Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it didn’t stop me from crowing it at my husband this week.
First, in Wisconsin, the United Methodist Church tried another clergyperson on the charges of 1. being gay and 2. marrying a gay couple. On the first charge, Rev. Amy DeLong was found not guilty of being a “self-avowed, practicing homosexual,” (language from the Book of Discipline). While this is tremendous news, because Rev. DeLong has indeed been in a loving relationship with another woman for many years and her Bishop knew about it, the manner by which she was found not guilty was disgusting. Basically the church court could not prove she was “practicing,” despite asking very specific questions about her intimacy with her partner. So, a way to go there before the church treats gay and lesbian people with anything approaching the decency they extend to heterosexual people.
On the second charge or marrying a same-gender couple, Rev. DeLong was found guilty (and rightly so, as she reported it herself), but the exciting part was her sentence. Where in the past, penalties for this charge have ranged form slaps on the wrist to defroking, in this case Rev. DeLong was issued a 20-day suspension, and required to write– with her supervisors and those who brought charges against her, as well as another person of her own choosing– a document describing the brokenness of the clergy covenant and how healing might begin. Given that 100s of clergypeople have stated that they will perform marriages for all prepared couples regardless of gender (including the author of this blog), this is a tremendous opportunity for the Untied Methodist Church to consider further equality and to do so in the spirit of reconciliation and healing for the harm that has been done, rather than continuing to ramp up the polarization.
Then, New York, on the eve of Pride Weekend, passed marriage equality, and there was even further rejoicing. It even prompted me to tweet a little something special.
These are exciting times for our country and our (for my fellow UMs) church, but what is exciting to one person might be mournful to the next. The question is how we proceed graciously and gracefully. For people who have been fighting for a long time, when we see even small steps forward, we can tend to trumpet them as victories, which simultaneously diverts our focus from the further progress needed, and runs the risk of being deaf to the concerns of others who struggle with the changes. Can we build the relationships that have been damages for so long? Can we seek a way of healing? Can we celebrate what has been done while storing energy for the tasks ahead? Can we hear those who have shut out our voices so that one day we might be a family again?