The trial of Amy DeLong, a lesbian elder who performed a same-sex union in Wisconsin, went along almost unnoticed here in the Philippines. It is perhaps because of the current crisis that pushes us Filipinos to the brink of division on this eastern part of United Methodism.

A church trial was convened from June 21 to 23 because of two charges pressed against DeLong: (1) for officiating a union for a lesbian couple on September of 2009; and, (2) for supposedly being a self-avowed practicing homosexual. The jury unanimously declared her guilty of violating the church ban on celebrating same-sex unions. But she was acquitted, 12-1, on the second charge. You may read more on this here.

Though United Methodism is generally liberal in the West, there are still lands where she grabs a foothold that are lesser “progressive” in theology and practice. When news like this hits our shores, there are some entities that should shock us.


Twenty-Day Suspension
Last March 12, a certain TV show headed by Willie Revillame became an object of disagreement for having an episode that featured a dancing boy which was, according to the regulatory board, “unfit for public viewing.” A one-month suspension was issued against the show. That is a 30-day suspension. Now, I can’t help but use this for comparison. Though DeLong was unanimously found guilty of violating church law, she only received a 20-day suspension. Moreover, the suspension given to her is not really a penalty but is to be used for spiritual discernment. So shocking to know that here, we give 30-day suspensions for dancing boys while in the west, they reward 20-day retreats to those who openly insult church law and GOD’s Word.


Rule for Practicing
For the second charge against the lesbian elder, she was found innocent. She was not proven to be a “self-avowed practicing homosexual.” This is behind the fact that DeLong had a 16-year homosexual relationship with a certain Val Zellmer. The shocking comes from how the Judicial Council defines a “self-avowed practicing homosexual.”
In response, in Decision 920, in exercising its responsibility to render declaratory decisions on the meaning, application and effect of specific disciplinary provisions (¶ 2610), the Judicial Council unanimously held that such a statement was sufficient to subject such person’s membership in her ministerial office to review under ¶ 359.1 of the Discipline. If in the course of such review, such person affirmed that the person was engaged in genital sexual activity with a person of the same gender, such person would have openly acknowledged that the person is a self-avowed practicing homosexual.
This is absurd. This virtually establishes nothing. As long as the respondents shut their mouths on things about their sexual activities (like DeLong), lock the door, and cover themselves in thick blankets, they are still not considered as self-avowed practicing homosexuals… even if they become registered committed partners.


Lot in Trouble
When the chair of Wisconsin Annual Conference’s Board of Ordained Ministry, Richard Strait, occupied the witness stand, he confessed that if performing same-sex unions "were a heinous crime, there would be a whole lot of us in deep trouble." This again sounds so shocking. “A lot of us” from the chairman of the Board of Ordained Ministry? His statement implies at least three things: (1) that violating the church law in their annual conference is rampant, it is normal; (2) that church leaders and ministers are fully aware of these violations; and, (3) that for them violating the church law is not a violation at all, it is not a heinous crime.


Juror’s “No Harm”
Although the members of the jury that handled DeLong’s trial are generally silent, there is one name that participates actively in news articles and blog posts. He is juror Bill McBride, a pastor and a blogger. The following are glimpses of his comments.
“The word ‘penalty phase’ really has no place in a church that should always have its mind and eye toward restoration and reconciliation.”
“… the goal of the ‘trial court’ was to rebuild covenant, seek to 'Do no harm' as Wesley stated.”
There is perhaps a misunderstanding of Wesley’s “Do no harm” rule. McBride seems not to realize that his version of doing no harm also collides against Wesley himself when the latter wrote, “After diligent inquiry made, I removed all those from the congregation of the faithful whose behaviour or spirit was not agreeable to the gospel of Christ; openly declaring the objections I had to each, that others might fear and cry to God for them.” And again, “I met the classes, but found no increase in the society. No wonder, for discipline had been quite neglected, and without this, little good can be done among the Methodists.” It is known that Methodism in the west is decreasing rapidly. If McBride would ask Wesley why, he would receive an answer that would shatter his own “Do no harm.”


Both camps that debate on the issue of sexuality are bracing themselves as the General Conference 2012 is less than a year away. However, the battle is not just on keeping the words printed intact in the Book of Discipline. The battle is also in securing the Discipline of its power. For, though the words are staying intact, the power behind the words is obviously shrinking.

(A member of DeLong's Trial Team had posted a comment which you can read here.)

