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Episcopal Reverend in Forefront of Gay Ordination Dies

Retired Episcopal Bishop Walter C. Righter died Sunday after several weeks of hospice care, according to a spokesman for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. Righter was 87.

"The Episcopal Church can give thanks for the life of a faithful and prophetic servant. He proclaimed the gospel for more than 60 years in this church, through trials and great joys," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in a statement posted on the Episcopal Church's website. "His ministry will be remembered for his pastoral heart and his steadfast willingness to help the church move beyond old prejudices into new possibilities."

As an assistant bishop with the Diocese of Newark, NJ in 1990, Righter made the decision to ordain the Rev. Barry Stopfel. At the time, Stopfel was a deacon that Righter knew was gay. Righter was charged with heresy, but a church court ruled in 1996 that Righter's action did not violate church law or "core doctrine." The charges were dismissed.

Righter started his ministerial career in Aliquippa and was living in Export when he died. He is survived by his wife Nancy, four children and four grandchildren. Righter will be remembered at a service on September 15 at 11:00 AM at Calvary Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh.