A United Methodist pastor who set off controversy three years ago by holding a lesbian wedding was defrocked today for officiating at a marriage of two men.
The case against the Rev. Jimmy Creech was the second test of a United Methodist ban on homosexual marriage.
A jury of 13 Nebraska ministers imposed the penalty after unanimously convicting Creech of violating church law.
A defiant Creech, 55, predicted the verdict would "widen the wound of the soul" of the 9.5-million-member church.
"The church has said it will use its power--legal power, spiritual power and financial power--to enforce bigotry. It is a sad day. It is a scandalous day for the United Methodist Church," he said.
The Rev. Jeff Kelley of Nebraska City, the jury foreman, read a statement that the jury was following church law.
"The most difficult part of this process was our determination of the penalty, because we were dealing with a colleague whom we love," he said.
The punishment could have ranged from minor sanctions to a penalty even more severe than the loss of his ministerial credentials: banishment from the church.
Representing himself, Creech refused to enter a plea, saying that would legitimize the church law he was accused of violating, and pronounced the trial "corrupted, contaminated . . . illicit." He implored the jury during the 90-minute trial to refuse to reach a verdict.
"I believe the law that prohibits pastors from celebrating holy unions with gay and lesbian couples is an unjust and immoral law," he said. "Our beloved United Methodist Church has been infected with bigotry. It's bad theology."
He could appeal his conviction to national church officials.
Creech was tried for marrying two gay men in North Carolina last April. On the eve of his trial, he presided at a recommitment ceremony for the two men, Larry Ellis and James Raymer.
Creech first touched off a controversy within the church when he performed a union ceremony for a lesbian couple in his Omaha congregation in 1997.
A church tribunal decided not to act against him. Creech was not reappointed to his pulpit but remained a member of the clergy.
The first test of the United Methodist Church's ban on homosexual marriage came in March when the Rev. Gregory Dell of Illinois was found guilty of breaking church law and suspended for blessing the union of two Chicago men.