Creech advocates for LGBT rights

Pastor lost his ordination in 1999 for performing same-sex wedding

Creech-11-Author-Photo-by-Natalia-Weedy

The Rev. Jimmy Creech (Courtesy of Natalia Weedy)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com
It was in the 1980s that a member of  the Rev. Jimmy Creech’s  church came out to him as gay, it didn’t just turn the Methodist minister into an LGBT equality supporter, it also set him onto a path of advocacy that eventually cost him his ordination

“It changed my perspective and attitude,” Creech, who will be in the Dallas area speaking at several area churches Oct. 31-Nov. 2, said this week of that coming out moment. “It began to challenge my ideas about homosexuality.”

One of Creech’s early triumphs advocating for the LGBT community was lobbying the Raleigh, N.C., City Council to include sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination policy in 1988. He said that passage of the ordinance while

Jesse Helms was still the state’s senator made the victory so much sweeter.

But most of Creech’s work has been within the Methodist Church.

“I was concerned the messaging [about homosexuality] was condemnatory,” he said. “Everything you heard a religious leader say was negative.”

So he sponsored conferences about “Homophobia and the Bible,” in an attempt to “educate about the damaging theology in Christian tradition,” he said.

In 1990, Creech performed his first holy union.

“Two men asked if I’d do it,” he said. “I agreed without hesitation. How can you support an individual and deny their relationship?”

He performed more ceremonies over the next few years, and it was no problem since the Methodist Church had no prohibition against doing so — until 1996.

That year, Creech moved to a church in Nebraska where he continued welcoming LGBT people and honoring their relationships. But after he presided over a holy union for a lesbian couple in 1997, charges were brought against him for violating the Order and Discipline of the United Methodist Church.

He was acquitted in a church trial.

Creech said the reason was very technical. The prohibition was added to the social principles rather than to religious law. Social principles guide moral behavior.

“My defense was that it was not law,” he said.

And that defense was successful. However after his trial, the one sentence prohibiting Methodist clergy from performing a same-sex wedding was given the weight of law. Creech said it is the only sentence in the social principles to have that designation, something he called “institutional bigotry.”

After his acquittal, Creech moved back to North Carolina and in 1999 charges were filed against him again after he presided over the wedding of two men in Chapel Hill. This time, a jury found him guilty of “disobedience to the Order and Discipline of The United Methodist Church” and withdrew his credentials of ordination.

Since then, Creech has been writing and speaking about LGBT rights. His recently released book, Adam’s Gift: A Memoir of a Pastor’s Calling to Defy the Church’s Persecution of Lesbians and Gays, deals with his experiences with the church’s struggle to welcome and accept LGBT people.

In his book, Creech explains that he defied church law to do what he thought God would want him to do.

“As a pastor, my mission was to help people overcome whatever damaged them spiritually, whatever diminished their capacity to trust God’s love, to love others and to love themselves,” he wrote.

Although heterosexual, Creech has appeared on Out Magazine’s Out 100 list several times, and he received the HRC Equality Award in 1999.

Northaven United Methodist Church Senior Pastor Eric Folkerth said, “Jimmy Creech stands as a powerful witness to those who have been standing up for social justice.”

Folkerth said 1,000 Methodist clergy have recently signed a pledge that if asked, they would perform a same-sex wedding. Many were in marriage-equality states New York and Connecticut.

And while performing a same-sex wedding remains “absolutely still a chargeable offense,” according to Folkerth, the church courts hearing the charges have differed in their response.

Creech said that each of those pastors could be charged.

“But do you want to spend all of the church’s resources on this?” he asked.

He said each one would have to be tried individually.

“Bishops will find a way to get around it,” he said.

Folkerth called it “open dissent against what is church law.”

He said that although this region is more conservative than some others, gays and lesbians are welcome not only at his church but a number of other Methodist churches in the area.
Celebration Community Church, 908 Pennsylvania Ave., Fort Worth. Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. Reception follows.
Northaven United Methodist Church, 11211 Preston Road. Nov. 1 at 7 p.m.
Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs Road. Guest preacher at contemporary worship service, Nov. 2 at 7:15 p.m.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 21, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

FEEDBACK: Mexico safe if you use sense; Supporting James Nowlin for City Council

Mexico is safe if you use sense

Allan Turnipseed

Having just returned to Dallas in September 2010, after living almost three years in México City, I read with strong interest David Webb’s column, “A cautionary tale for LGBT travelers” (Dallas Voice, Feb. 4, 2011).

At first I took the commentary as cautionary; one needs to be vigilant whereever we live. Well, I took it that way until I got to the ending: “But hopefully it will be a strong reminder to all Americans that caution is more critical than ever when undertaking travel south of the border.”

With all the negative treatment México is getting in the U.S. press because of the drug wars, my only thought was, “Here is another negative murder story, one that doesn’t relate to the current problem.”

The whole time I lived in the largest city of the Americas, México City, I never felt danger when walking home late at night. I would often stroll along México City’s Paseo de la Refoma Avenue alone without ever any hesitation.

But I was always cautious. One has to be in any large mega city.

