The Trial of the Rev. Amy DeLong Sends Clear Message to UMC

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011 8:30 pm

Early this evening, after 7 hours of deliberation, the Trial Court (church name for jury) handed over their punishment for the Rev. Amy DeLong to Bishop Clay Lee to be read. Amy had been found guilty yesterday of the charge of having performed a Holy union service between two committed, loving, faithful lesbian women who had sought her out for pastoral care around a service of Holy Union. Amy never denied the performing the service and talked about how she felt after having met with the couple; that in agreeing to perform the service, she was fulfilling the higher calling of both the Scripture and the Book of Discipline by providing pastoral care and Christian guidance to people she had promised to serve through her ordination vows.

Also yesterday, she was acquitted of a second charge of “being a self-avowed, practicing homosexual.” Over the past two days Amy showed incredible grace, integrity and honesty as she faced questioning that many described as “badgering” at times. When it became obvious that no one had asked Amy, as they were required in the review process, if she had been “engaged in prohibited genital sexual contact (the disciplinary standard for ‘practicing”),” the Rev. Tom Lambrecht tried asking the question in several ways. Amy responded, “I will never share the intimate details of my loving committed relationship with Val with anyone who intends to do me harm (paraphrased).” It became clear that the evidence for the self-avowed charge was based on circumstantial evidence and the assumptions others had made, but never asked, about the details of Amy’s relationship with her Domestic Partner (registered).

To get a good sense of what took place over the past three days and all of what was at stake for our denomination, I would recommend that you go to the article posted by The Post Crescent Newspaper’s reporter, Michael Vinson and look for the links to The Rev. Scott Campbell’s (counsel for Amy) and Rev. Tom Lambrecht’s (counsel for the church) statements. That article can be found here.

As the crowd of approximately 110 waited all day for the trial court to come back, we sang, talked and celebrated our faith and joy… that we knew would not be diminished no matter what the trial result. Then at about 5 PM, when we were sitting in prayer and silence, because our voices were simply worn out, the Trial Court came back in with a verdict as to punishment.

In the words of one MFSAer, “She is suspended for 20 days, for spiritual discernment. She has one year to write a report outlining the harm done to the clergy covenant. Many are praising it as a creative penalty that gives Amy a real opportunity to speak. It feels like a victory! Troy Plummer of RMN says, "So Amy is tasked with writing a transformational resource for clergy to better understand their covenant with one another? I can't think of anyone else more up to the task.’" Amy Says, “I think the church sent a message today–to LGBT folk and our allies–that we don’t want to throw away our LGBT children of God.”

As an elder of the church, I believe this verdict is sending a very clear message to the denomination… change is coming. While this does indeed feel like a victory, we have to recognize that we have been through almost forty years of pain, hurt, spiritual abuse and yes, “the covenant among our clergy has been harmed” over these 40 years. But today, restorative justice was indeed the victor! For Amy is going to help craft a document to help her colleagues in ministry find ways to heal the harm that has been done to our clergy covenant. Maybe, now that “a door has been opened (Rev. Scott Campbell)” and Godly change has an opportunity to flow through our church, we might be looking to Amy DeLong’s work to help us begin the long process of healing the United Methodist Church.

Lovingly Submitted,
The Rev. Steve Clunn,
Coalition Coordinator for MFSA, RMN & Affirmation

3 Responses to “The Trial of the Rev. Amy DeLong Sends Clear Message to UMC”

  1. Daniel Bollen Says:

    This was such a tough issue and although it is a punishment it is also a victory that may end the process help us move forward and love all as children of God. And take us out of the bedroom and bring us back to doing what Jesus left us to do. The Great Commission to help the poor, the psychically hungry and spiritually hungry as well and clothe the naked and love the unlovable and heal what we think of leapers in our church and outside of our church. blessings to you Rev. Delong for your grace and brevity in facing a situation that most clergywoman or men would not have the courage to face with such dignity. Blessings to a child of God from a child of God.   

  2. Juliann Says:

    If one looks closely at the report she is to write it is tantamount to persecuted Christians who were asked to denounce their faith by Romans and the Pharisees. The "institutional church" is allowing Amy to call herself anything she wants while forcing her to document in writing that she is wrong according to the BOD. I doubt that Amy will be allowed to use scriptural verses to support her position, rather she will be urged by the committee to use the scripture to support the position of theirs.
     What Would Jesus Do?  What Would Jesus Say? Amy had done it and said it eloquently. May God Continue to  Bless Your Witness Amy.

  3. Rev Bill McBride Says:

    Thanks for a good and accurate account of the proceedings at Rev. Amy's trial. I was one of the 13 "trial court" jurors. I write today for two reasons. (1) I find release and healing from trauma by writing and talking (2) Personally, I want to affirm what you said about the restorative invitation we put our hearts and souls into and placed before Amy and those directly involved in her supervision. I did not wish to lay out some legalistic punishment for Rev. Amy. Amy and all GLBT witnesses have been marginalized and set aside for far too long. The word "penalty phase" really has no place in a church that should always have its mind and eye toward restoration and reconciliation. From what I've been reading of Rev. Amy's response to our directives I am happy to hear that she will embrace the challenge and shine as a light for all of us. I pray that others too will respond with such grace and poise.
    I am so glad that I had a part in affirming the worth of Rev. Amy and all people who seek to live in faith and love.
    God bless each of us as we really seek to do no harm.
    Rev. Bill McBride

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