Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Charges against Episcopal Bishop Dismissed

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Charges against Episcopal Bishop Dismissed

Article excerpt

Saying there is nothing in Episcopal doctrine to bar noncelibate homosexuals from becoming deacons and priests, a church court dismissed heresy charges against a retired bishop May 15.

In dropping the charge that Bishop Walter Righter violated his ordination vow in 1990 when he ordained Barry Stopfel, now a priest in the Newark diocese (NCR, March 22), the court declared that "there is no discipline of the church prohibiting the ordination of a noncelibate homosexual."

The court has been considering the case against Righter, 72, the retired bishop of Iowa, since last August.

The court said its ruling was on "the narrow issue" of whether Righter violated church law and was not an endorsement of homosexual ordination.

Still, the 7-1 ruling makes the Episcopal church only the second mainline Protestant denomination to allow gay ordination, after the United Church of Christ.

"At the present time there is no legal restraint on the right of a bishop to ordain noncelibate gays," Michael Rehill, chancellor of the Newark diocese and the lead attorney for Righter, said after the church court announced its decision. "(The court) is not saying it's OK. It's saying it's not illegal."

Bishop John W. Howe of the central Florida diocese, one of the 10 bishops who brought the charges against Righter, said he was "disappointed but not surprised" by the ruling. "We anticipated the results," he said.

Asked if his group would appeal, Howe said, "We haven't made that decision yet. …

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