Well, the trial is over. Because of the lack of updates on Amy DeLong's own website and the slow moving articles from UMC.org, I found out about the trial verdicts in the same way that most of you did. In the same way I found out about Michael Jackson's death. And in the same way most of the world found out that the criminal mastermind who hired people to fly planes into our buildings had been killed: Twitter.
So, though the UMC has posted pictures of the trial, the important worship services before and throughout the trials and sentencing, it is important to note that I, nor many who read this, have any clue about how this all shook out exactly. Some tweeters were there, and helped us along the way but taking their word for it. But trying to understand and really "get" what happened in that church without being there is like...well, a little reading the Bible in English. You mostly get the idea (and even exact quotes) but so, so much is lost. 140 characters just doesn't quite do it.
If you're looking for more "reporting" than Twitter can give you, just check out UMC.org and various other sites for as much info as you can find.
Story, as I hear it, is that she was acquitted 12-1 that she was a "self-avowed practicing homosexual". From what we all hear, she refused to answer some of the questions regarding this, citing that they were being asked in an accusatory manner. I see her point. But I also think that true "evidence" exists that is published by Rev. DeLong that submits that she is "guilty". I'm happy for Rev. DeLong because this verdict means that the person she loves hasn't held her back from pursuing her calling.
She was, though, guilty on the other charge...as we all expected. I think I made it clear last time, Amy broke the rules.
The punishment was a bit of a slap on the wrist but anyone who might have either expected or hoped for something more substantial probably wasn't being realistic. She was assigned to a 20-day suspension (seems to me like a "think-about-what-you-did" scenario) and to write a document for some sort of presentation at General Conference 2012. I really like the second penalty. I think it'll take her passion and put it into a position where it can actually make a difference, and possibly...a change. That's great.
I've received quite a bit of negative feedback in regards to my first post, as many who sit clearly on the side of Rev. DeLong have seen my post as a means of arguing against homosexuality. I wasn't. I was only saying that Rev. DeLong broke the rules. Even in my remarks regarding her baptism, I wished to point out that the movements against her have simply been to maintain fairness.
I have heard many "unjust rules were meant to be broken" ala MLK Jr arguments. Politically, I actually agree. I have made it quite clear that I think that God loves all of God's children. What I neglected to make as clear is that I see, as I think you should, a difference here in the political argument as opposed to the religious argument. The United States says that all are equal. So, all should be equal. Rosa Parks, MLK, Malcolm, X, and many many others fought for this cause. They were jailed for their efforts as well. And they were in the right. The laws of the USA were acting in opposition to some of the founding documents of this country. Many of them cleverly snuck in religious references to their arguments, but that argument was a social argument regarding a matter of US policy and law. It was against the rights of the African Americans to treat them in the way they were bing treated. All men are created equal.
What's perhaps most confusing about the homosexuality "issue" in today's society is that it is once again a political issue on the state side with a lot of religious rhetoric thrown back and forth. Who decides the rules for the country and states? The founding documents and then instances of precedents and bills passed in Congress. Who decides the rules for the church? The church, in whatever way each church chooses to rule itself.
The UMC has a way of going about this. Prayerfully, spiritually, and Biblically: the Book of Discipline is decided on. It's decided on by a vote. Which means that a MAJORITY of the people in the UMC elected delegates who decided to keep the current BOD language regarding homosexuality that existed prior. To break these rules, knowingly, is more than just to say "you are wrong", it is to say "your interpretation of the Biblical scriptures doesn't count because progress must be made." I personally believe that God's grace is available for ALL. The difference is: I don't see where this instance changes that that much.
Then there is the part about Amy's agreement with the UMC. Rosa Parks didn't make any agreement with the US. Because the whole situation of Civil Rights was born out of oppression at the start, it's not even fair to say that agreement was based on taxes and public services rendered. But Amy did agree to something. And the church agreed to something. The fact that Amy was a homosexual was something she knew about. And she broke the rules.
Which is why I think that the slap on the wrist of 20 days does nothing more than show others that they can do the same thing, if they're willing to take the penalty. This opens up a whole new world of interest. Had it been a stronger penalty, two things might have worked better (for all involved): the Discipline (and the inherent Bible-based decisions that have to come from that) might have been put to the use that it exists for, and the Biblical interpretations of all involved would actually have been dealt with in a way that made all feel like their voices were heard. What this might encourage (and to note, may or may not be good or bad...history gets defined by the "winners") is a whole bunch of pastors who believe so strongly in one idea that they're willing to break the covenant they made with the church. To me, that's a big idea. Biblically, breaking covenants is looked down upon. I must be clear: I think is is very, very different than Rosa Parks.
The Constitution, Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence are very clear in (most of) their language. The Bible really isn't. It was written by many many people over a long period of years; many of which seem to, at times, have different ideas about discipleship, salvation, grace, and faith. To make it worse, church history is even more messed up than the US's history is. It is because of this that we are at this juncture today.
One thing is clear to me, though: in this church trial, no one really wins.