United Methodist News Service, June 10, 1998
The Rev. Jimmy Creech, the Nebraska pastor who attracted worldwide attention after performing a same-sex ceremony for two women last September, will not be re-appointed to First United Methodist Church in Omaha.
After a meeting with Nebraska Bishop Joel Martinez on May 5, Creech said he was informed that he would not be re-appointed as senior pastor after July 1. He said the bishop told him the division within First Church stemming from the September ceremony has made him unable to lead the congregation.
Some members have left the 1900-member church. About 300 have been meeting for Sunday worship in a nearby school.
“The bishop felt that I am not going to be able to bring about a reconciliation among the membership,” Creech said. “I had also made a commitment to celebrate covenant services if asked and he was not comfortable with that.”
After talking with the bishop, Creech said he was “stunned and extremely disappointed.” He said Martinez offered him three options: to seek another appointment in Nebraska or in another conference or to take a leave of absence.
Another Nebraska appointment seems highly unlikely”
Creech said another appointment in Nebraska “seems highly unlikely” and that he has no connection with another annual conference. “My home conference is North Carolina and I am sure they would not take me back.” he said.
“I may request Bishop Martinez to explore an appointment for me in Nebraska,” Creech said, “but right now I have not made a decision.”
In a May 5 statement, Martinez expressed concern that information about Creech’s status had been made public.
“The Rev. Jimmy Creech’s appointment is a confidential personnel matter until public announcements are made in the Nebraska United Methodist churches on May 10, 1998,” the bishop said. “Rev. Creech’s decision to go public about this matter while I am still consulting with the Staff Parish Committee of First United Methodist Church and the Nebraska Conference cabinet was ill advised. I will have no further comment other than to confirm that Rev. Jimmy Creech will not be re-appointed to First United Methodist Church in Omaha.”
Some news reports erroneously stated that Creech has been “fired.” In the United Methodist Church, all United Methodist clergy in good standing are appointed annually by the bishop and cabinet. Clergy appointments are usually announced during spring meetings of the regional conferences. The Nebraska Annual Conference is scheduled to meet in Lincoln June 2-5 but appointments are to beannounced Sunday, May 10. Since he had not been told earlier about a change, Creech said he thought he would be remaining at First Church. “I have not considered going anywhere else and I don’t know what my options are.”
Creech attracted attention when he was ordered to undergo a church trial after being charged with being disobedient to church law for performing the covenanting service for two women. A jury of Nebraska clergy members came one vote short of conviction, with eight of the 13 jurors voting guilty. Creech, placed on paid administrative leave in November, was immediately restored to his pulpit.
The church’s Social Principles include a statement saying same-sex unions should not be conducted by United Methodist clergy or held in United Methodist churches but the Creech trial verdict hinged on whether the Social Principles are guidelines or law. The not-guilty verdict on March 13 vibrated across United Methodist connections. The denomination’s Council of Bishops were asked by several groups and individuals to call a special session of the General Conference to deal with the issue of same-sex unions and homosexuality.
During their regular semi-annual meeting in Lincoln April 25-May 1, the Council of Bishops issued a pastoral letter in which they unanimously voted to affirm and defend the doctrine, order and mission of the church.
The bishops chose not to call a special session of the church’s top legislative body in anticipation of a ruling on homosexual issues from the Judicial Council in August. Virginia Semrad, a member of the breakaway group of First Church said, the fact that Creech is not being reappointed to First Church “is an indication that Bishop Martinez is holding firm to the pastoral letter from the Council of Bishops.”
Church members react
Whether she and her husband return to First Church depends on who is appointed as senior pastor, she said. “I pray that we will be able to go back but before that there will need to be several plans made and the direction of the church will have to conform to what we deem important – the Holy Scripture, tradition and the 1996 Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church.”
Joan Pruett, a member of First Church who supports Creech, said the bishop’s decision not to re-appoint him to First Church “shows that he does not care about us, is not concerned about us and doesn’t care what happens to First United Methodist Church.”