SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Bishop William Swing of the Episcopal Church's Diocese of California says he suspended a retired Episcopal bishop of Utah from clergy functions because he broke Bishop Swing's directive when he spoke publicly about entering a same-sex marriage.
"I said, don't use the word 'marriage,' and don't talk to the press," Bishop Swing recalled Monday. He suspended Bishop Otis Charles when the San Francisco Chronicle published Bishop Charles' account of the April wedding to Felipe Sanchez Paris. Bishop Charles led the Utah diocese of the church from 1971 to 1986.
Bishop Charles is the first Episcopal bishop known to marry a same-sex partner. Bishop Charles, 78, is divorced from his wife of 42 years; Paris, 62, was previously married four times. Three of the men's nine children participated in the wedding.
Previously, Bishop Charles was the first Episcopal bishop to announce gay identity, following his retirement as president of Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass. Last year, New Hampshire's V. Gene Robinson became the first Episcopal bishop to be elected while living openly with a same-sex partner, an action that has divided Episcopalians.
Bishop Charles had said his marriage "was done with the bishop's knowledge and done according to his protocols." Bishop Swing confirmed that he knew about the planned ceremony and was shown the liturgy, but thought it would be a private blessing, not a wedding.
Bishop Swing said he has long allowed church blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples but believes terms like wedding and marriage cannot be used while the Episcopal Church is still undecided on those questions.
Bishop Swing plans no disciplinary action against priests who led Bishop Charles' wedding. He stated previously that Bishop Charles remains a "bishop in good standing," associated with the Utah Diocese, and a full communicant in the San Francisco parish where he was married.