Episcopal bishop who ordained gay man dies
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Bishop Walter Righter, whose ordination of a partnered gay deacon in New Jersey opened the door to widespread gay ordination in the Episcopal Church, died Sunday at 87.
Raised and ordained a priest in Pittsburgh, he had retired as bishop of Iowa and was assisting in the Newark diocese when he ordained the deacon in 1990. Conservatives in the Episcopal Church charged him with heresy, but the church's highest court ruled in 1996 that gay ordination did not violate core doctrines of the church. The decision eventually led to a split in the Episcopal Church. He returned to this region about eight years ago, and lived in Export with his wife, Nancy.
"Bishop Righter is one of the giants on whose shoulders gay and lesbian Christians stand," said Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, who in 2003 became the first openly gay Episcopal bishop.
"The Episcopal Church can give thanks for the life of a faithful and prophetic servant," said Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori of the Episcopal Church. "He proclaimed the Gospel for more than 60 years in this church, through trials and great joys. His ministry will be remembered for his pastoral heart and his steadfast willingness to help the church move beyond old prejudices into new possibilities. He embodied the one of whom it is said, "well done, good and faithful servant."
Bishop Righter's funeral will be Thursday at 11 a.m. in Calvary Episcopal Church, Shadyside.
First Published September 12, 2011 12:25 pm