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Albany diocese allows same-sex marriage a year after Bishop’s resignation

12 November 2021

Diocese of Albany

The Rt Revd Michael Smith, Assisting Bishop in the diocese of Albany

The Rt Revd Michael Smith, Assisting Bishop in the diocese of Albany

SAME-SEX church weddings may now be held in the Episcopal diocese of Albany, in the United States, a year since the last diocesan Bishop, the Rt Revd William Love, quit while facing disciplinary action for banning them (News, 30 October 2020).

Since his resignation, he has joined the Anglican Church in North America (News, 9 April). The ecclesiastical authority in the diocese is currently the diocesan standing committee, until his successor is elected. It is the last in the Episcopal Church to prohibit same-sex marriage.

When, on Monday of last week, the committee announced that the ceremonies could now be held, it was complying with a General Convention resolution (B012) of July 2018 to enable all couples to request gender-neutral marriage rites.

Quoting the resolution, the committee writes that, while “as a body” it opposes same-sex marriage theologically, “We seek the renewing and rebuilding of our diocesan community. We pledge ourselves to work with one another in a spirit of mutual respect in the midst of ‘theological diversity in regard to matters of human sexuality’.”

At the time of the 2018 resolution, Bishop Love wrote that allowing same-sex couples to marry did “a great disservice and injustice to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ, by leading them to believe that God gives his blessing to the sharing of sexual intimacy within a same-sex relationship, when in fact he has reserved the gift of sexual intimacy for men and women within the confines of marriage between a man and woman” (News, 23 November 2018).

He was the only diocesan bishop to refuse to implement the resolution, and was facing disciplinary action by the Presiding Bishop, the Most Revd Michael Curry. The seven other bishops theologically opposed to same-sex marriage had agreed to delegate episcopal oversight.

One of these was the Bishop of North Dakota, the Rt Revd Michael Smith, who retired in May 2019 and is now assisting bishop in Albany, a diocese in upstate New York, until the next Bishop is elected. Clergy who plan to conduct same-sex marriages in the diocese are being asked to contact Bishop Smith to “work out on our behalf the details of a Letter of Agreement for supplemental episcopal pastoral support”.

The diocesan convention had been due to vote last month on amending its canons that still prohibit clergy from conducting same-sex weddings (and the use of diocesan property for them), and which still restrict ordination to people who are in heterosexual marriages or celibate, the Episcopal News Service reports.

Instead of debating the change, however, lay and clergy delegates voted by 126 to 116 for a procedural amendment to make no canonical changes. The next time the diocese will consider the resolutions is at its next in-person diocesan convention, in June. There are other dioceses that retain comparable canons, although their bishops allow same-sex marriages.

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