The Verdict Is In on the trial of Amy DeLong
THE VERDICTS ARE IN.
For conducting a holy union ceremony – GUILTY. Vote 13 to 0
FOR BEING A SELF-avowed practicing homosexual – NOT GUILTY. Vote 12 to 1.
It’s noon Wednesday and the first phase of the trial has ended. The church rested its case after questioning the Respondent, Amy DeLong, and attempting to coax out (some would say coerce) a two statements from her. First, that she is a “self-avowed practicing homosexual,” the term the United Methodist Church uses to describe people like me. The only responses Amy could give when asked directly if she was one was “that’s what the UMC calls me but I would never use that phrase to describe myself.” The other statement that the church council seemed intent on eliciting was an affirmative answer to their question “have you had genital contact with a person of the same sex?” Amy thoughtfully and respectfully replied that she could never acknowledge the private details of my sacred relationship with someone who is intent on doing me harm.
One of the many “puzzlements” of this trial has been experiencing the intense sexualizing of LGBTQ people and our relationships. Two of the three church witnesses (the third was Amy) equated her proclaiming her lesbian orientation and her committed relationship with Val to mean, by definition, that she had had genital contact with a person of the same gender. No matter that many of us feel that it’s nobody’s business who has genital contact with whom, what felt like an obsessive need by the church to hear the words “yes, I had contact with her genitals” had most everyone in the audience feeling more than a little “over” the genital talk and hoping the church would, for just one moment, see Amy and her partner Val and the rest of the queer folks in the room as more than a sex act. A heterosexual Methodist man sitting next to me leaned over and whispered…”I’ll bet you my straight minister has never been asked about whose genitals he’s touched!” Well, duh!
So, now, we await the decision of the “church court,” aka jury, as to the guilt or innocence of Amy. The UMC Book of Discipline prohibits “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” (for the last time I hope, that means someone who acknowledges having genital contact…” from ministry in the UMC, and also implores UMC ministers not to reject our gay and lesbian friends and family. And while it prohibits the celebration of gay or lesbian relationships (like a marriage) it instructs ministers to be in ministry with all persons regardless of their … sexual orientation … So, there seems to be a bit of schizophrenia in the Book of Discipline…maybe just enough to allow the church court to choose a verdict that celebrates love over fear, inclusion over exclusive boundaries.
If there is a guilty finding on either charge, a penalty phase will follow. Each side can then call additional witnesses in an effort to influence the any possible penalty.
So, we wait. Perhaps less patiently than at the last trial or the one before it, but we wait.