TEC’s Diocese of Albany to revisit S/S Marriage Blessings

The decision to re-visit the extant diocesan legislation in the Episcopal Diocese of Albany, New York, that prohibits the celebration of the Blessing of Same-Sex Marriages in that diocese – which happens to be contrary to the overall T.E.C. legislation which allows such celebrations to take place in U.S. Episcopal Church dioceses in the U.S.A. where the clergy of a parish are willing to perform such ceremonies – may put an end to the conservative influence of the former diocesan bishop, William Love, thereby aligning the diocesan legislation on S/S Blessings with the legislation passed by the national Church (TEC).

It is important to note that the overturning of the extant ban on S/S Marriage Blessings in Albany Diocese will not force reluctant clergy to undertake them, but will still allow such Blessings to take place in another parish in the diocese whose clergy will accept the responsibility of providing this particular ministry

This is a common provision in every other diocese in the U.S. Episcopal Church (TEC), so that the resolution proposed to take place at this meeting in the Albany Diocese will put an end to the current incongruity of Albany being the only TEC diocese to ban S/S Marriage Blessings – a legal measure put in place by the former Bishop of Albany, who has resigned his episcopal role in TEC in order to join the schismatic, alternative ‘Anglican Church in North America’ (ACNA), which is related to the GAFCON Group of churches which have formed their own quasi-Anglican jurisdiction in other countries around the world, including Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, New Zealand

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Albany’s convention will vote on whether to allow same-sex marriage, non-celibate LGBTQ+ ordination – BY EGAN MILLARD, E.N.S. – (Posted 3 hours ago)

Members of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Albany, New York, pose for a Facebook photo promoting it as a congregation that “welcomes ALL for worship, fellowship and service.”

[Episcopal News Service] The Diocese of Albany, the last remaining diocese in The Episcopal Church to prohibit same-sex marriage, will vote later this week on whether to amend its canons to comply with the church’s mandate to give LGBTQ+ people full access to the rites of marriage and ordination.

The two resolutions that will be put to a vote at the Oct. 23 diocesan convention would repeal the diocese’s canons that prohibit clergy from officiating same-sex weddings (and the use of diocesan property for such weddings) and restrict ordination to people who are in heterosexual marriages or celibate.

Those canons have remained on the books despite the resignation of former Bishop William Love on Feb. 1. At the time, Love was the only diocesan bishop remaining in The Episcopal Church who refused to implement General Convention Resolution B012, the 2018 measure that allowed all Episcopalians access to marriage rites, including same-sex marriage where it is legal. A disciplinary panel determined in October 2020 that Love’s refusal violated church canon law and his ordination vows. Love resigned rather than face further disciplinary action and joined the Anglican Church in North America.

Since Love’s resignation, the upstate New York diocese’s standing committee has been the ecclesiastical authority while a search for the next diocesan bishop is underway. The standing committee has allowed the two resolutions, sponsored by the Rev. Glen Michaels, to go before the convention for a vote, rather than rejecting or nullifying them. The Rev. Scott Garno, president of the standing committee, did not respond to requests for comment.

Michaels, who is priest-in-charge of five churches known as the Adirondack Mission and a former New York assistant attorney general, has spoken out in favor of allowing same-sex marriage in the diocese before, even offering to marry same-sex couples in defiance of the diocesan ban, though he has not been asked to and doesn’t know of any couples who have officially requested it.

Michaels said a group of lay Episcopalians from Albany asked him to sponsor the two resolutions. And, he argues, even those who don’t personally endorse same-sex marriage should support the resolutions. Under B012, as with any wedding, it is up to the priest’s discretion to marry a couple or not. (If a same-sex marriage is to take place in a diocese where the bishop is against it, B012 also allows for an outside bishop to provide pastoral oversight to the couple.)

“I’m fully supportive of clergy who, for theological or other reasons, do not feel comfortable presiding and blessing such marriage ceremonies,” Michaels told Episcopal News Service. “The repeal of these canons is not going to force anyone to take a different theological stance, personally, or to preside at a ceremony of the church that they do not feel comfortable with.”

Michaels said keeping the diocesan canons on the books would inevitably lead to a conflict with churchwide canons, “and I don’t think that would be good for the diocese.”

“The issue of same-sex marriage has really been settled in terms of permitting it to go forward by the last national convention of the church,” he told ENS. “Either these [canons] are unenforceable – in which case, why have them? – or if they are enforceable at the local level, they will certainly lead to challenge and litigation.”

Michaels said he doesn’t have a sense of the resolutions’ chances of passing, and it’s not clear whether there would be any immediate consequences if they don’t. However, he hopes it will at least begin a process of reconciliation and closure for a diocese that has been divided over the issue for years.

“Now that Bishop Love is gone, we hope to make the whole atmosphere more friendly for gay and lesbian Christians,” Michaels said.

– Egan Millard is an assistant editor and reporter for Episcopal News Service. (ENS)

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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