By: Lynda Bustilloz Re: Spong on the Heresy Trial Bishop Spong Speaks About the Heresy Tri

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By: Lynda Bustilloz Re: Spong on the Heresy Trial Bishop Spong Speaks About the Heresy Trial By The Rt. Rev. John S. Spong, Bishop of Newark. As the Bishop of the Diocese of Newark, I pledge my full support to the Rt. Rev. Walter Righter, former assistant bishop of Newark. I reject the politically motivated charges of the religious right within the Episcopal Church and expect to see Bishop Righter fully exonerated. The public needs to be informed about a number of factors in this strange episode in church history. First, 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 the diocese. His ordination to the diaconate by Bishop Righter and his ordination to the priesthood by me were both carried out in consulation with the highest authorities in our national church structure. If Bishop Righter or the authorities of this diocese acted inappropriately in this matter, we did so by following the canons and with the advice of our national church leaders. If this presentment ever gets to trial, that detail will be fleshed out with specificity. Secondly, the Episcopal Church has never written into its canon law a prohibition against the ordination of gay and lesbian candidates who meet all other standards. The last refusal to do that was at the General Convention of 1991. This attempt was defeated by roll call vote in the House of Bishops, so every vote was recorded by name and is available today. The conservative minority of our church is now trying to win by judicial process what it could not win then by legislative process. That is both dishonest and lacking in integrity. Thirdly, General Convention resolutions do not have the force of canon law. They are the expressions of the mind of this church to guide our common life, but they have always respected dissent. This church has passed resolutions on abortion, on various boycotts, on foreign policy issues and on a wide variety of other public matters. The suggestion that some bishop or priest who disagrees with the majority sentiment at a general convention might be subject to presentment is ludicrous. There is not a bishop living who has not dissented to some resolution of General Convention at one time or another. Only the canons are mandatory and thus required to be obeyed. Only the canons have the power to bind our corporate life. In addition to that fact, the only General Convention resolution to which the presentment refers, and which they claim prohibits the ordination of homosexual persons, was passed in 1979 and it was specifically called a "recommendation." The day after that vote, 21 bishops issued a public statement noting that this resolution "was recommendatory and not proscriptive" and these bishops announced their inability in conscience to be bound by that resolution. Among those 21 signatories were the Rt. Rev. Edmond Browning, who five years later was elected Presiding Bishop and the Rt. Rev. John Walker who was shortly thereafter elected Vice President of the House of Bishops. If Bishop Righter's action is judged by some to be so deep a violation of the Church's teaching, it is hard to imagine that 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 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. Lynda Bustilloz ... Every tradition was once a heresy. --- IM2.29+/FE1.45a+/PB2.12+ * Origin: Xtians are uncomplicated beings: pure and simpleton. (1:109/601)


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