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An Historical Record of Jimmy Creech
On January 18, 1989, Bishop C. P. Minnick, Jr. sent a letter to his pastors endorsing a two day conference sponsored by the Raleigh Religious Network for Gay and Lesbian Equality (RRNGLE), a group that pushed homosexual activism. According to a June 6, 1988 letter signed by the Reverend Jimmy Creech, chairperson for RRNGLE and former pastor of Fairmount UMC, the group's priorities are (among other things) to convince the North Carolina Legislature to:
- "repeal the Crimes Against Nature Law (CAN);
- legalize and recognize lesbian and gay relationships;
- preserve parental and adoptive rights of lesbians and gays..."
This occurred at a time when there was a concerted push to overturn the consensus against homosexuality expressed at the 1988 General Conference by an eighty percent majority of voting delegates. This effort is designed to gradually wear down objections to this stance in order to have it eventually adopted as Church policy.
When this letter was made available to Concerned Methodists along with information on RRNGLE, this it was widely distributed all over the North Carolina Conference. When the people in Creech's home church Fairmount UMC became aware of their pastor's involvement in this organization, they virtually cut off funding. The giving had dropped so low that they barely had enough to pay for Sunday School material, much less the apportionment or Creech's salary. At the next rotation of ministers, he accepted voluntary location for a period of about eight months. Subsequently, he was offered a two-point charge; members from those churches traveled to Raleigh to tell Bishop Minnick that they did not want Creech. He was subsequently appointed to the North Carolina Council of Churches.
Either rightly or wrongly, Concerned Methodists was blamed by pastor Steven A. Hickle, successor to Creech, for getting him "fired" from his church by the reduced giving.
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The next action believed to involve Creech was taken by the North Carolina Council of Churches when it received into membership the Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches. Subsequently, evangelical pastors of the North Carolina Annual Conference drafted a resolution to cut off funding to that organization and took it to the floor; it passed. The following day, an attempt was made to bring this same action up for further discussion - a move unusual in the normal operation of this conference. During the ensuing discussion, the observation was made that it appeared there was a "hidden agenda" behind the reintroduction of the motion; this attempt to overturn the delegates' action was defeated.
During the subsequent year, Reverend Hickle sent a letter to members of the Annual Conference, which appeared to be an attempt to circumvent the original action, to convince them to restore the money. In addition, two cabinet meetings were held in which Bishop Minnick reportedly told his district superintendents that he wanted the money restored. A "listening session" was held in Raleigh to hear both sides of the case. The next year's session of annual conference was opened with an appeal by Minnick to restore the funding. When the measure came to a vote, approximately 78% of the attendees voted to continue the ban of money to the organization.
The pastor who attempted to impose lesbian advocacy on the congregation at Ocracoke UMC was Lisa Creech Bledsoe, reportedly a cousin to Jimmy Creech. Members of that congregation believe that he may have been working with Lisa behind the scenes in her efforts.
It is important to know as much about the Creech trial as possible of his involvement in performing a "same sex" ceremony while he was pastor of FUMC Omaha, Nebraska.
In 1996, Jimmy Creech was assigned as pastor to FUMC in Omaha, Nebraska, out of the North Carolina Conference.
*"Omaha Pastor Found 'Not Guilty' of Violating the Discipline of the UMC". Jimmy Creech, accused of celebrating a covenant ceremony for a "homosexual union" and thereby disobeying the order and discipline of the UMC, was found "not guilty" by a 13-member trial court that met March 11-13 in Kearney, Nebraska. Following the decision, Bishop Joel Martinez (Nebraska) lifted Creech's four-month suspension and reaffirmed his appointment to First UMC, Omaha. A summary of the trial is as follows:
The trial court consisted of 13 clergymembers (8 men and 5 women) of the Nebraska Conference selected from a pool of 35 potential jurists. Almost every potential juror acknowledged a relationship with a family member, parishioner, seminary classmate, or clergy colleague who was a gay or lesbian person. After three hours of deliberation, Grant Story, the foreman, read a statement that said: "We gathered in prayer, in silence, and in respectful dialogue. Our vote reflects the difficulty the general church has experienced with this issue. We have struggled - no agonized - together in a spirit of love. Our hope is that UMs everywhere will receive our verdict in that same spirit of love and respect."
The defendant, Jimmy Creech, 53, is/was pastor of 2,000 member FUMC, Omaha. Following the decision, Creech told supporters, "I believe that we can use the momentum of the trial to effectively challenge the anti-gay position of the UMC at the General Conference in 2000. The great wall of bigotry may not fall then, but its collapse is inevitable, and we must be resolute at every stage and at every opportunity." Creech returned to the pulpit of First Church on March 15 where he received a standing ovation. [Note: The overwhelming majority of members were absent, refusing to return to a church that Creech pastored; many of the people present were the homosexual population of Omaha.]
Witnesses for the Church
Jimmy Creech was the first witness called by Lauren Ekdahl, pastor of Trinity UMC in Lincoln, [who served as] counsel for the church. Creech admitted that he had celebrated "a covenant ceremony between two women." He said he never described either woman as a "homosexual."
