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COLORADO: Lesbian Priest in sordid love affair could face discipline


By David W. Virtue

DENVER (4/30/2004)—A publicly self-professed lesbian priest in the Diocese of Colorado, The Rev. Bonnie Spencer, has been accused of luring the lonely widow of a deceased priest in the Diocese into a sordid lesbian affair, and then making up a liturgy to “marry” her at the church altar to sanctify her misconduct.

Spencer told Jean Torkelson of the Rocky Mountain News that she would have no comment until she spoke to Bishop Rob O'Neill, who is out of town until next week. She added, however, that "there was no same-sex blessing."

VIRTUOSITY has learned from a number of diocesan sources that the Bishop and Standing Committee are preparing for possible disciplinary hearings and actions. Under the former Bishop Jerry Winterrowd, whose weak and indecisive leadership earned him little respect from either the orthodox or liberals, the new Bishop Rob O’Neill has informed his clergy that such conduct will not be tolerated and a full investigation will be initiated immediately.

“I have every confidence that our new bishop, The Rt. Rev. Rob O'Neill, will uphold diocesan standards of married and faithful, single and celibate, not to mention holding homosexual clergy to the same definitions of sexual misconduct as heterosexual clergy, and female clergy to the same standards as male clergy," the Rev. Don Armstrong, a member of the Diocesan Standing Committee, said in a telephone interview. "The whole issue of power differential between priest and parishioner is once again illustrated in this case, making it abundantly clear why it is inappropriate for a parish priest to even date a member of his or her own congregation."

After an initial attempt by the Canon to the Ordinary, the Rev. Ed Morgan, to whitewash the whole affair, the issue quickly escalated to the point where Bishop O’Neill came under enormous pressure to act, even as his conservative clergy began placing overseas calls for Primatial intervention and oversight.

As such charges have always brought immediate suspension from ministry for heterosexual male clergy and imposition of Title IV of the ECUSA Canons in Colorado, a careful eye is being kept on the situation so that similar vigor is exercised - in this case - involving a female homosexual priest.

Under former Bishop Jerry Winterrowd, sexual misconduct allegations brought by three female parishioners against their female rector were handled behind closed doors allowing the only sexual predator ever discovered in the Diocese of Colorado to slip away to another diocese. Given the recent scandals in the Roman Catholic Church, Diocesan officials are reported to be sensitive not to let such a travesty be repeated in this case.

The Diocese of Colorado and a guilty parish priest lost a civil suit involving sexual misconduct in the 1980s. In that case, because the Diocese knew about the misconduct, both Diocese and Priest were found liable, and the Church Insurance Company had to pay huge sums on behalf of both the priest and the diocese.

Ironically, the Chancellor who lost that case and continues as a Chancellor for the diocese, as well as the Canon to the Ordinary, are both members of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, where this latest misconduct is alleged to have taken place. The former Rector of this parish, Jon Johannsen, voted for Gene Robinson and CO-51 as a Deputy to General Convention. And now, all are fully supportive of the homosexual agenda, find themselves potentially liable for what has been wrought by their liberal leanings.

"Years of the liberal Denver elite running the Diocese of Colorado have lead to this. Many of them have disregarded the values and theology of the vast majority of Episcopalians across the state, and as a result their control may be coming to an end by way of this one event," said Father Armstrong.

"A good example of this minority liberal disregard, was the augmenting of the elected membership of the predominately conservative Search Committee by homosexual
activists in the diocese’s search for a new Bishop. This was done under the guise of seeking balance by the Standing Committee. The Search Committee then proceeded to completely ignore the results of its own survey revealing Episcopalians in Colorado had roundly rejected homosexual innovations being perpetrated on the church."

"But now the disregard of both the mind of the Diocese and the mind of the Communion by Bishop Winterrowd, and Bishop O'Neill, Convention deputies, and the Standing Committee has born its fruit among us, and the time of judgment and repentance are upon us."


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