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1: 30 p.m. EST, June 23: Penalty closing arguments

The United Methodist Church’s counsel asked the jury to suspend the Rev. Amy DeLong indefinitely until she agrees in writing not to perform same-sex unions or the denomination’s law on such unions is changed.

“Contrary to the statements of some of those who testified yesterday afternoon, this is not some insignificant violation of the terms of the Book of Discipline,” the Rev. Thomas Lambrecht told the jury of 13 clergy in his closing statement.

He reiterated that at stake is the covenant all United Methodist elders make to uphold the Discipline, the denomination’s law book, and abide by its provisions.

Lambrecht pointed out that as the church’s representative, he is not asking for DeLong to be expelled from church membership, nor does he want to deprive her of her credentials or remove her as a clergy member of the Wisconsin Annual (regional) Conference.

“The church’s main interest in terms of a penalty is that the requirements of the Book of Discipline are honored and complied with,” he said. “We want to make sure that DeLong will conform her future behavior to the requirements of the Book of Discipline so we are not back here in the future.”

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The Rev. Scott Campbell, DeLong’s counsel, in his closing statement countered that the jury has full discretion to determine the penalty. He mentioned a recent nonbinding resolution recently approved at the Northern Illinois Annual Conference that calls for clergy to receive a 24-hour suspension if they officiate at a same-sex union.

In previous trials regarding same-sex unions, he said, the Book of Discipline has been used as a club.

“We seek to terrorize compassionate pastors into withholding blessings from those whom the Discipline calls them to serve,” Campbell said. “This is not right, dear friends.”

DeLong’s actions were “not a violation of covenant but the vindication of conscience,” he asserted, drawing murmurs of  “Amen” from a crowd of many DeLong supporters.

After Campbell spoke, Lambrecht offered a rebuttal in which he told the jurors that they should consider the harm that will be done if they fail to adequately penalize DeLong. He said a lack of accountability will prompt some United Methodists to leave the church.

He also urged the jurors to keep in mind “our brothers and sisters in Africa, Latin America and other parts of the world.

“There is no disputing that becoming a more gay-affirming church would severely harm our church’s witness in other countries where our brothers and sisters are confronted with life-and-death circumstances in their conflict with radical Islam,” he declared.

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Lambrecht also said only General Conference, the denomination’s top lawmaking body, has the authority to expand the church’s definition of marriage to include same-sex couples. General Conference, he noted, consistently has voted against such an expansion.

Before the jury adjourned for deliberations, DeLong’s counsel asked the trial’s presiding officer, retired Bishop Clay Lee Jr., to rule on whether the trial court had the authority to suspend DeLong indefinitely.

After consulting the Book of Discipline, Lee said the denomination places no limits on the length of a suspension.

“I rule that the proposed penalty is not prohibited by the Book of Discipline,” Lee said. “However, the determination of the penalty is up to the trial court.”

The jury is in deliberations now.

United Methodist News Service reporter Heather Hahn and photographer Mike DuBose are covering the trial and will post coverage here as well as on the UMNS Facebook page and Flickr.

7 comments

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  1. Jay R. Newlin

    Why, oh why, oh why do some members of the Church pull out the canard that “becoming a more gay-affirming church would severely harm our church’s witness in other countries where our brothers and sisters are confronted with life-and-death circumstances in their conflict with radical Islam”? How are the two related?

  2. iptl4evr

    The affirmation of gays is greeted with the death sentence in radical muslim nations.

  3. Pastor1212

    Affirmation of homosexuality within thew context of the church will put United Methodist Church clergy serving in the World of Islam in a position of distain with their lives in danger. Same sex relations according to Islam is a capital offence. If our church affirms same sex relations the church will become fodder in Islam. There is much more at stake in this issue and trial than just someone’s cheap pride.

  4. Mr. Beaver

    I am thinking of Sodom and the destruction caused by God due to their depravity; looks a lot worse than worrying about what the Muslims think. What about God, is it not His church? What does His book of discipline[Bible] say about the issue? C’mon. I do not blame Amy, it is not her fault. She is not qualified to be in the position she holds as a pastor. The UMC created this problem because they are to scared to hold fast to God’s word and order.Regardless of my differences with the UMC I will pray that repentance occurs and the intentions of Wesley when he founded Methodism returns to its roots.

  5. fanntom

    And my guess is that “your” word is the final judgement, Mr. Beaver? Shame on you, sir…

  6. Mr. Beaver

    @ fanntom
    What in this post gave you the impression that it is my word that is final? You are on the other side of the spectrum, you believe that God’s word is not final. So what should be preached; what we think God word says? By your comment I would deem it safe to say that you are more concerned with pleasing man than God, after all who are you to say that God would allow homosexual clergy or better yet even a woman pastor. See how this works, you say who are you say and I say who are you to say.We continue this cycle until we forget that God is the final say so. By your argument you have no argument. May God’s grace and peace break through the philosophical world view that is killing our churches. Peace

  7. Ray

    Matthew 15:19
    New International Version (NIV)
    19 For out of the heart come EVIL thoughts—murder, adultery, SEXUAL IMMORALITY, theft, false testimony, slander. — These are the words of Jesus. he was not silent on this subject. If you walked with Jesus and asked if homosexuality was in the category of sexual immorality, what do you think he would have answered based on scripture? Christ called for love, and we can love and care for all our brothers and sisters…leading GOD’S CHURCH is another matter. It’s not just another job my friends.

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