By: Lynda Bustilloz Re: Bishop Tried for Heresy [1/3] I am posting a number of files glean

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By: Lynda Bustilloz Re: Bishop Tried for Heresy [1/3] I am posting a number of files gleaned from the Episcopal Diocese of Newark's Homepage. This involves the upcoming Church trial of Bishop Righter on charges of heresy, and should be of interest both to those discussing Spong, and to those who follow the gay rights movement. This whole thing is making me angry as all getout, and I intend to right letters to each of the Bishops involved to express my opinion as a laymember of the Episcopal Church. I urge anyone who would like to become involved to do the same. Newark Diocesan News - 9/14/95 The following news release, text of Bishop Spong's statement, and text of the resolution of Standing Committee and Diocesan Council were released this afternoon, September 14, at 4 pm. For further information, please reply to me via QUEST at DALE GRUNER, or by telephone at 201 622-3873 during business hours. NEWS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, SEPTEMBER 14 ,1995 NEWARK, NJ, September 13, 1995--The Diocese of Newark, through unanimous resolutions of its Standing Committee and Diocesan Council, today officially affirmed its support for the ministry of Rt. Rev. Walter C. Righter, stating its belief that Bishop Righter is innocent of the charges of heresy and violation of ordination vows brought against him in the Presentment brought by ten bishops of the Episcopal Church. The Diocese also officially affirmed its support of the ministry of the Rev. Barry Stopfel, rector of St. George's, Maplewood, NJ, and an openly gay man living in a committed same-sex relationship. Bishop Righter is accused in the Presentment of violating his ordination vows when he ordained Stopfel to the diaconate in 1990. At the same time, the Rt. Rev. John S. Spong, Bishop of Newark, released his personal statement of support for Bishop Righter and the Rev. Stopfel. In his statement, Bishop Spong reiterates that "the ordination of the Rev. Barry Stopfel was carried out according to the letter of the Canons of the Episcopal Church. Mr. Stopfel had the support of the vestry of the Church of the Atonement, Tenafly, New Jersey. He had the full endorsement of the Commission on Ministry. He was approved unanimously by the Standing Committee of this diocese. His ordination to the diaconate by Bishop Righter and his ordination to the priesthood by me were both carried out in consultation with the highest authorities in our national church structure." In his statement, the full text of which is attached, Bishop Spong concludes: "I am saddened that our Church has come to this. I am saddened that gay and lesbian members of this church are subjected to this continuing abuse. My conviction is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which proclaims the message of God's unbounded love for all that God has made, including God's gay and lesbian children, is worth defending with all my might and defend that Gospel I will. I am also convinced that I do so with the support of the vast majority of the clergy and lay leadership of this Diocese." Resolution in Support of Bishop Righter RESOLVED, that the Standing Committee and the Diocesan Council of the Diocese of Newark, representing the 127 congregations in the seven northern counties of New Jersey, hereby publicly affirm our support of the ministry of the Rt. Rev.Walter C. Righter and state our belief that Bishop Righter is innocent of the charges of heresy and violation of ordination vows brought in the Presentment; and, be it further RESOLVED, that we affirm and publicly state our support of the ministry of the Rev. Barry Stopfel, Rector of St. George's, Maplewood. Supporting Information: Twenty-five percent of the Bishops of the Episcopal Church have consented to the Presentment filed against the Rt. Rev. Walter C. Righter, retired Bishop of Iowa we would have elected two persons who shared his point of view to the highest leadership positions within our Church. That illustrates better than anything else I can cite the negativity and the harassing quality of this ecclesiastical version of "ethnic cleansing" that has now been undertaken by the religious right wing of the Episcopal Church. The public also needs to be aware that 75 bishops, or 25% of the total membership of the House of Bishops, had to agree to this presentment in order for it to proceed to trial. This right-wing coalition managed to muster 76 votes, one more than the required number, and then only after an intense last-minute lobbying effort. In order to reach their total, they garnered the votes of 44 retired bishops, many of whom have not attended meetings or participated in the debate of the House of Bishops for more than a decade and in some cases two decades. Their signatories even included one bishop who is suffering with Alzheimer's disease and who was not capable of signing for himself. Two of their signatories were members of the Bishop's Court that will hear this case and thus had to sacrifice themselves as judges in order for this presentment to reach the necessary 25%. When the facts in the case are revealed, I predict a quick dismissal of these charges and a recognition by the vast majority of our Church that this procedure was nothing more than an unsuccessful attempt at intimidation. Finally, I