KAUKAUNA, WI - A homosexual Methodist pastor from Wisconsin has been suspended for 20 days for officiating at a lesbian "wedding."
Amy DeLong freely admitted her action, which prompted a church trial this week in Kaukauna. A jury of clergy convicted her Wednesday and decided on the sentence Thursday. She was not convicted of being a "self-avowed practicing homosexual," because she refused to say whether she and her female partner were practicing homosexual acts.
"There may be semantics, winks, and nods, and people may know 'Well, I'm just simply not saying'...That's the price that we're paying for that particular phrase: 'self-avowed and practicing,'" says Steve Beard, who covered the church trial for the Methodist magazine Good News. "She was found guilty of performing the same-sex union -- you still cannot do that as a United Methodist minister. Nothing changed in regard to that."
DeLong's case was closely watched by Methodists around the nation. Methodist pastors in several states are defying the ban on marrying same-sex couples, saying it violates their commitment to inclusion.
Church officials say the denomination's long-standing rules are clear, and that God's love doesn't equate to acceptance of all behaviors.
"The verdicts and the penalty are in accord with the church discipline -- and it makes it clear that we will not allow violations of the discipline to occur," states Rev. Tom Lambrecht, who represented the Wisconsin Conference of the United Methodist Church. "The penalty recognized that harm did occur to the clergy covenant, and that Reverend DeLong's actions did create an adversarial spirit within our church."
Editor's note: According to Reuters, DeLong is also required to write a paper about how she should deal with issues that "create an adversarial spirit" within the denomination. She is required to complete the first draft by January 2012; a final draft is to be completed by June 2012. She will be suspended from her ministerial duties for one year if she fails to comply.