Reporting Rachel Slavik
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Wisconsin pastor could lose her job after she took a stand on the issue of gay marriage.
The Rev. Amy Delong will face trial within the United Methodist Church later this month.
“Certainly there is fear. I’ll be nervous when the trial comes,” DeLong said.
DeLong has served the United Methodist church for 14 years, knowing full-well her love life could cost her her job.
“I fell in love with my partner and United Methodist at the same time,” DeLong said.
It’s a decision, however, she made in 2009 that has got her in trouble. She oversaw the marriage of a gay couple, which is against the rules.
“No way was I going to categorically reject them. I was going to treat them like other couples I’d married,” DeLong said.
Church leaders not only decided to bring her to trial for the marriage, but also because she is gay.
“I see these laws in church to be completely biased, discriminatory,” DeLong said.
While DeLong is fighting for her job in Wisconsin, across the border in Minnesota, dozens of United Methodist clergy are also pledging to follow in DeLong’s footsteps.
“I’m saying personally, I can no longer participate in what I feel is discriminatory,” said Pastor Bruce Robbins, of the Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church.
Robbins saw an opportunity for change at the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. Since Wednesday, 70 of the roughly 300 clergy signed a statement saying they would marry gay couples.
“It’s a challenge to the system,” Robbins said.
Not all clergy, however, agree with Robbins.
“The difficulty we have with this action is it intentionally breaking clergy covenant,” said Pastor Phil Strom, of the Elk River United Methodist Church.
Signing the pledge comes with no risk from the church.
“People do have freedom of speech and they have a right to disagree with the rules of their church,” said the Rev. Victoria Rebeck, Director of Communication for the Minnesota United Methodist Conference.
However, if a clergy member follows through with the pledge, they face an investigation and possibly a trial.
“There’s a range of possible penalties,” Rebeck said.
It is a risk that some are willing to take if it ultimately means breaking tradition.
“Change will only come when people of power will risk some of that,” DeLong said.
The trial will operate much like a court trial, only it will be held in a church. The jury will be made up of clergy members who will decide the verdict and the punishment.
The United Methodist Church said it is treating it like a personnel issue and can’t make certain comments, but have offered this fact sheet.