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12 Response for the "The Amy DeLong Trial: Four Things that Should Shock Filipinos"

  1. If only more Filipino United Methodists cared about this like this.

  2. Thanks for reading and dropping a note, Gryphon Hall.

  3. savant says:

    Empowering the members of the United Methodist Church to articulate social and moral issues in relation to faith is vital to the survival of the denomination. Without guiding rules and standards for living as Christians called United Methodists there will be no distinctions between who is who. The challenge of Jesus Christ for all his followers is to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The acquittal of DeLong precludes the impending division in the United Methodist Church comes the General Conference in 2012. Those who tolerate same sex marriage and the practice of homosexuality inside the church and those who opposed it will make one final stand. Let us continue to pray for wisdom and strength to stand for what the Bible says regarding homosexuality,

  4. I have read an article from the American Spectator here that somehow convinced me that the traditional stance of UMC Re:Sexuality will stay. However, it seems that those who find their position opposed to the church law live in deliberate violations of it. They are trying to change the church practices even the rules don't.

  5. Anonymous says:

    It is certainly not everyone in the West who thinks that this punishment was appropriate. There are many here that agree with what you are saying in this article. We need to keep a firm stand on our rules, as well as how they are ruled on by people in the judicial process. This jury really erred!

  6. Anonymous says:

    By most accounts, our brothers and sisters in the UMC that reside outside North America are very conservative in their views. And since it is in these areas that the UMC is growing rapidly, it is unlikely that the wording in the Discipline will change regarding same sex marriage and/or relationships. The discussions at General Conference will be intense, and many demonstrations will probably be allowed. But in the end, our church laws will remain the same.

    Unfortunately, it will not end the division. There are those who will CONTINUE to ignore the Discipline and do what they feel is right. And since changing rules in the Discipline will not happen to the world wide UMC, I think the next step will be the liberal side of the church trying to pass a rule that will separate the UMC in North America from the rest of the world. The liberals will not accept the vote of the General Conference unless it is favorable to their side.

    God is a wondrous and patient God. He will allow those that are disobeying his laws to see the err of their actions and repent. However, as he warned the Israelites in Ezekiel, His patience is not infinite. There will be a day of judgement and those that have failed to repent of their sins and TRUELY accept Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Light!

  7. It is such a joy for us to know that there are still lots of you there who stand firm.

  8. I don't know if I am beginning to be heartless but I strongly believe that those who see the wording of the Discipline unfavorable should better leave. Isn't this what they want from us who can't tolerate their "progressiveness"?

  9. Anonymous says:

    I am greatly dismayed that many in the UMC cannot see that homosexuality, both effeminacy AND sodomy are condemned in 1 Corinthians 6:9.

    Effeminacy (in Greek, "malakos") means a man who acts like a woman (which may also apply to women acting like men), WHETHER OR NOT THAT INDIVIDUAL HAS HAD GENITAL SEXUAL ACTIVITY. A sodomite (in Greek, "arsenokoites") is a man who has sex with another man (or a woman with another woman) WHO MAY NOT NECESSARILY ACT LIKE A STEREOTYPICAL GAY (i.e., they are not "effeminte" and may be quite "macho"). Both forms of homosexuality are unconditionally condemned in the Bible.

    In fact, most effeminates (those most likely to have a sex change) are those who detest ANYTHING male, including the male genitals. Many effeminates do not engage in sexual activity (some, in fact, actually engage in heterosexual sex, and so may be called "bisexual"). Yet even this form of "non-practicing" homosexuality IS condemned in the Bible, i.e., it is a SIN.

    Ptr. Hope Jordan D. Guerrero
    A UMC Arminian with a drawn sword

  10. Pastor Hope Jordan,

    This really is sad and dismaying. Yet, I still thank the Lord for misters like you who upholds with the Scripture and being "violent" in doing so. This is not an intellectual blindness but a moral-spiritual one.

    Your Arminian sword will find allies even in Calvinist circles for this battle.

    GOD bless you.

    Bernard

  11. Blessings from a member of Rev. Amy's Trial Team. We know there are many who are upset about the decision of the trial court to respond in what they understood to be an attempt to move the church from threatened division through a restorative justice form of consequence. Your sisters and brothers in Christ who were put in a most difficult place and had to wrestle with two different part of the Book of Discipline and what it means to uphold a document that changes every four years (and in non-USA locations does not need to be followed and isn't everywhere).

    One part of the Discipline speaks of providing ministry with all people, it says, "Do Ministry, no matter what!" Another part of the Discipline speaks of consequences, "Don't do that, no matter what!" The letter of the law regarding trial procedures was strictly followed.

    Was the Discipline upheld? I believe it was upheld in its processes even if there are people on both side who look on without having seen and heard the evidence and claim the penalty was too strong or too weak to match the letter of the law they most associate with - "Do" or "Don't".

    Thank you for continuing to wrestle with the difficult discernment of whether to cut a baby in two, to do more than weep with Rachel as her children who were denied/killed, or the reminder that Mercy is desired, not Sacrifice. I wish you well in ministering in your context as Rev. Amy ministered in hers.

  12. I have answered the previous comment in a post here.

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