Religious rebel

The Rev. Amy DeLong to speak out during three Michigan appearances

By Crystal Proxmire

When the Rev. Amy DeLong performed a lesbian wedding at a United Methodist Church in Wisconsin in September 2009, she did not get defrocked. Instead of immediately dismissing the lesbian reverend, church leadership held a trial, charging her with violating church teaching by blessing the same-sex union and with being a "self-avowed practicing homosexual."

After a lengthy church trial, the charge of being homosexual was dismissed and she was found guilty of violating the Book of Discipline. She was suspended for 20 days and assigned to write an essay "about a better way to handle disagreements between clergy."

DeLong has remained a welcome part of the Methodist Church and as a reverend doing outreach, DeLong is traveling the country spreading the idea of more love and acceptance in the Methodist community. In June, she will present a set of procedures to put before the Wisconsin United Methodist Clergy, and hopes to be able to present them to the United Methodist General Conference 2012 in Tampa, Fla., which is where major church policy decisions are made.

The empowering story of DeLong's religious rebellion, and the kind response she has received since standing up for her beliefs, will be shared at three different Michigan events.

On Friday, March 16, DeLong will take part in Coffee House and Conversation from 7-9 p.m. at Newburg United Methodist Church (36500 Ann Arbor Trail) in Livonia. This casual evening will include music by folk singer Katie Geddes and poems by poet and Pastor Jeff Nelson. There will be a chance to hear DeLong's story and converse about inclusivity, while enjoying beverages and snacks. This is a free event.

On Saturday, March 17, in a presentation on "Mapping our Journeys," DeLong will be part of a panel with representatives from Farmington, Birmingham, Ann Arbor and Central United Methodist Churches to discuss how they have had conversations about faith and sexuality in their respective settings. The event is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., with lunch included, at Nardin Park United Methodist Church (29887 W. 11 Mile Road) in Farmington, and the cost is $10. Pre-registration, to wesbrun@gmail.com, is requested.

On Sunday, March 18, DeLong will share a free Welcoming Worship at 5 p.m. at the Detroit Central United Methodist Church (23 E. Adams) in Detroit.

DeLong tours the country as part of her extension ministry Kairos CoMotion, a nonprofit whose mission states, "Now is the time to: re-form the way we live together so as to more fully embody a radically expansive love of God; network for solidarity, advocacy and action; and act-up on behalf of those who are silenced, excluded or dispossessed."

While she has not since violated church doctrine, DeLong has been working within the church rules to spread her message of acceptance. Prior to the suspension, Kairos CoMotion focused on educational events and conferences with progressive theologians. Since the trial, DeLong has worked to connect more with the everyday churchgoers than conservative religious leaders.

"Change will come if people stand up for what is right in their churches," DeLong says. "I have not met much resistance, and I am less concerned about (it) than with showing people the light they have when they embrace themselves and all the members of their congregations.

"I'm way less concerned with my enemies. People don't like when I use strong language like that, but remember: Jesus said love your enemies. He didn't say not to have them."

DeLong said that being herself and helping the couple she married was worth overcoming her fears.

"I'd tell people that living your ultimate truth is empowering," she says. "Doing the thing that scares them the most will open their life. Living a divided life was way more soul-threatening than telling the truth, even when the consequences are hard."

Find out more about DeYoung and her journey at http://loveontrial.org.

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