There’s a Controversy Brewing in Wisconsin You Might Want to Keep an Eye On

No, not the showdown between Wisconsin unions and Gov. Scott Walker. The one involving a lesbian minister:

A Wisconsin United Methodist Church panel has brought charges against a lesbian minister that could end in her removal from the clergy – but the same committee praised her courage and criticized the church laws that required that the charges be issued.

The case has helped inspire a letter from 32 retired Methodist Bishops urging the church to drop its ban on “self-proclaimed practicing homosexuals” serving as ministers.

A church trial has been set for April in the case, the first of its kind ever in Wisconsin.

The Rev. Amy DeLong of Osceola, in northwestern Wisconsin, precipitated the case in 2009 when she agreed to preside at a holy union ceremony for a lesbian couple, and then separately registered with her partner of 15 years under Wisconsin’s Domestic Partnership Law. She reported both actions to the church’s Wisconsin Annual Conference, the governing body for the church in the state, as part of her annual accounting of her ministry.

I have not much to add to that. Historically, these church trials have not ended well for the defendants, even when the courts sympathize with them. The UMC’s Book of Discipline is very clear: no gays allowed in the ministry.

However, this case might turn out to have a somewhat different story arc. The bishops’ statement mentioned above is ruffling a few feathers within the denomination, as it should. One of these days, the Methodists are going to hold one of these trials and the open-and-shut case will receive some good old fashioned jury nullification. And then where will they be? There’s no way to know if Rev. DeLong will be the one to break the mold, but it’s worth keeping an eye on, after the circus in Madison shuts down.