When returning to Dallas, I moved to Oak Lawn, three blocks behind where the old Tom Thumb used to be. Even before signing my lease I couldn’t help but remember when a young man was robbed and killed after having used an ATM machine on the corner of Throckmorton and Cedar Springs in 2007.

I also remembered I was moving close to the area where not too long ago a gentleman was shot and almost killed as he walked to his neighborhood bar.

So when I read, “that caution is more critical that ever when undertaking travel south of the border,” I just had to write and say not only “south of the border” but in Dallas, too. We have to be vigilant everywhere.

When I was living in México City, a city with 25 million people, I felt safe. But now that I am in Dallas, living in Oak Lawn, I don’t dare walk the three blocks to Kroger after dark.

I have deep sympathy for Allan Turnipseed, the former Dallas resident killed last month in Lake Chapala, and for his partner.

But from my perspective, Mr. Turnipseed didn’t just get too comfortable living in Lake Chapala, as columnist David Webb described it. Mr. Turnipseed also let his guard down.

He let two homeless teenagers into his surroundings — something I would never do in Dallas or in México.

Homeless and teenage males sound like a dangerous combination anywhere — especially in México, where poverty is so widespread.

But is México safe? Yes, if one uses caution and common sense.

Jesus Chairez, Dallas

Supporting James Nowlin for City Council

James Nowlin

I was so pleased to see your online article saying that James Nowlin is “in it to win it” in the Dallas City Council District 14 race (Instant Tea, Wednesday, Feb. 9).

Having a member of the LGBT community on our City Council who is qualified to serve is critical, and I’m excited that we have a candidate we can all get behind. As a community, the opportunity has come (once again) for us to support someone who knows our particular issues as well as the common concerns that all of the residents of District 14 have, regardless of sexual orientation.

These opportunities do not come frequently, and we don’t always win at the ballot box when they do. That is why it is crucial to make sure we do what we can to have a place at the table.

During her time on the council, Angela Hunt shifted her focus from representing District 14 to running a city-wide campaign. She made a name for herself (and polarized the district and the city) by taking controversial positions on the Trinity River toll road and the convention center hotel. Then, she cast the swing vote to raise property taxes.

Now, due to an obvious lack of preparation, she has decided not to run for mayor and to settle for holding on to the District 14 seat. I think the residents of District 14 deserve better than that.

I may be biased, but I believe Dallas has the most vital, diverse and strong LGBT community in the country, as evidenced by all that I have witnessed and participated in over more than 30 years living here.

It is very exciting news that James is following through on his commitment to service in District 14.

Craig McCartney, Dallas

Thank you so much for your article regarding James Nowlin and his intention to continue his ongoing efforts to win the Dallas City Council District 14 seat in May — despite the recent announcement by Councilwoman Angela Hunt that she will run for re-election to that seat.

I believe that James Nowlin will be an excellent representative for District 14 on the City Council. His commitment to the community has already been demonstrated by his considerable volunteer work with various organizations. James also demonstrated his leadership when he announced his intention to run for the City Council seat while Councilwoman Hunt vacillated between running to retain the District 14 seat, running for mayor or (ostensibly) pursuing some other career choice.

As a resident of District 14, I want my city councilperson to be someone who truly possesses a desire to serve the district — not an individual who looks at the seat as a “consolation prize” when her desire to be mayor was thwarted by individuals better prepared to run for the mayor’s seat than she.

I wholeheartedly support James Nowlin in his bid for this seat, and I encourage every reader of this newspaper to find out more about James and his hopes for District 14 and for the city of Dallas.

Eric D. Johnson, Dallas

—  John Wright

Trial in gay Dallas man’s murder set for Jan. 24, but DA’s office warns that’s ‘subject to change’

Seth Winder

We received a message Monday from Karen Winder, the stepmother of Seth Winder, who’s awaiting trial on a charge of first-degree murder in the death of Richard Hernandez, a gay man from Dallas who was brutally dismembered in September 2008.

Karen Winder, who wrote a book about the case, was wondering if we’d heard whether the trial — which has been repeatedly delayed for a variety of reasons — is expected to go forward as scheduled on Jan. 24.

“The prosector has never responded to me and [defense attorney Derek] Adame won’t talk to Rodney [Seth's father] or me and we have tried to contact him by phone and e-mail in the past,” Karen Winder wrote. “I could try to call his office again, but I doubt he will talk to us, though he talks to Seth’s mother.”

In response to Winder’s message, we contacted Jamie Beck, first assistant district attorney for Denton County, where the crime occurred. Here’s what Beck said:

“It is scheduled to go to trial Jan. 24, that week. Voir dire would probably be most of the day Monday, with testimony likely to begin Tuesday the 25th,” Beck said. “We are prepared to have that as an official trial date. However, those are always subject to change, and the reason why I have a little bit of hesitation this time, is because we’re able to access the visitation log at the jail, and his attorney has not been to see him in quite some time. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything — they can communicate in other fashions — but we’re just a little skeptical about his readiness for trial here in just a couple of weeks. But, we’re planning to go. There’s been no motion for a continuance filed at this point in time, and certainly none ruled on. So as of right now, it is a solid trial date. That’s always subject to change, and that’s the best I can give you right now.”

We’ve left a message for Adame and we’ll update once we hear back.

—  John Wright