The Rev. Amy DeLong faced numerous questions on the stand Wednesday morning about the nature of her relationship with her partner of 16 years, Val Zellmer.
The Wisconsin elder declined to answer repeated questions from the church’s counsel about whether her relationship included “genital sexual contact.”
DeLong, 44, is undergoing a church trial on charges she violated the denomination’s ban on “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” serving as clergy and the United Methodist prohibition against clergy officiating at same-sex unions.
The United Methodist Church officially allows gay and lesbian clergy as long as they remain celibate. The Rev. Scott Campbell, DeLong’s counsel, has contended that church leaders had failed to establish before the trial that DeLong engaged in prohibited sexual activities.
The Rev. Thomas Lambrecht, the church’s counsel, asked DeLong to describe her relationship with her partner.
“Val is the love of my life; I can’t imagine my life without her,” DeLong said. “I have committed myself to her, and she has committed to me. We make a lot of our heterosexual friends jealous because they would like a marriage as fine as ours.”
She balked at Lambrecht’s questions about her sexual activity, which he said he was reluctant to ask. DeLong said such questions should have been asked during the fact-finding investigation before the trial.
After about 15 minutes of consultation among both counsels and the trial’s presiding officer, retired Bishop Clay Lee Jr., Lambrecht posed the question one more time.
“While I don’t fully understand what the word self-avowed and practicing means, I do know when it feels like a forced avowal, and that is what this is feeling like,” DeLong said. “My answer is still I will never, to anybody who is trying to do me harm, talk about the intimate, private behavior of my partner and me.”
She did testify that she has called herself “a self-avowed practicing homosexual” because that is what The Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book, calls her.
The morning trial session also included testimony from Carrie Johnson. DeLong officiated at the holy union of Johnson and her partner, Carolyn Larson, in September 2009. DeLong had earlier testified that the ceremony took place in Johnson’s and Larson’s backyard.
Johnson testified that she approached DeLong about performing the ceremony because she believed in God and wanted to have a sign of that presence at the service.
“The second reason was why not?” Johnson said. “Why can’t we be treated as human beings like everybody else? It was about fairness.”
Johnson testified that a pastoral relationship has developed between DeLong and the couple since the union. Johnson, a police officer, has designated DeLong to be the first notified and to officiate at the funeral in the event Johnson is killed in the line of duty.
After Johnson’s testimony, both sides presented their closing arguments.
United Methodist News Servicereporter Heather Hahn and photographer Mike DuBose are covering the trial and will post coverage here as well as on theUMNS Facebookpage andFlickr.
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