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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
court on any non-theological question. That selection process is
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
in Portland by stressing that the case is in the hands of the court
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
teach and defend the gospel, and to serve as "guardian of the faith
overseer of God's people."
Righter "acted contrary to the church's teaching, and by so
violated his ordination vows," Kelshaw wrote in a column explaining
decision to be one of the 10 presenting bishops. "The presentment
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
"We bishops show an increasing tendency to act on private revelation
rather than in accordance with the Anglican way of doing
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
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
he ordained. The service highlighted as well the work of The Oasis,
Diocese of Newark's ministry with gay people, their families and
Supporters of Righter also have been invited by Peg Dengel
Diocese of Newark to show their concern by wearing a purple and
lavender lapel pin. The colors, she explained, represent the
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
was moved to make her own very personal show of solidarity as she
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
Barry Stopfel to stand alone," wrote the Rev. Tracy Lind in a
her congregation. "I am not coming out because I want to talk about
sexuality; rather I am coming out because the gospel demands it for
sake of justice."
The church's vestry unanimously approved a resolution
and supporting Lind and promising to "stand ready to protect and
defend" her. In affirming her "public witness as an openly gay
they also stated that "we understand this action to be consistent
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
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
We feel on trial as Bishop Righter is on trial. Should he be found
we are guilty."
CALLS FOR PRAYER
The board of directors of Integrity, the national
gay and lesbian Episcopalians, has called for January 2, the eve of
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 email@example.com
... "Case dismissed. Rusty, take these two out back and shoot them"