Righter, (Rt. Rev.) Walter. Papers

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Righter, (Rt. Rev.) Walter. Papers


  • 1890-2009 (bulk 1941-2009) (Creation)


5.25 cu.ft. (6 boxes)

Name of creator



Walter Righter earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1948 and a Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree from Berkeley Divinity School in 1951. He was ordained in 1951 and served at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, where he led the racial integration of the parish, effectively doubling the congregation. Several years later, he took a call to be rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Nashua, NH, where he was active in interfaith and ecumenical work. In 1972, Righter was elected Bishop of the Diocese of Iowa. At his first convention, that same year, Righter cast the deciding vote in favor of ordaining women to the priesthood and the episcopate. The resolution was passed in 1976 and in December of that year, he ordained the first woman in Iowa. After his retirement as Bishop of Iowa, Righter served as the assistant bishop to John Shelby Spong, Bishop of Newark. In 1990 at the behest of Bishop Spong, he ordained an openly gay priest. Six years later, just before the statue of limitations expired, ten bishops brought a presentment against him, charging him with heresy for violating a doctrine of the church and his own ordination vows. After a short hearing in front of eight bishops in May 1996, all charges against Righter were dismissed, thus opening the door for partnered gay clergy to be accepted into The Episcopal Church.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

This collection comprises the personal papers of the Rt. Rev. Walter Righter, from early adulthood through his retirement, with writings added up to the year 2009. Included are: records collected by Righter before, during, and after his trial for heresy; materials relating to his ministerial career; and family history and genealogy research.


Personal Papers, 1957-2009
Trial Materials, 1954-2004
Family History and Genealogy Research, 1890-2003

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Access to Episcopal Church records is governed by the Archives Public Access Policy. Research requests must be submitted in writing.

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The Archives is able to respond to limited requests for reproductions subject to copyright restrictions, internal policy, and the condition of the source documents.

Languages of the material

  • English

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