A Wisconsin United Methodist Church panel has brought charges against a lesbian minister that could end in her removal from the clergy – but the same committee praised her courage and criticized the church laws that required that the charges be issued.
The case has helped inspire a letter from 32 retired Methodist bishops urging the church to drop its ban on “self-proclaimed practicing homosexuals” serving as ministers.
A church trial has been set for April in the case, the first of its kind ever in Wisconsin.
The Rev. Amy DeLong of Osceola, in northwestern Wisconsin, precipitated the case in 2009 when she agreed to preside at a holy union ceremony for a lesbian couple, and then separately registered with her partner of 15 years under Wisconsin’s Domestic Partnership Law. She reported both actions to the church’s Wisconsin Annual Conference, the governing body for the church in the state, as part of her annual accounting of her ministry.
She said she knew her actions would have consequences.
“I want to help the church to be true to its proclamations,” she said in an interview. “We don’t have to earn our way into God’s heart. We’ve already been accepted.”
The United Methodist Church, the nation’s third-largest denomination, prohibits ministers from performing same-sex unions and allows gay or lesbian ministers only if they’re celibate, or if they don’t reveal their sexual orientation.