I note that on June 24, 2011, the Wisconsin United Methodist church trial of Rev. Amy DeLong resulted in a finding that she violated the Discipline by performing a religious ceremony blessing the union of two women. Rev. DeLong admitted that allegation. The trial court suspended her from her official duties for twenty days, instructing “that she use her 20-day suspension as a period of “spiritual discernment” in preparation for a process of restoration.” See http://www.umc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=lwL4KnN1LtH&b=5259669&ct=10885719 for the news release. The use of the word “discernment” is interesting. Some Christians cite Paul to distinguish their negative discerenment on GLBT issues from the command, “Do not judge.”
The article notes in part: “The presiding officer . . . asked all potential jurors whether any prejudice, bias or opinion would prevent them from fairly applying the law in this case. ‘I don’t know how one fairly applies an unfair law,’ one said. . . .'” Such courage!
The church’s counsel, Rev. Lambrecht, had urged suspension “indefinitely until [Rev. DeLong] agreed in writing not to perform any more same-sex unions or the denomination’s law banning such unions is changed.” Rev. DeLong refused to sign such a document. Courageous! Isn’t that what we tell our children: stand up for what is right? How do “men of God,” lose that courage once they are entrenched in the system and disguise their sins of ommission with such letter closings as, “Blessings” or “Peace.” Are they the “scribes and Pharisees” of the Christian church?
One of the main principles of true civil disobedience is to act openly in violation of an unjust civil law or rule, and to take responsibility for it, both for the act and the consequences. The purpose is to reveal to the conscience of decent people who may see the injustice and demand a change in the civil (or in this case the denominational) law. I attach a chapter of an unpublished book I wrote some years ago, Cry, “Justice:” Chapter 9, Civil Disobedience and Natural Law, The Action of Spirit in the Becoming of the World. Jesus was civilly disobedient, which was the reason the religious leaders felt threatened and plotted to destroy him. Rev. DeLong was civilly disobedient. And now she will decide what she must do with the penalty. God bless you, Rev. Amy DeLong, and I really mean it.
See, also, a petition to end Methodist church laws that discriminate at: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/pocforlgbtq/ What I find particularly interesting is that thirty-six retired Methodist bishops signed it. I know that active bishops have assumed a duty to support the denomination and area they serve and so they may not justly hold that position and violate the rules they have the duty to uphold. But, even then, nothing would prevent the bishop from advocating the repeal or modification of an unjust rule. In my last post, I noted that Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño is a bishop of such courage. She hasn’t waited until retirement. God bless you, too, Bishop Carcaño. Are there any other bishops who, while they still have the power and influence to help achieve the repeal or modification of unjust or uncharitable denominational rules, are willing to take a personal risk for justice? What about pastors? As you encounter the injuries caused by bad fruit, are you helping to heal the resulting injuries, or are you fleeing into the background to avoid the complications and difficulties of caring, as in Van Gogh’s The Good Samaritan? Are you helping to heal, prune or irradicate the bad trees, the source of the bad fruits?
Thank you, Rev. Delong for providing this opportunity for the good Christian folk of the UMC to see y0ur good works of correcting the source of these bad fruits and to heal the resulting sick. God bless you and your good work that demonstrates your faith. James would be proud.