Associcated Press, 8 May 04

Episcopal bishop in SF sanctioned after marrying same-sex partner

(05-08) 09:19 PDT SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The Episcopal Diocese of California has sanctioned a retired bishop for marrying his same-sex partner during a church ceremony in San Francisco last month.

Rev. Otis Charles told the Associated Press Saturday that he had received a letter from Episcopal Bishop William Swing informing him that his license to officiate at church services or preside over the church's sacramental ceremonies, such as weddings or baptisms, had been revoked.

Charles, who served as Episcopal bishop of Utah for 15 years, married his partner of two years, Felipe Sanchez Paris, on April 24. Charles came out as gay following his 1993 retirement at age 67 and now lives in San Francisco.

Charles said he believed an article about his wedding that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle April 29 had provoked the disciplinary action by Swing. Charles said he had informed Swing, who his considered one of the faith's most outspoken proponents of gay marriage, days before the wedding took place.

"It was done with the bishop's knowledge and done according to his protocols," Charles said.

The San Francisco-based diocesan office, where both Swing and executive officer Rev. Canon Michael Hansen are headquartered, did not return calls for comment on Saturday.

Although the Episcopal Church does not officially encourage same-sex unions, churches in some American dioceses routinely bless gay couples which are not permitted to marry. That has long been the case in California.

In an article in The Living Church, a magazine for Episcopalians, Hansen said that Charles had not contacted Swing before his marriage. He also said couples who want to have same-sex blessing celebrations in the Diocese of California must have their requests preapproved and ensure that their celebrations do not resemble traditional marriage ceremonies.

The diocese was investigating whether any other clergy violated church policy by presiding at the couple's nearly three hour wedding at St. Gregory of Nyssa Church, Hansen said.

Charles said that despite the consequences, he was glad he had participated in the Chronicle's story, which described a joyful celebration involving several hundred guests, including his own eight-year old grandson.

"I think the article touched many people," Charles said. "That gift of being present as who were are and the love that we share -- allowing that to be a gift to others -- I think it was a right and a good thing."

Charles, who was married for 42 years and has five grown children, was dean and president of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass. between 1986 and 1993. He has remained active in California's ministry for gay and lesbian Episcopalians and served as bishop-in-residence at an Episcopal Church in San Francisco.