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Episcopal Church to Probe Allegations of Priests' Orgies

November 05, 1996| From Times Staff and Wire Reports

The Episcopal Church says it will investigate allegations in the current issue of Penthouse magazine that priests in the denomination's Long Island diocese participated in same-sex marriage ceremonies and homosexual orgies in front of the altar.

Two priests have resigned, church officials said--the Rev. William Lloyd Andries, rector of St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church in Brooklyn, and the Rev. Howard Williams, assigned to the Episcopal Church Center, the denomination's headquarters in New York City. Andries resigned from the priesthood as well as his parish. Williams was not accused of direct involvement in the sexual activity.

"If the recent allegations prove true, the clergy implicated have violated their ordination vows, desecrated holy space and betrayed a sacred trust," Presiding Bishop Edmond L. Browning said in a statement.

The Penthouse article alleges that there were orgies at St. Gabriel's involving young men from Brazil and cross-dressing priests who modeled themselves after Marilyn Monroe and Madonna.

The Rt. Rev. Orris G. Walker Jr., bishop of the Diocese of Long Island, where St. Gabriel's is located, called the report "disturbing" and said he has ordered an investigation. Nonetheless, a group of 19 bishops, 10 of them retired, said in a statement that Walker should be questioned as well, "particularly regarding the way he responded, or failed to respond, to rumors brought to his attention in this matter," apparently before the magazine article was published.

The scandal is the latest in a series of blows to the 2.5-million-member denomination in the past year. The former national treasurer, Ellen Cooke, is in prison for a multimillion-dollar embezzlement scheme; retired bishop Walter Righter was tried for heresy--and acquitted--for ordaining a gay deacon; and Bishop Edward Chalfont of Maine resigned after it was revealed he was involved in an extramarital affair.

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