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UMC jury to decide punishment for Osceola priest

KAUKAUNA - A jury of 13 United Methodist ministers will decide today how a priest from Osceola should be punished, for breaking church rules by marrying a same-sex couple.

The jury heard testimony for parts of two days in Kaukauna, before it found the Reverend Amy DeLong guilty of performing a wedding of two lesbians in 2009. But on a 12-1 vote, the jurors found her innocent on a second-charge of being a "self-avowed practicing homosexual."

The 44-year-old DeLong could lose her ministerial privileges for good. But some juries in similar cases have only ordered temporary suspensions. As the penalty phase of her trial began, some witnesses asked the jury to choose a punishment that fits the offense.

Former American Theological Society president Phil Wogaman said jurors should consider what DeLong intended - whether it was a self-serving act, or a response to wider teachings in the church's Book of Discipline. DeLong did not deny that she performed the same-sex wedding. But her counsel said the prosecution had no evidence that she performed gay sex acts - despite the fact that she registered in a domestic partnership in Polk County in 2009.

The Methodist Church allows gay-and-lesbian ministers as long as they stay celibate.