Episcopalians to try bishop for heresy He's accused of ordaining a noncelibate gay man

February 26, 1996|By KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

PHOENIX, ARIZ. — An Episcopal bishop will stand trial for heresy tomorrow in Wilmington, Del.

In only the second such trial of a bishop in the more than 200-year history of the U.S. Episcopal Church, Bishop Walter Righter, 72, faces charges that he committed heresy in 1990 by knowingly ordaining a noncelibate gay man.

Bishop Righter was an assistant bishop of Newark, N.J., when he ordained Barry Stopfel, a Maplewood, N.J., priest who now shares the rectory with his lover of 10 years.

"A heresy trial in the closing days of the 20th century -- such a medieval concept!" James Solheim, spokesman for the Episcopal Church USA, said.

"Medieval" or not, the 10 conservative bishops who brought the charges last year say they see no other way to keep their colleagues from slipping deeper into error.

The sinfulness of homosexuality "is a teaching of the church -- not just the Episcopal Church but Christianity," says the bishop of Dallas, James Stanton.

Bishop Stanton is one of the 10 who filed the formal complaint, or "presentment," against Bishop Righter last year.

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