The view from (too far) above

grh consecration3The Religion Newswriters Association’s ReligionLink service has posted a mostly helpful roundup about several denominations’ debates regarding homosexuality. But the roundup fumbles on a few details that are readily apparent to me as a longtime activist in the Episcopal Church’s debates:

[I]n 1996, a bishop, Walter Righter, was tried for heresy for ordaining an openly gay man in 1990. The charges were dismissed, but the church continued to struggle with issues of gay ordination and same-sex blessings.

While it is common to use the shorthand of “the Righter trial,” Righter went through two pretrial hearings, and his case never went to trial.

The Episcopal Church agreed to delay approving any more openly gay bishops until more negotiations could take place, but that moratorium was nearly undone in May 2006 when delegates from the Diocese of California gathered to elect a new bishop.

The House of Bishops agreed to a moratorium on all new bishops, stressing that it did not want to be unfair by imposing a moratorium solely on gay bishops.

Forward in Faith was organized in 1999 largely in response to the debates over sexuality issues.

Forward in Faith North America began its life as the Episcopal Synod of America, which was founded in 1989 in response to the consecration as Barbara Harris as the Episcopal Church’s first woman bishop.

[Correction: Fellow blogger Huw Raphael points out what I should have remembered: The Episcopal Synod of America traces its roots back to the Evangelical and Catholic Mission, which held its first meeting in December 1976. When it met in June 1989, ECM voted to become ESA.]

The post recommends an item from Wikipedia, with this caveat: “The list is a useful overview, but journalists should double-check all information.” The same is true of ReligionLink’s noble but flawed effort to offer an ecumenical snapshot of a complicated debate.

Photo credit: The consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson, November 2003. Distributed by Episcopal News Service.

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  • Huw Raphael

    Didn’t the Synod begin *its* life as the Evangelical and Catholic Mission? I think there was, at least, some overlap in personages between the two organisations.

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  • Diane Connolly

    Doug – ReligionLink changed the wording to clarify that Righter was never formally tried and that the ban on approving bishops applies to all bishops. As far as Forward in Faith, we were referring to the North American branch, which was formed in 1999, according to its web site. We clarified that as well. As always, ReligionLink strives to provide accurate information. If anyone sees an error, we always appreciate being alerted so that we can correct it. The quickest and most direct way to do that is to contact me at Thanks – Diane Connolly, ReligionLink editor

  • Douglas LeBlanc

    Thanks for writing, Diane, and you’re correct that Forward in Faith’s website says its North American branch was organized in 1999.

    I believe it was worth noting, however, that the group’s history goes 23 years deeper than 1999, and that it was organized in opposition to women’s ordination. Forward in Faith continues to stress this theme in its Communion Statement.