The church trial of a lesbian United Methodist minister in Wisconsin was delayed after four prosecutors and the presiding bishop resigned from the case.
The original trial of the Rev. Amy DeLong had been set for April 11. The trial has been rescheduled for June 21 to 23 in Kaukauna.
DeLong, who is part of the denomination’s extension ministry in Osceola, is charged with disobeying church law by officiating at the union of two women. She also is charged with being in a committed relationship with her partner of 15 years, which violates a church law banning openly gay clergy.
When the trial occurs, it will be the first of its kind in the state. Penalties range from a reprimand to dismissal from the clergy.
At least four clergy in a row had accepted the job of prosecuting DeLong, only to resign after learning more about the case.
DeLong said, “I have heard of annual conferences having trouble finding someone to prosecute these cases, but I have never heard of so many.”
The Rev. Tom Lambrecht, senior pastor of Faith Community United Methodist Church in Greenville, has agreed to represent the church. He’s nationally renowned for his anti-gay activism. In 2005, he publicly defended a Virginia pastor who was suspended from the ministry after denying church membership to a gay person.
DeLong does not deny breaking denominational law. She said that after many years of hiding her true identity, “it became too much to go on lying about who I am.”
“I go back to what Dr. King says, that an unjust law is no law at all,” DeLong said. “It was not my job to help the church be discriminatory. Those laws are not what guided me. My call to be just to all people and true to myself is what guided me.”
Her supporters created www.loveontrial.org to cover the trial and rally support. The site’s organizers are seeking volunteers as well as financial contributions to cover DeLong’s defense.