Monday, June 13, 2011

UMC Minister Amy Delong On Trial

Today's guest blogger is PFLAG National Board Member Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell, a retired United Methodist Minister of the Rocky Mountain (Denver) Conference:


Amy DeLong, an ordained United Methodist Minister, will go on trial on June 21, 2011 for performing a Holy Union of two women in 2009. and because she has been open about her committed relationship to her female partner of 15 years. The United Methodist Church has for many years abided by language and legislation enacted by the legislative body of the denomination, a General Conference of many years ago, that prohibits United Methodist clergy from performing Holy Unions for same sex couples. The denomination also puts on church trial, clergy who have been charged because they acknowledge that they are in a same gender relationship. Many of us are praying and hoping that Amy Delong will be judged not guilty in 2011 as Tituba was in 1692 in the Salem witch trials.

Who was Tituba? I first heard of her in one of the classrooms of a racially segregated school in Texas where I grew up many,many years ago. Our teachers, all of whom were black as was the student body, felt that it was important for their black students to become acquainted with black persons whose names and lives were an important part of history.Too often their stories were made invisible by a culture and practice that rendered them second class. Tituba was a slave who belonged to a Rev. Samuel Parris. She was one of the first three women to be arrested who were accused of engaging in witchcraft during the beginning of the Salem Witch Trials. Tituba, who in some writings is described as the "black witch" was dark of skin because of her ancestry that was thought to be South American Indian. Before arriving in Salem, she spent time as a slave in Barbados. Tituba was not hanged as were many of the women, but the visions that she described and the demons she claimed she saw, made her a "witch" in the minds of many of those who knew her.

The coming trial of Amy DeLong cannot help but cause me to remember what I have heard and what I have read about those long ago trials in Salem.

The United Methodist Church in its language and legislation and its trials, has made of clergy who help same sex couples celebrate the love from God that they express toward each other, Witches. And, if those clergy acknowledge that they are in a same-gender loving relationship themselves as Amy has done, their "Witch-ness" is compounded. We now regret the insensitive irrationality of the Salem Trials. I wonder how will The United Methodist Church express its regret, when in that time that is certain to come, performing a same sex union and/or being open about one's same gender relationship, will no longer be considered "incompatible with Christian teaching" as our current United Methodist Book of Discipline states?

How ironic it is that in a year when The Presbyterian Church (USA) through voting at the regional level, affirmed the ordination of same gender loving clergy, we in The United Methodist Church are bringing Amy Delong to trial?

My hope is that the Rev. Amy DeLong will be found not guilty as those who judge her remember how wrong the Methodist denomination was when some in the Church once used the Bible to support slavery, racial segregation and prohibitions against the ordination of women. And, if those memories are insufficient to render her not guilty, may her judges recognize that if the military now believes that the practice of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is morally unjustifiable, why cannot The United Methodist Church do the same?

We used to sing in the marches and the protest lines of the Civil Rights Movement, a Spiritual that ended with these words; "Before I'll be a slave, I'll be buried in my grave, and go home to my Lord and be free." I have known Gay United Methodist clergy who because of the restrictions of their Church against them being open about their Gay sexual orientation, in death have experienced the affirmation and acceptance of a loving God, that was denied them by their Church while they lived.

May the members and friends of PFLAG, those related to other Gay rights organizations, and those in religious bodies that now accept clergy like Amy DeLong, let The United Methodist Church know they are watching and hoping and praying as she is being tried. May her trial be "The Last United Methodist Trial" of a clergyperson whose "Call to Ministry" compels them to be in ministry to and with all persons and to be open about their sexual orientation.

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For more information about Amy DeLong, including her personal statement on the trial, please visit www.loveontrial.org.

To read the UMC's position, please click here to visit www.umc.org.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU! from a member of Amy's support team.
Judy

knute said...

Thank you for posting a very informative and empathetic summary of Amy's situation.

M Taylor said...

Thanks, Gil. Beautifully said. To all who can, show up in Kaukauna!

Jody Huckaby said...

More from Rev. Gil Caldwell:
"Gays and Lesbians have a more difficult time than we (blacks) did. We had our families
and our churches on our side. All too often they have neither." - James Lawson

I re-discovered these words of James Lawson, now a retired United Methodist minister
who was/is a proponent and living example of, as well as teacher of nonviolence in the
Civil Rights Movement. His relationship with Martin Luther King and leadership in "The
Movement", is well-documented and well remembered by those of us who were
"foot soldiers" during that time..

My search for this quotation from Jim was prompted by the headline of a United Methodist
News Service story; "Gandhi urges graduates (of Africa Univesity) to 'transform' Africa.".
Gandhi who is the grandson of Mohandis "Mahatma" Gandhi was the speaker at this
year's Africa University graduation in Zimbabwe. Jim Lawson, Arun Gandhi and I and scores
of others were arrested at the 2000 Cleveland United Methodist General Conference,
protesting UMC language and legislation that is anti-Homosexual and
homosexuality. Jim Lawson as one of the participants in the Soulforce demonstrations
at the Conference, spoke the above eloquent and factual words as we prepared for
our protests..

We are on the brink of the Amy DeLong trial and as we hear some say that delegates
from Africa to the 2012 General Conference will vote to maintain our discriminatory
United Methodist legislation, I wonder how many at the Africa University graduation
knew this bit of Arun Gandhi's history?

Africans in Africa, and African Americans in the USA, in our struggles for racial justice
had our families and our churches as allies in our struggles. Jim Lawson reminds us
that this is not always true for Gays and Lesbians in their struggles for justice.

African and African American delegates at the 2012 General Conference could help to
"transform" The United Methodist Church if they vote to affirm rather than reject those
whose sexual orientation is same gender loving.

Could it be that the words and the presence of, Arun Gandhi at Africa University could
encourageThe UMC to become a Church for the 21st century, and not a reflection of
centuries long gone?.Many of us are praying and hoping this will be true.

Gil Caldwell

Blue Butterfly said...

I am so in agreement with this blog.  I do not believe the UMC ordained ministers who will sit in judgement of Amy have that right.  If she needs to be judged, God will do that.  She is a loving Christian and a faithful partner and a wonderful minister.  The church needs to catch up with the present. Please allow Amy to continue her ministry.