The Diocese of Albany met in convention last Saturday and, among other business, elevated two existing policies to the level of diocesan canon: one prohibiting same-sex blessings and another reserving licensed ministry to clergy who are "married, celibate or abstinent."
The Times-Union of Albany reports:
The hundreds of clergy and lay delegates who converged for their annual convention in this lakeside Adirondack community resoundingly approved a resolution that lays down this rule: Only heterosexual marriages can be celebrated in the diocese.
Speakers who lined up at two microphones in a rustic auditorium at Camp-of-the-Woods debated the issue in often personal terms. The Rev. Brad Jones, who supported the resolution, spoke of his personal journey from a young man consumed with homosexual desire to a married father of seven with a passion for God.
"If the Episcopal Church had proclaimed to me then that God would bless my lustful passions and desires, I would likely not be standing here alive today," said Jones, rector of Christ Church in Schenectady. "I would certainly be dead in my sins."
The resolution sets down in local church canons a diocesan policy that already existed in practice. Supporters called it consistent with scripture and necessary because diocesan leadership could change in the future, as could state law.
But critics blasted it as unnecessary, discriminatory and divisive. One spoke of a gay relative's love for her partner. A rector from Saranac Lake described the "cry of anguish" of a gay parishioner who learned of the proposal.
The new canon on marriage reads:
Celebration or Blessing of Marriages by Clergy
1.1 Members of the Clergy Resident in or Licensed to Serve in this Diocese shall neither officiate at, nor facilitate, nor participate in, any service, whether public or private, for the Celebration or Blessing of a Marriage or any other union except between one man and one woman. Unions other than those of one man and one woman in Holy Matrimony, even if they be recognized in other jurisdictions, shall be neither recognized nor blessed in this Diocese.
Marriages on Church Property
1.2 Properties owned, controlled, managed, or operated by this Diocese, or any Parish of the Diocese, or any legal entity established by the Diocese or a parish of the Diocese, shall not be the site for any service, public or private, for the Celebration or Blessing of a Marriage or any other union except those between one man and one woman.
The canon on ordained minsitry within the diocese reads as follows:
Standards for Election, Licensing, Ordination and Consecration
This canon requires that those persons who are ordained, or consecrated, and clergy who are elected, licensed or appointed, be married or celibate.
Standards for Ordination and Consecration
11.8.a To be eligible to be ordained to the Diaconate or Priesthood, or consecrated a Bishop, a person must live within the covenant of Marriage between one man and one woman, or be celibate and abstinent.
Standards for Election, Appointing, and Licensing
11.8.b To be eligible to be elected, appointed or licensed to any position of ordained ministry in the Diocese, a member of the clergy must live within the covenant of Marriage between one man and one woman, or be celibate and abstinent.
The Times-Union interviewed Bishop William Love after the convention:
In a brief interview after convention business wrapped up, Albany Bishop William Love said the resolutions were "not intended to be divisive."
"The main reasons the resolutions were presented were to provide clarity during a time of great confusion both within the church and society at large," Love said.
"The important thing that everyone needs to know is that God loves all people, regardless of where they might be in their life. That doesn't necessarily mean he approves of all of our behaviors."
Read the Times-Union: Diocese rules on gay unions
See the resolutions on the Diocese of Albany convention web-site here.