Magazine article Insight on the News

Church Court Won't Pursue Heresy Case

Magazine article Insight on the News

Church Court Won't Pursue Heresy Case

Article excerpt

Episcopal leaders dismissed charges against a bishop who ordained a homosexual.

A court of Episcopal bishops has dismissed heresy charges against a bishop who ordained a noncelibate homosexual, ruling the church has no doctrine on the morality of sexual relations.

The 7-1 ruling, declared by the purple-shirted prelates in the gothic sanctuary of the Cathedral Church of St. John in Wilmington, Del., averts what would have been the second heresy trial in the church's history and assures bishops they can ordain homosexuals without facing discipline.

"The court finds that there is no core doctrine prohibiting the ordination of a noncelibate homosexual person living in a faithful and committed sexual relationship," said Delaware Bishop Cabell Tennis, reading a summary of the 27-page ruling on the case of retired Bishop Walter C. Righter.

Righter, 72, had been accused of violating his vows by conducting the 1990 ordination of the Rev. Barry L. Stopfel, a homosexual. "I feel proud of our church," said Stopfel, who sat uncomfortably in a fourth-row pew with his partner, Will Leckie, through the dissent opinion.

Michael F. Rehill of the diocese of Newark, N.J., an attorney for Righter, said the ruling sets a church precedent on homosexual ordinations: "It's not saying it's okay; it's saying it's not illegal." Righter himself expressed relief and said some bishops "will feel freed-up" to ordain homosexuals, while others will wait until further debate takes place at the church's General Convention next year. …

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