Bishop Love Ends Lonely Fight on Same-Sex Marriage
By Kirk Petersen
By announcing his resignation as the IX Bishop of Albany on October 24, the Rt. Rev. William H. Love spared the diocese and the wider Episcopal Church the potential bitterness of debating and imposing a penalty on him.
“Given all that has happened, and that which was still to come, I believe that to stay any longer would be more of a detriment to the Diocese than a help,” he said, speaking to the 152nd diocesan convention, which was held online.
When the resignation takes effect on February 1, every American diocese of the Episcopal Church will have made provision for same-sex marriage under the terms of the compromise reached at the 2018 General Convention. That compromise, enshrined in Resolution B012, introduced a mechanism for the traditionally minded Communion Partner bishops to transfer oversight of progressive parishes to other bishops, and so preserve their own teaching as normative.
The resignation pre-empts the need for a public hearing regarding penalties, which was to have taken place on October 26 in front (virtually) of the same Hearing Panel that ruled on October 5 that Love violated his vow to “engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of the Episcopal Church.”
Once that verdict was reached, Love’s departure as Bishop of Albany was probably inevitable. The resignation eliminates the possibility of a harsher sanction — “deposition,” the term the Church uses for removal from ordained ministry. Love could have filed an appeal, touching off a process that might drag on for months. “I have no reason to believe that appealing the Hearing Panel’s Decision would result in any different outcome,” he said.
The resignation accord was approved by Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry and by the Hearing Panel, so there will be no further proceedings.
The accord stipulates that Love will begin a one-month terminal sabbatical on January 1, and his resignation will take effect February 1. Love’s order barring the use of same-sex marriage rites in the Diocese of Albany continues for the time being, but will expire with his episcopacy on February 1. Under the canons, the diocesan Standing Committee will become the ecclesiastical authority, and will direct the search for a new bishop.
Love, 63, will still have voice and vote in the House of Bishops, will be able to perform all the duties of a priest. He could serve as rector of a parish or exercise pastoral care for a conservative parish in a liberal diocese, under the terms of delegated episcopal pastoral oversight (DEPO).
The convention was live-streamed from Christ the King Center in Greenwich, New York, with only a handful of people physically in attendance. Love disclosed his resignation in front of the main altar of the Center’s Chapel, at the end of lengthy opening remarks about the diocese and the business of the convention. He delivered the news dispassionately, save for a brief catch before the word “resign,” and displayed no trace of animus. A spokesperson said the bishop would have no comment beyond the statement.
Later in the day, the Church released a statement confirming the details Love had announced. The statement said: “Presiding Bishop Michael Curry expresses sadness for the pain that has been experienced across the theological spectrum and also his continuing support for the Church’s intention that all persons have access to marriage rites authorized by the Church. He expresses thanks for Bishop Love’s faithfulness as Bishop of Albany and wishes him well in retirement. Bishop Curry anticipates a collaborative and respectful transition in episcopal leadership and prays for healing, reconciliation, and mutual flourishing across deeply held theological differences.”
Love closed his remarks with a note of encouragement for the diocese. “Over these past 14 years, you have accomplished so much together, through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. God has used you to help bless countless lives in our communities and beyond. The Lord is powerfully present in the Diocese of Albany and will help lead you through the uncertainties of the coming days – if you fix your eyes on Jesus. In Him, we find hope, truth, unity, strength, and peace.”
If you click on the link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9YYQ5zU4Rk – here, at the 32nd minute – you will find the video of the Bishop of Albany (TEC) addressing his diocese in an annual address, at the end of which he announces his impending retirement.
Whatever one thinks of the behaviour of this humble bishop in the American Episcopal Church, one cannot but admire his tenacity in resolving to abide by his own conscience on the matter of obedience to the decision of TEC General Synod to require each of its bishops to facilitate the Marriage of Same-Sex Couples in the dioceses within their charge.
Despite great pressure to abide by the decision of the TEC General Synod to allow Same Sex Marriages to be celebrated in the Diocese of Albany (New York, Bishop Love has consistently refused to compromise his own conscience on this matterof same-sex marriage, which he believes to be a contravention of what he, himself, sees as a scriptural direction on the marriage of two persons being limited to heterosexual couples – despite the fact that civil law in America, and many other countries, has made marriage open to same-sex couples.
Watching the video myself this morning, I appreciated the sincerity and faith of this man, a bishop of the U.S. episcopal Church, whose own conscientious opposition to same sex marriage has led to his being accused of failure to abide by his ordination vows requiring him to assent to the facilitation of same–sex marriage within the churches of his diocese. Although this did not mean that he, himself would have to authorise , or conduct such a marriage, Bishop Love had issued a directive to the clergy in his diocese that he would not countenance a such marriages to be performed in the Diocese of Albany – thus refusing to allow any other bishop or priest to take Same Sex weddings in his diocese.
I could not help sympathising with Bishop Love in his determination to follow his own conscience in this matter – and against almost overwhelming opposition from his fellow bishops. Hearing him so meekly accepting the inevitable end of his episcopal ministry in the Diocese of Albany (where he has been the diocesan bishop for 14 years), I realised that – despite my own opinion that he was wrong in his supposition that Same-Sex Marriage was a contravention of biblical ethics on human relationships – here was a convinced and sincere Christian who was doing what he saw as the only possible thing he could do in the circumstances – by resigning his office as Bishop of Albany.
In his constant reference to being ‘guided by the Holy Spirit’, I believe that Bishop Love was following the dictates of his own conscience – something that I, myself, would want to have done in the same situation.
The love he has for his diocese and for those with whom he has shared its life and governance, were palpable during his speech to his diocese. One can only hope that his ministry as a priest (and, maybe as a bishop) might be used in ministering to those whom he feels compelled by conscience to support in the future.
God Bless you, Bishop Love!
Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand