An Episcopal bishop will stand trial for heresy Tuesday in Wilmington, Del.
It doesn’t happen often.
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 non-celibate gay man.
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!” marvels James Solheim, spokesman for the Episcopal Church USA.
“You wonder if they’re going to keep a vat of oil boiling in the parking lot for him.”
“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.
Stanton is one of the 10 who filed the formal complaint, or “presentment,” against Righter last year.
Despite the warnings in Leviticus 20:13 that “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination,” and Paul’s admonition that “neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites … will inherit the kingdom of God,” (I Corinthians, 6:9), Episcopal bishops since 1989 have ordained dozens of openly homosexual men and women.