note that four of the ten bishops who filed the original presentment have themselves refused to implement the canons which opened the ordination process of our Church to women. They are, therefore at this moment, in violation of the canons, something even they have never accused Bishop Righter of being. This tactic against Bishop Righter is their attempt to postpone the day on which they will be called to accountability. I am saddened that our Church has come to this. I am saddened that gay and lesbian members of this church are subjected to this continuing abuse. My conviction is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which proclaims the message of God's unbounded love for all that God has made, including Godís gay and lesbian children, is worth defending with all my might and defend that Gospel I will. I am also convinced that I do so with the support of the vast majority of the clergy and lay leadership of this Diocese. The VOICE - September 1995 BISHOP RIGHTER TO BE TRIED FOR HERESY by Dale Gruner The Presenters of charges against Bishop Walter Righter, retired bishop of Iowa and former assistant bishop in the Diocese of Newark, needed 75 votes in favor of a trial. They secured 76, with four votes coming in at the very last moment, but presumably post-marked by the August 15th deadline. Righter is charged in the Presentment with violating his ordination vows and teaching false doctrine when he ordained an openly gay man in a committed relationship (the Rev. Barry Stopfel, now rector of St. George's, Maplewood) to the diaconate five years ago, and with heresy for voting in the minority in the House of Bishops on issues related to the ordination of an openly gay person and for signing the Koinonia Statement issued by Bishop Spong during the last General Convention. "Absurd! I did not commit heresy," said Bishop Righter in a telephone interview with The VOICE. "The absurdities go in every direction, including the diversion of money, energy and resources away from the true mission of the church." Righter went on to say, "The whole Diocese of Newark is the real subject of this attack; it is the diocese that is being accused of heresy through me." The issue, at least for one bishop who voted for a trial, is not about the ordination of gay and lesbian persons, but about polity. Dr. Louie Crew, Co-Chair of the Newark Deputation to General Convention and Secretary to the National Church's Standing Commission on Human Affairs, reported the following conversation to The VOICE: "Bishop [Edward L.] Salmon [South Carolina] told me last week at our meeting of the Commission on Human Affairs that he and others are working to have the presenters withdraw the presentment in Portland [at the House of Bishops meeting in late September]. Bishop Salmon also said that those signing for the presentment are less concerned about issues of sexuality than about polity and collegiality. I asked, `Then are you saying that lesbigays are being used as scapegoats?' `Yes,' he replied." Reached by phone at press time, Bishop Salmon confirmed this conversation, and told The VOICE, "We don't agree on the sexuality issue, but we can talk about that. This is a polity fight." According to Michael Rehill, Chancellor of the Diocese of Newark and chief architect of the "Brief" of response to the Presentment, this will be the first heresy trial under the current canons, and only the second heresy trial in the history of the Episcopal Church. The Trial Court is composed of nine bishops (three are elected at each General Convention to serve nine years) and decision is by majority vote. Two of the bishops who sit on the Trial Court, Andrew Fairfield of North Dakota and Donis Patterson, Central Gulf Coast, were among the 76 who voted for a trial. The outcome of the trial may be appealed by either side to the Appeal Court, also composed of nine elected bishops. A decision which results in punishment must be approved by two-thirds of the House of Bishops before it can be enacted. The trial cannot begin until two months after the vote to present charges and must begin within six months. The date and place of the trial had not been set at press time. Dale Gruner is editor of The VOICE and a member of Church of the Messiah, Chester. EPISCOPAL NEWS SERVICE - #1266 PRESENTMENT SUPPORTERS AND OPPONENTS SPEAK OUT AS RIGHTER HERESY TRIAL APPROACHES BY JAMES H. THRALL AND JAMES SOLHEIM (ENS) As the Episcopal Church moves toward its second heresy trial in history involving a bishop, opinion remains sharply divided--and frequently expressed--over whether the accused is a heretic or a hero. Ten bishops who brought a presentment against Bishop Walter Righter for ordaining a noncelibate homosexual man in 1990 while serving as assistant bishop in the Diocese of Newark have charged that his action violates church doctrine. Others who have rallied to Righter's cause maintain he is a scapegoat unfairly targeted for doing what many other bishops have done. The charge against Righter will be heard by the nine-member Court for the Trial of a Bishop in Chicago January 3-5. According to Bishop Edward Jones of Indianapolis, president of the court, the site was chosen because Chicago is accessible for travel; the trial will be held at the offices of the Diocese of Chicago whose cathedral next door will be used for prayer to undergird the deliberations; and the site is "neutral." Members of the court also have approved appointment of A. Hugo Blankingship, Jr., of Fairfax, Virginia, as Church Advocate to serve as legal adviser to those who brought the presentment charges against Righter last January. The canon laws of the church stipulate that the court select no fewer than two or more than three Lay Assessors, confirmed adult communicants in good standing who are learned in the law to advise the court on any non-theological question. That selection process is already under way, Jones reported. Righter will be represented by Michael Rehill, chancellor of the Diocese of Newark. AN ISSUE OF DISCIPLINE AND COLLEGIALITY Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning forestalled any outbreak of the "Righter debate" on the floor of the recent House of Bishops meeting in Portland by stressing that the case is in the hands of the court and that discussion by the house would be inappropriate. But in other forums the debate goes on as both supporters and opponents of the presentment argue the merits of the charge while explaining their own positions in bishops' columns in diocesan newspapers, letters and on-line computer discussion groups. Giving voice to sentiments expressed as well by the other presenting bishops, Bishop Terence Kelshaw of the Diocese of the Rio Grande maintained Righter has failed to live out his vows as a bishop to teach and defend the gospel, and to serve as "guardian of the faith and overseer of God's people." Righter "acted contrary to the church's teaching, and by so doing violated his ordination vows," Kelshaw wrote in a column explaining his decision to be one of the 10 presenting bishops. "The presentment is not about homosexuality," he wrote. "Neither is it about rights. The presentment is about Episcopal anarchy." Bishop Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina, who was not one of the presenting bishops and did not join the 76 bishops whose support moved the case to trial, nevertheless echoed Kelshaw's concern. "We bishops show an increasing tendency to act on private revelation rather than in accordance with the Anglican way of doing theology--that is, as a community," he wrote in a letter to the other bishops. Such individual actions, he argued, "result in disunity and disorder." Henderson argued against proceeding with the presentment because it would only increase the disunity. He urged instead a period of prayerful study of the issues. SUPPORTERS RALLY TO RIGHTER Meanwhile, supporters of Righter, concerned that as a retired bishop he is ill-equipped to cover the high cost of the trial, have established a defense fund through the Diocese of Newark. In a liturgical show of support, St. Luke's in Montclair, New Jersey, served as the site for a choral evensong in early October celebrating the ministry of Righter and the Rev. Barry Stopfel, the priest he ordained. The service highlighted as well the work of The Oasis, the Diocese of Newark's ministry with gay people, their families and friends. Supporters of Righter also have been invited by Peg Dengel of the Diocese of Newark to show their concern by wearing a purple and lavender lapel pin. The colors, she explained, represent the episcopacy and the ministry of gays and lesbians. Donations, she said, are being passed on to the Bishop Righter defense fund. In mid-October, the rector of St. Paul's in Paterson, New Jersey, was moved to make her own very personal show of solidarity as she took the difficult step of announcing publicly to her congregation that she is a lesbian. "I have decided that I cannot allow Bishop Righter or my friend Barry Stopfel to stand alone," wrote the Rev. Tracy Lind in a letter to her congregation. "I am not coming out because I want to talk about my sexuality; rather I am coming out because the gospel demands it for the sake of justice." The church's vestry unanimously approved a resolution affirming and supporting Lind and promising to "stand ready to protect and defend" her. In affirming her "public witness as an openly gay priest," they also stated that "we understand this action to be consistent with the ministry and mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church." While they were unable to debate the matter as a house, 35 bishops signed a statement of support for Righter following the Portland meeting. "Walter Righter's trial is a trial of the Gospel, a trial of justice, a trial of fairness, and a trial of the Church," they wrote. "We stand with Bishop Righter. We feel charged as Bishop Righter is charged. We feel on trial as Bishop Righter is on trial. Should he be found guilty, we are guilty." CALLS FOR PRAYER The board of directors of Integrity, the national organization for gay and lesbian Episcopalians, has called for January 2, the eve of the trial, to be a national day of prayer. The Committee on the Status of Women also is calling for noonday prayers remembering all those involved in the trial, starting in Advent, as well as a prayer vigil beginning January 2 and continuing through the duration of the trial. --JAMES H. THRALL IS DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF NEWS AND INFORMATION FOR THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH. JAMES SOLHEIM IS DIRECTOR OF NEWS AND INFORMATION. Lynda Bustilloz ... "Case dismissed. Rusty, take these two out back and shoot them"


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