Bishop Kenneth W. Hicks (retired) admitted that the Social Principles are generally "instructive and persuasive" but the "shall not conduct" language on same-sex unions, makes it mandatory regardless of where it is contained in the Discipline.
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Witnesses for the DefenseGlenn Loy, the clergyperson who brought charges against Creech, was the first witness called by Doug Williamson, a religion professor at Nebraska Wesleyan University, [who was] Creech's counsel. Loy said he believes the "shall not" language is legally binding. Asked if he would bring charges against a minister who favored the death penalty, Loy answered, "If he pulled the switch I might." In response to Williamson's questions, Loy said he did not know if the couple was "asexual" or "celibate."
Doug Bredthauer, a staff member of FUMC and interim pastor, said the church was intentional about reaching out to the community. He said he thought Creech aided that vision. Asked by Ekdahl if it had occurred to him that the ceremony violated the Discipline, Bredthauer said he does not believe the Social Principles carry the same weight as the laws of the church.
Joan Byerhof and Joanie Zetterman, former chairs of the staff parish relations committee, and Bill Jenks, current chair, all agreed Creech's ministry to gays and lesbians is just one aspect of his ministry. They said he was a competent administrator and he loved, cared for, and nurtured all people. They all believed Creech should be returned to First Church.
Jimmy Creech said he had conducted a number of covenant services before the 1996 General Conference. He said the services grew out of his role as a pastor rather than as a social activist. "I consider it a witness to God's grace and God's love without condition." Under cross examination, Creech said that in order to act with integrity with the gospels, he could not abide by the Social Principles. He said that if he were allowed to come back, he would continue to conduct covenant ceremonies.
Roy Reed, a professor of worship at Methodist Theological School in Ohio, said that the covenant ceremony could be interpreted as simply a "blessing of two people who love each other." He said most pastors change and rewrite liturgies. Asked if he would conduct a covenant service, Reed said, "Yes." Asked about the authority to conduct such a service, he said, "On the authority of the Gospel."
Roy Black, a black gay member of FUMC, said he was close to suicide, but he now feels included in FUMC.
Phil Wogaman, pastor of Foundry UMC, Washington, D.C., said no one is required to believe in the Social Principles and to use them as a "club" is to distort them.
Gregory M. Herek, research psychologist at the University of California at Davis, said you cannot identify a homosexual person apart from his/her own identification. He said the only way you could prove that the women were homosexual would be to put them on the stand and ask them.
Betty Dorr, a member of FUMC, spoke of how the church has ministered to her as she came to accept the fact that her brother, brother-in-law, and son are all gay.
- Newscope, 3/20/98
Observations by Concerned Methodists
When it was discovered in February (before the trial began) that Lauren Ekdahl was to prosecute the case against Creech, Allen Morris called one of the laymen in Omaha who was pushing the case against Creech and told him that the stage was being set for Creech to be acquitted of the charges. Ekdahl was an officer in the Nebraska Methodist Federation for Social Action, an organization that is extremely pro-active in supporting the homosexual agenda. There were few witnesses called by Ekdahl for his side, with one being the defendant himself, and the case presented for this side was weak. It is difficult to understand how the defense would have brought in a plethora of witnesses from as far away as Washington, D.C., yet the prosecution neglected to call credible witnesses who were living in Omaha and were members of Creech's church. It is the belief of Concerned Methodists that the stage was deliberately set to bring about the result of acquitting Creech.
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Aftermath of the Creech trial
- (Retired bishop) Leroy C. Hodapp, presiding officer, said, "This was the easiest trial that I've presided over as there were almost no objections on which I had to rule. My work as the presiding officer was all in pretrial meetings and in media control at the trial. This decision carries no weight of church law or precedence beyond the immediate effect on Jimmy Creech...." [Note: See the quote by Dr. Calvin Johnson at the end of the "Bits and Pieces from across the United Methodist Church" section. Dr. Johnson's analysis is more accurate.]
- The day after the March 13th verdict, Bishop Robert E. Fannin (Birmingham) and the 12 district superintendents of the North Alabama Conference issued a statement saying they were "concerned for the life, ministry, and unity of the UMC."United Methodist News Service, as quoted in Newscope, 3/20/98
- Over 120 UM clergy have signed a document that publicly states they "will celebrate rites of union with all couples, regardless of gender..."Newscope, 3/20/98, the INTERNET
- Subsequent to the episcopal meeting the last week in April in Lincoln, Nebraska, Bishop Martinez made the decision to not reappoint Creech as pastor of FUMC for the next year; as of yet, Creech has no appointment in the Nebraska Conference. During the time since the Creech trial, pressure was brought on the bishops to take meaningful action in the Creech case. During the Tulsa meeting of the Confessing Movement in April, several people met with Bishop Lindsay Davis to express concern. He was given a copy of the 1997 Stewardship Report and told, "There are three functional problems within the United Methodist Church:
- There is too much waste of money;
- The denomination is riddled with lying and deceit;
- Don't look to any church or individuals who withhold money. The problem does not rest with them; the problem rests with the leadership in the Council of Bishops!"
- - Personal knowledge and experience
* This is by no means a comprehensive chronology, but just serves to show some of the background on this controversial pastor.