Wednesday November 17 7:32 AM ET
Reuters News Alert
GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (Reuters) – A United Methodist Church pastor faces a trial by the church Wednesday for performing a union ceremony for two men.
The Rev. Jimmy Creech, who said he has performed 13 "holy unions" of gay and lesbian individuals in the last few years, is to be tried on charges of violating a church ban on performing same-sex unions.
Creech was the first pastor to challenge the Methodist Church’s rule against conducting ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions, and was narrowly acquitted in a church trial last year for officiating at a lesbian wedding. A jury of 13 clergy fell one vote short of nine votes needed for dismissal.
His ongoing battle with the Methodist Church has fractured the denomination, and he is now one of a contingent of Methodist clergy openly challenging the church on the issue.
"There are many clergy in the United Methodist Church who believe this law to be unjust and a violation of all United Methodist stands for," Creech told Reuters. "It singles out a group of people for special discrimination."
Creech said he will use the trial to explain why he believes the church’s stance to be immoral.
"I’m hopeful they will be able to understand that the law itself is unjust and should not be obeyed," he said.
Different church officials either declined to comment or could not be reach for comment. Meanwhile, the rhetoric was reaching a fever pitch among the protesters.
"This is not just simply a trial against Jimmy Creech, this is spiritual violence against all sexual minorities in this country," said the Rev. Mel White, a gay-rights activist from Laguna Beach, Calif.
White brought a delegation of 100 protesters with him to Nebraska with plans to try to block the doors of the church before the trial. The group also planned to hold a "renewal of vows" ceremony between the two men that Creech wed, White said.
On the other side, the Rev. Fred Phelps, a Baptist minister from Topeka, Kansas, who regularly stages protests against homosexuals all over the country, plans to lead a contingent of his own.
Phelps said the church’s position is based on biblical law and violating it as Creech has done is "damnable." Creech, he said, "is going straight to hell."