimous "guilty" verdict against the former Omaha pastor. The verdict in the United Methodist Church trial came after about an hour of deliberation.

"This is a loss of something I love dearly," Creech said, noting he has been an ordained minister for 29 years. "This is the pettiness of the church and not the spirit of God that has acted here today."

Creech said the United Methodist Church made clear with its verdict that it will use church power to enforce bigotry.

"It is a scandalous day for the United Methodist Church," he said.

The jury could have banished 55-year-old Creech from the church altogether or given him lighter sanctions.

Rev. Steve Flader of Omaha, who acted as prosecutor, recommended that Creech lose his credentials to be a minister.

A juror, the Rev. Jeff Kelley from Nebraska City, read a statement regarding the jury’s guilty verdict.

"We wish also to affirm that the discipline says ‘homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth — we commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.’"

Earlier Wednesday, 74 Creech supporters were arrested for blocking access to Trinity United Methodist Church in Grand Island. Those arrested for trespassing had locked arms and blocked entrance to the trial site as Bishop Joel Martinez of Lincoln and potential jurors arrived.

The people arrested were primarily members of Soulforce, a group supporting Creech. They were taken to a makeshift police headquarters in a former school building, where they were given citations and each paid a $48 fine.

Bishop Martinez said Creech has the right to appeal the verdict, but Creech had previously said he would not appeal the decision because that would validate the process that he feels is unjust.

(earlier article below)

Methodist church jury finds Creech guilty

Staff and wire reports

A 13-member jury delivered a unanimous "guilty" verdict against the Rev. Jimmy Creech, who was accused of breaking church rules by conducting a commitment ceremony for two gay men.

The verdict in the United Methodist Church trial came after about an hour of deliberation.

The jury is deliberating Wednesday afternoon on what sentence to impose.

The church prosecutor recommended Creech lose his ministerial credentials.

"I’m not surprised," Creech said, "but I’m really quite disappointed. I’m mostly disappointed that it was a unanimous decision."

In statements during today’s 90-minute trial, Creech condemned the law and the church for putting him on trial.

"I believe the law that prohibits pastors from celebrating holy unions with gay and lesbian couples is an unjust and immoral law," said Creech, who acted as his own attorney. "This whole judicial process — this trial in particular — has been corrupted, contaminated. The trial is illicit."

Creech implored the jury during the 90-minute trial to refuse to reach a verdict, arguing that church law forbidding gay marriage is demeaning and a form of sacrilege.

"If you vote guilty, you will be honoring that law," he said.

Creech is accused of performing the gay marriage in Chapel Hill, N.C., earlier this year, an act that has plunged the church’s 9.5 million members into a bitter debate over its doctrine.

He faces a range of possible church punishments, including dismissal from the United Methodist clergy. Creech could appeal a conviction to national church officials.

On the eve of his trial, Creech presided at a recommitment ceremony for Larry Ellis and James Raymer, the same men whose first ceremony prompted the church to seek the trial.

Earlier today, 74 Creech supporters were arrested for trespassing as they locked arms and sang hymns in front of Trinity United Methodist Church where the proceeding is being held.

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