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Panel finds against Bishop Love over banning same-sex marriage

09 October 2020

St George’s Episcopal Church

The Bishop of Albany, the Rt Revd William Love

The Bishop of Albany, the Rt Revd William Love

THE Bishop of Albany, the Rt Revd William Love, said that he was “very disappointed” and disagreed “strongly” with the ruling against him by a hearing panel of the Episcopal Church in the United States last Friday. It concluded that, by banning same-sex marriage in churches in his diocese, he had violated his ordination vows to conform to the worship and discipline of the Church.

In a letter on Monday to the diocese of Albany, in the state of New York, Bishop Love said: “Whatever the final outcome, it will severely impact not only me and the ministry entrusted to me as Bishop of Albany, but it will also seriously impact the life and ministry of the Diocese. I continue to pray that somehow God will use all of this for His purposes.

“I want to thank all of you who have been holding me, my family, and the Diocese of Albany up in your thoughts and prayers these past many months. I would ask that you please continue to do so. We appreciate and need those prayers.”

Bishop Love banned clergy in his diocese from using the rite for same-sex marriage approved by the General Convention in 2018, which requires bishops to allow same-sex marriages to be solemnised in churches under their jurisdiction wherever it is permitted under civil law. He also wrote an open letter in January 2019 condemning the outcome of the Convention and questioning its legitimacy (News, 18 January 2019).

Parishioners of St Andrew’s, Albany, responded by burning copies of the letter on the steps of the building. A restriction on Bishop’s Love ministry was imposed to prevent his taking disciplinary action against clergy in the diocese who officiated or intended to officiate at same-sex marriages.

A disciplinary hearing was announced in September 2019, and held on Zoom in June this year (News, 19 June), moved back from its original date of 21 April.

Bishop Love’s representative, the Diocesan Chancellor of Albany, the Revd Chip Strickland, said that “trial rites” such as the liturgy for same-sex marriage had canonical status only if they were proposed revisions to the Book of Common Prayer.

The case presented by the Episcopal Church contested this. Its lawyer, Paul Cooney, said that Bishop Love had violated General Convention Resolution BO12, which stipulates that “provision will be made for all couples desiring to use these (same-sex) marriage liturgies in their local congregation.”

He had further refused the offer of having liberal bishops provide pastoral oversight for same-sex couples and those marrying them.

The Summary of Opinion by the panel, issued on 2 October, stated: “This Panel unanimously concludes that the Episcopal Church (TEC) has met its burden of showing, by clear and convincing evidence, that Bishop Love has violated Canon IV.4.1 (c) in that his 10 November 2018 Pastoral Directive violated the Discipline of the Church. . .TEC has further met its burden of establishing that Bishop Love’s Direction also violated the Discipline of the Church in that it violated Canon I.18. The canonical legitimacy of Resolution B012 rendered Canon I.18 mandatory, requiring adherence by Bishops Diocesan in permitting their Clergy the option to perform same-sex marriage rites.”

A separate hearing is due to be scheduled within a month, to decide what disciplinary action will be taken.

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