Charges on Gay Ordination Brought Against Bishop of Pennsylvania

Episcopal News Service. June 21, 1995 [95-1157]

Jerry Hames, Editor of Episcopal Life newspaper

(ENS) -- Two priests and 100 lay Episcopalians have filed a complaint against Bishop Allen L. Bartlett, Jr., of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, seeking punitive action against him for ordaining an openly gay man as a deacon last November.

The Rev. J. Gary L'Hommedieu was the sole cleric from Pennsylvania to sign the presentment; the other cleric was the Rev. John P. Nyhan of the Diocese of Long Island.

The charge, brought by a group calling itself Concerned Episcopalians, is only an initial step toward an actual presentment that could lead to an ecclesial trial. Earlier this year, 10 bishops brought a formal presentment against retired bishop Walter Righter, who ordained a gay man as a deacon while serving as assistant bishop in the Diocese of Newark.

According to canons, Presiding Bishop Edmond L. Browning will now name five bishops to investigate the charge and, if warranted, a presentment will be filed. A similar charge brought against Bishop Stewart Wood of the Diocese of Michigan last year was dismissed by another panel of bishops.

Claiming that "we can no longer allow the Holy Scriptures and teachings of our Church to be blatantly disregarded," the members of Concerned Episcopalians charge that Bartlett violated his ordination vows to conform to the church's "doctrine, discipline and worship" when he ordained David Morris to the diaconate last November. In addition, they claim, the ordination violated "the authoritative position of the Episcopal Church as expressed in numerous major resolutions of the General Convention," and therefore has the "same gravity as a violation of the church's constitution or canons." It also violated the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer, they said.

In a prepared statement in response, Bartlett said "these charges are an unfortunate example of the power that sexual concerns have to captivate us and distract from our mission and ministry in the world. Sexual orientation is only one part of what makes us whole persons.

"It is my belief and that of many others in this diocese that [David] Morris was and is living a faithful Christian life, and that his ministry among us, both before and after ordination, has been exemplary," said Bartlett.

Morris with ordained with the approval of the diocesan commission on ministry and standing committee of the diocese after successfully completing studies at General Theological Seminary, as well as the physical and psychological exams required by the canons, Bartlett noted.